As a travelling foodie I love experiencing food in new places. In some places I lean towards street food, in others I favour gourmet. And sometimes I like to try a little of both. There are a couple ways to experience food while travelling: take a food tour (if available) that features the best of what a city has to offer, check-out an award-winning restaurant, or go in search of local specialty foods. In Mexico city I did all three.
Take a Food Tour
Choosing the right food tour takes a little research. Look for a tour that offers both local specialities, and in-depth information on those foods. I tend to lean towards street food tours as the food as it is a great way to get a feel for the local culture and specialty foods. Plus street food is generally very fresh, which makes it incredibly delicious – for the most part.
Almost a year ago I won a street food tour in Mexico City, so I was excited to finally use it. The voucher included a friend, so naturally I brought Christine as my plus one. The tour included roughly 8 food experiences: tamales, fresh juice, tlacoyo, tacos de canasta (basket tacos), fruit with chili and lime, burrito, tacos carnitas, and tacos al pastor. The value of the tour we took is $85 USD, which it too much in my opinion. I’ve been on many food tours around the world, including expensive cities like Vancouver (the most expensive city to live in Canada) and have never paid over $55 for a street food tour. In my opinion, if a tour is higher than $55 the food has to be the absolute best the city has to offer, and the guide needs to be both engaging and very knowledgeable; which unfortunately ours was not.
As an example the tacos al pastor were re-fried. Proper (and delicious) tacos al pastor should be shaved directly off the spit onto a fresh tortilla (similar to Lebanese kebab, which is the influence behind al pastor in Mexico). The only thing that should be re-fried in Mexico is beans.
Check Out an Award-Winning Restaurant
When Christine suggested we make a reservation at Pujol in Mexico City (a popular award-winning gourmet Mexican restaurant), I immediately searched for the restaurant’s website. Wow, the food photos looked amazing and delicious.
We made a reservation for one of the days we’d be in Mexico City, telling ourselves that the $90 USD price tag would be worth it. And it was! The restaurant was small with black walls and chairs, and white tables. We were seated and presented with a menu for our 10-course lunch. Yes, ten courses! What followed was a delightful culinary experience where we savoured Mexican cuisine with a contemporary flair.
I’m pretty sure we both moaned with satisfaction after every single dish of that menu. It was a culinary experience that was definitely worth the splurge.
And the fact that after taxes and tip our lunch at Pujol only cost $5 USD more than the street food tour (before tip) speaks volumes as to how inappropriately priced the street food tour is.
Go in Search of Local Specialty Foods
One of my favourite Mexican foods is Tacos Al Pastor. A Mexican twist on the Lebanese kebabs, Al Pastor is layers of pork and pork fat on a spit that have been marinated in a chili mixture that gives the meat an orange colour. The spit of meat is then rotated around a flame which grills the meat. When ordering Tacos Al Pastor the meat is generally shaved directly off the spit and onto a small corn tortilla, the taco is then topped with pineapple and a mixture of chopped cilantro and onion.
It. Is. Delicious.
Late one night we were starving and having difficulty finding street food in the Zocalo (Centro Historico), and we refused to go to McDonald’s. We had almost given up when we turned a corner and found an al pastor taco vendor. I almost lost my mind with excitement. I would have started dancing in the street if I thought I could get away with it. We ordered five tacos and paid 45 pesos ($3.75). Damn, those were delicious street tacos.
Experiencing Mexico’s street food is something everyone should do during a visit to the city. If you’re not a street food tour kind of person, go to neighbourhoods like Miguel Hidalgo and wander around trying different foods. Look for stands with local customers and make sure the person taking your money is not the same person who is handling your food. I also suggest splurging on a high-end meal in areas like Condessa as Mexico City’s gourmet food scene is quite impressive.
At the end of the day it’s about your budget and goals. And of course, the food!