Barbacoa and chicharron tacos in Roma Norte, a rooftop for golden hour cocktails, a homey Baja hangout for oxtail noodles, the best stands in maze-like La Merced market, and more of CDMX’s best meals
The first thing any visitor to the Mexican capital will take in — probably while staring out the window in awe as their airplane descends over the intense, urbanity-on-steroids sprawl — is the sheer size of this town, 573 square miles in total. It’s densely populated and patchworked with distinct neighborhoods, each with its own culinary identity. It would take several lifetimes to get to know all of the street stands, holes in the wall, neighborhood favorites, and high-end destinations in this city.
Yet this list — 38 restaurants, dishes, and culinary experiences that define Mexico City’s gastronomic identity — should offer a comprehensive starting point for any visitor. It includes the obvious and the overexposed; it also includes hidden gems. It covers longtime buzzing neighborhoods like Roma and Condesa, as well as newer destination districts like San Miguel Chapultepec and Juarez. There are tacos, tortas, tasting menus, and tamales. There are enough sweets to satisfy the most dedicated concha enthusiast and some old-school breakfasts for the nostalgists. Whatever the type of place, it provides standout food and a taste of something visitors can’t get back home.
Updated, March 2023:
Coming into 2023, Mexico has seen record-breaking numbers of tourists, at the same time that digital nomads flock to CDMX. The two-part influx is affecting the culinary geography of the city, with a significant concentration of new restaurants in Roma Norte, Juarez, and Condesa, neighborhoods with strong tourist appeal. There are new additions to the city’s culinary repertoire all the time — though not all are worth the hype and the price tag — and a reservation has become absolutely necessary for the city’s most sought-after dining and drinking experiences, especially during the spring and summer seasons. While planning ahead takes a bit of the spontaneity out of evenings and weekends, many restaurants still feel relaxed, as young Mexican chefs focus on casual dining. Pigeon, Martinez, and El Tigre Silencioso, all joining the list here, have successfully nailed that informal vibe without sacrificing service, quality, and hospitality, making them ideal choices as the Mexican capital heats up.
We update this list quarterly to make sure it reflects the ever-changing Mexico City dining scene.
Natalia de la Rosa is a Mexican food writer, mezcal collector, and culinary guide based in Mexico City.