Think of Mexican food and you probably conjure up visions of spicy salsa, tangy tacos and soggy burritos stuffed with or topped by suspicious-looking sauces and shredded cheeses. Yet, Mexican food is nothing like that. What’s dished up across the global borders has earned the authentic cuisine a bum wrap, so to speak.
Savvy travelers to Mexico know that the “real deal” is the culmination of the country’s ancient Aztec and Maya history, subsequent conquests and foreign interventions.
Modern-day Mexico City dishes up a plethora of dining options to be found in venues ranging from charming taquerias (taco houses) to chic restaurants nestled inside refurbished mansions, haciendas or glitzy hotels.
If you happen to be honeymooning in this ancient Aztec capital, there are many romantic venues in which to explore “real” Mexican cuisine.
Tucked into a converted house in the middle of the Pink Zone, Fonda el Refugio lends credence to the Mexican adage, “Mi casa es su casa” (my home is your home). There are several small rooms on two floors, promising privacy and delicious cuisine and excellent service. Longtime favorites such as queso frito, feta-like cheese topped with a blend of chopped cilantro and mild chiles and sopa de milpa verde, a combination of sweet green peppers, tender white corn, and chicken broth smothered with toasted tortilla chips promise a good start to any meal here.
Located in the heart of the Historic District, Café de Tacuba has been wowing food lovers in Mexico City since it first opened in 1912 in a refurbished 17th century mansion. The menu has changed little over the years, dishing up some of the city’s most renowned cuisine. Strolling tunas (minstrels) crooning romantic ballads, hand-painted tiles, vice-regal paintings and colonial décor evoke the magic of Mexico Viejo (old Mexico). Try the delectable enchiladas verdes, shredded chicken wrapped in soft tortillas, bathed in a spicy green tomatillo sauce, topped off with crumbled goat cheese.
Also in the Historic District, overlooking Mexico City’s central square – the Zócalo - the hub of the ancient Aztec Empire, the Majestic Hotel offers pleasant rooftop restaurant, with a breathtaking view and tasty Mexican cuisine. Strolling minstrels are on hand to lend a further romantic touch. The sopa Azteca (chicken soup laced with tortillas, avocado, and cheese) and tacos de filete (beef tacos) are most memorable.
The trendy Los Almendros in the posh Polanco district is popular with couples and, if you’re so inclined, 50 different kinds of Tequila could pave the way for a very “spirited” evening in this traditional Yucatecan restaurant. The décor is basic, except for the small lush garden studded with orange trees, viewed through floor to ceiling glass walls, but the food is top-drawer. Los Almendros combo platter, a selection of poc chuc turkey in an Asian-style marinade; cochinita pibil, turkey in charred chili sauce; breaded chicken and Yucatecan tamales offers a good sampler of food found in that area.
Also located in Polanco, Villa Maria is tucked into a refurbished 20th century mansion and promises fun as well as good food. The décor is hacienda-chic with terracotta tile floors, maize-colored stucco walls with wooden beams paving the way to an unparalleled gastronomic experience. Witty dichos (proverbs) and Mexican pottery adorn the walls while typical calla lilies and sunflowers add ambiance to the two-story eatery. If the weather’s good, ask for a table outside on the second floor. Strolling trios serenade diners with soft Mexican ballads. Meat lovers should try medallones al agave azul, center cut fillet with a creamy tequila sauce.