Colonia Centro is the official neighbourhood to the east of the eastern end of Paseo de la Reforma and south of the Centro Historico. There seems to be a lot of good bars and restaurants in this area.
Los Cocuyos (Elementary B+), Calle de Bolívar 57
I came to this tiny hole-in-the-wall taqueria on the first night I arrived in Mexico. It’s a Lonely Planet top choice and also features in the Mexico City edition of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ TV show (at 12.54).
They specialise in beef tacos, particularly offal. All the space behind the counter is taken up by a big chopping board and a large cauldron of various cow parts simmering away.
The menu lists such delicacies as Cabeza (head), Ojo (eye), Tronca de Oreja (ear), Trippa (tripe), Lengua (tongue), Sesos (brains), Trompa (snout), Cacheta (beef cheeks), Maciza (a cut from the shoulder), Suadero (a thin cut between the belly and the leg) and Longaniza (a spicy pork sausage). All the tacos cost around 15 pesos (about 50p).
I went for the Campechano, a mix of beef and Longaniza which turned out to be a safe bet (B+). The bloke behind the counter hoiked the relevant parts out of the cauldron and hacked them up with a large machete before presenting them tenderly on top of two tortillas dessed with raw onion, coriander and green salsa.
I also liked the Lengua (B). I had a few others but was too busy chatting with some friendly locals to keep notes. As I recall, they all scored around B though, which means they were fine.
El Huequito (Low Intermediate B+) Calle Bolívar 58, www.elhuequito.com.mx
Another taqueria, although you can sit down in this one, right next door to Los Cocuyos. El Huequito also features on Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations‘ (at 14.45).
Since 1959 the ‘Little Hole’ has been famous for its Tacos al Pastor which is considered to be the emblematic dish of the capital.
According to this article, this particular taco was inspired by the Shawarma which was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 1930s. It differs only in that the meat is pork rather than lamb.
Cantina Tio Pepe (Intermediate B), Dolores on the corner with Independencia
I popped in to this traditional bar with my local buddy Hamish for a couple of beers one afternoon. Opened in 1890, it’s the oldest cantina in Mexico City, and it still retains many of its original fittings, including what used to be a urinal running along the bottom of the bar! Some say this is the “cheap cantina off Dolores” that William Burroughs wrote about in ‘Junky’.
Bosforo (Intermediate B+), Luis Moya 31
In the past I’ve always steered clear of mezcal because I believed it to be inferior to tequila which is regulated by a professional association. Hamish is not a fan of tequila as he finds it too bland and generic, as well as containing many additives to maintain a consistent flavour. Mezcal on the other hand comes in more varied flavours and its production is generally artesenal.
Originally tequila was of course a kind of mezcal, but association regulations stipulate that only Blue Agave can be used in its production, as opposed to mezcal which can be produced from as many as forty different kinds of agave. This article can explain more differences.
They generally didn’t have that much taste except for one, our favourite, where an uncooked Capón (chicken) had been hung at the top of the distilling chamber! Apparently the chicken is good to eat at the end of the process.
Hamish finally won me over, but only after plying me with several examples of the genre. I’m still a fan now, even though my hangover was pretty brutal the next day!
Pulqueria Las Duelistas (Elementary B), Calle Aranda 28
We came here on Hamish’s suggestion so that I could try Pulque, a traditional alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the agave.
To my palate it’s pretty disgusting (D) and I only managed a couple of sips before we left, however the place was absolutely packed out, so obviously a lot of people do like it.
I had the ‘blanco’ version for about 15 pesos. You can get fruit flavours called ‘curados’ as well which might be a bit more acceptable to the European palate. Here they included Avena (oats), Apio (celery), Guayaba (guava), Piñon (pine nut), Tamarindo (tamarind), Zarzamora (Blackberry) and Mamey (a local fruit).
Although this is quite an old place (since 1912) it’s been renovated and painted and the crowd looks very young and studenty.
Also in this district is El Cardenal www.restauranteelcardenal.com at Juárez 70; a restaurant specialising in traditional foods. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go but if I’m ever here between February and April I’d be up for trying their Escamoles (ant caviar).