Where (and why) to Eat Tacos in Mexico City
Our passion for Mexico City is not unique anymore. This love seems to be a growing reality as more and more Americans take weekend (and week-long trips) to the Mexican capital . . . and immediately fall for the city. Our passion for CDMX comes from the incredible cosmopolitan energy, dynamic economy, diverse history, tree-lined neighborhoods, and steller food scene.
This winter, we planned our first program to the city: an educator’s weekend looking at design thinking and economic development through the city’s ubiquitous taco stands. We’ll be returning in February for a similar program and many more excursions to this megacity.
Eating tacos is, without any exaggeration, one of the best reasons to visit the city. Well tacos and the range of other street foods found in the markets, street corners, carts and restaurants around the city. But while the taste is important, tacos aren’t just about flavor.
Tacos, and the other street foods of Mexico City, each tell a complicated story about culture, life, history, migration, community, and development. While we love tasting the amazing creations made from ground corn, chili, spices and a few other ingredients; tacos aren’t just about our taste buds and stomachs. We are drawn to these eateries for the history, process, ingenuity, and atmosphere. When you head to the city, take note of the experience at each place you eat: the plastic covered melamine plates, friends comparing and raving about the different salsa on offer, the prepared ingredients in tiny cups, the challenge of balancing your plate and your drink while your dress up your food, the preference to stand or share a small table.
Now that we have done our research, we are frequently asked about where to eat tacos in the city. In our time in the city we usually base in the Roma Norte area and have found a range of incredible foods and eating experiences in this part of the city. Here’s our list of favorite (and unlikely to get you sick) foods to try from around the neighborhood:
El Huequito is by far our favorite Al Pastor in the city. Al Pastor is another story all on its own, and while there are a few places that fight for the title of the first or best Al Pastor we can’t stop thinking about El Huequito. Everyone we bring agrees too. Get the tacos on the street in town or our favorite little restaurant location in Juarez. We suggest sharing the “special”, a mountain of DIY tacos and incredible salsas.
The proud “other” creator of the Al Pastor taco also offers some incredible meat and salsa. But we love Tizoncito for one reason. The pineapple. Cooking al Pastor is a delicate process of charring meat on a Kebab or Shawarma spit, The chef is slowly turning so each section gets the right amount of heat before it is delicately sliced off the spit. On top of it all is usually some large chunks of pineapple, onion, and/or other fruits. The juice of these ingredients drips down throughout the cooking. Many Al Pastor tacos are famous for including a slice of fresh pineapple. El Tizoncito’s chefs are experts at scrapping meat and flicking pineapple through the air into the taco. This process is efficient when executed by these experts, though it appears totally a work of showmanship until you realize you can’t stop watching this everyday process unfold with robotic accuracy.
El Greco tells the story of the taco that birthed the Al Pastor. This old school, atmospheric, hole-in-the-wall serves Tacos Arabe from Pueblo. A dish that defines modern fusion. The food is delicious, but come for the atmosphere and experience.
El Califa is an old classic-come-modern Taqueria. In some ways there is nothing too special about Califa (besides the prices). But this place was suggested by our friends who grew up in the city as the place they always went for Tacos as kids. We can sense that history even as the place has evolved. Now it’s a stylish and comfortable chain of tasty, yet simple, immaculate, tasty tacos. Try the charred salsa and their famous thinly sliced marinated steak. They even get a nod here: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2017-mexico-city-best-tacos/
Lots of people have taken us to El Jarocho. This place is known for its stewed taco, such as green Mole. Each stew and each taco has its own story to tell. They have a range of mixed options and a changing menu. The restaurant has grown over the years and now has a range of spaces upstairs to get comfortable.
Only open on the weekends, this large restaurants brings the food from the countryside into the city. The Barbacoa meat is slow cooked underground, then brought to the city, sold by weight, and then supplemented with tortillas and salsas to make tacos at the table.
These are some amazing tacos made from the meat from the head of the cow. This street taco stand has recently opened its own restaurant. But the crowds know that tacos are not about a place to sit. The restaurant is quite while the same food draws a big crowd on their original card across the street.
For dessert, the obvious stop is El Moro. Like many things in the city, the location in the city center is historic, lively, and dirty. We found our churros here have been a bit burnt, but the churros from their newer locations around the city are often spectacular. And as designers at heart we can’t resist their stylish blue and white tile and sanded wooden tables.
The more we explore the city, the more we will add to this list so check back. If you have questions about CDMX of are interested in planning your own trip to learn about the city (or try the street tacos not on this list) get in touch!