I have a long-standing love affair with Mexico City. I first visited in 2005 and I have been returning at least once a year since then. The combination of history, culture and culinary arts has captivated my imagination and won’t let go. Most of my favorite vacation destinations are located near the beach with world-class surf nearby. Mexico City is a world away from the coast but the thrill is just as sweet. One perfect day in Mexico City is never enough.
Every time I go to Mexico City it is the best trip ever. We recently spent five days with my wife’s family, and maybe it has to do with how much we love visiting with them, but Sunday was perfect. From 10 am to 8pm I was shuttling everyone around to some rather obscure and questionable points of interest, that ended up being a huge hit. There was specialty coffee, heirloom vegetables, hidden Diego Rivera, the second section of Chapultepec Park, Mercado Roma, and dinner at a 50-year-old neighborhood favorite. It was perfect. Everything was centrally located and because it was Sunday, the traffic was mild. I can’t wait to plan another day like this one.
I have this list that I keep on things I want to do in Mexico City. Lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and museums are being checked off but the list grows faster than I can check things off.
This last trip I got to check a lot off of my list.
This may not be for your first or second trip but at some point, you should give these places a look.
A close friend of ours had been recommending Los Loosers for a while. The place is small, in Condesa, and around the corner from one of the best coffee shops in the country. We were able to score reservations for six people at 11 am and planned on stopping for coffee if the traffic was amicable.
Sunday morning is the easiest day ever to move about Mexico City but even then the distances are time-consuming. My Aunt and Uncle show up to everything 15 minutes early and I had a new coffee shop around the corner I was dying to try.
We left the house at 10 am and even though there was little traffic the distances in Mexico City are considerable. We arrived at the new Quinten Cafe location in Hipódromo and scored the closest parking space to the front door. It was an omen about how our day was going to go.
We were in and out of the coffee shop in 15 minutes tasting a delicious espresso, taking flat whites to go and a bag of prime Ethiopian beans. I wish I could have stayed longer. The new coffee shop is beautiful, in a beautiful building, and on a beautiful garden lined street.
Cafe Quentin is a coffee roaster as well as a coffee shop. They have some of the best coffee in the country and you should buy a bag or two of their coffee to take home as a souvenir or gift because it is very good.
There is a ton of great coffee in Mexico City. This is another article that I wrote about some of my favorite coffees.
Los Loosers Restaurant
When I started looking at Los Loosers Instagram account I thought it was cool but not mind-blowing. I was terribly mistaken. The Instagram account can’t possibly do justice to the food that is being served at this restaurant. We went because our friend insisted that the place was spectacular. It really exceeded all of our expectations and heavily contributed to our perfect day in Mexico City.
The brunch menu at Los Loosers is very small. The few options that they have are all done perfectly with ingredients that most people are not familiar with. They purchase a lot of heirloom vegetables from small farmers in Xochimilco as well as wild mushroom foragers.
We went during the rainy season which is also wild mushroom season. The oyster mushrooms are wild foraged and they are the best mushrooms I have ever tasted. I usually want meat with my chilaquiles but the wild mushrooms were better than I could have imagined.
The enfrijoladas are like enchiladas but instead of a chile sauce, they are drowned in a bean sauce. The quelite salad that’s served on top of the enfrijoladas was the size of my head. Quelites are a leaf vegetable or herb that grows like a weed in the cornfields. They are some of the most nutritious vegetables that exist but are very hard to find in the city. The enfrijoladas with quelite salad were the best I have ever had by a lot.
I didn’t try the enmoladas (like enchiladas but with mole sauce) because it is not gluten-free but my family devoured the plate quickly saying that it was solid. Again, the quelite salad was well served.
Lastly, like dessert, there was the cacahuazintle corn on the cob. Cacahuazintle is a large grain type of corn that is usually used for pozole. They are huge and delicious. Think about the first time you ate an heirloom tomato. Diving into an ear of corn on the cobb that is prepared with cheese, cream, chile, and herbs will be an experience you will remember for the rest of your life.
Los Loosers Restaurant is located in the Roma Norte neighborhood right on the border with La Condesa. I can not recommend this place enough. It was excellent.
We finished brunch a little midday and were ready to head to the park. Not just any park but Chapultepec Park. The second section of Chapultepec Park (Segunda Sección de Bosques de Chapultepec) has some excellent family-oriented attractions including the children’s museum (Papalote Museo del Niño), the Natural History Museum, fair, skatepark, the Cárcamo de Dolores and the Tlaloc Fountain. Diego Rivera is responsible for a mural painted in the water distribution system as well as the massive fountain in the image of the Aztec rain god.
Cárcamo de Dolores and Fuente Tlaloc by Diego Rivera
I just finished a book on Diego Rivera and have been looking for some of his lesser-known pieces. The mural, Water, the origin of life, is painted in a water distribution channel and was not accessible to the public for many decades. Today there is a small museum covering the mural and distribution channel with an excellent tour. The people who work here are fascinated with the history of Mexico City and excited to tell you stories about Diego Rivera.
To begin with, you have to understand the relationship that Mexico City has with water. The area is one of the highest populated urban centers in the world and it sits at more than 7,000 feet. Even today there are constant water shortages. The Cárcamo de Dolores connects the Lerma Acquiduct to an early, and still important, Mexico City public water storage system. This was a big deal when it was built and inaugurated in 1951. It was a major feat of engineering because of the altitude and drilling through rough terrain. There was a significant loss of life in order to finish this massive public works project.
Diego Rivera painted a pool that the water actually passed through as it was distributed to different storage tanks. Originally the water passed over his painting but the water has been redirected in order to preserve the mural.
The mural is called Water, the Origin of Life and depicts the importance of water to our world. Diego learned of a Russian theory that water is what created life on earth. Each single-cell organism that he drew on the mural is actually based on a real single-cell organism. Diego is celebrating the importance of water to the history of humanity and natural history before it.
And that is just the beginning. In front of the Cárcoma de Dolores museum is the Fuente de Tlaloc. The best way to view the fountain is from the air. Look for it as you are arriving in Mexico City by commercial airline or just click this Google Maps link.
Tlaloc is the Aztec god of rain and the harvest. Do you see any pattern with the theme of water?
There is incredible attention to detail and the Fuente de Tlaloc is layered with symbolism. Tlaloc’s right hand is planting corn while the left is harvesting corn. Important parts of the cornfield like rivers, snakes, eagles, and the cactus are all present just like the Aztec promised land. The date is even written using the Aztec calendar
Tlaloc has two faces: one looking at the sky and one looking at the Cárcamo de Dolores.
I thought the Spanish language tour was outstanding. Our tour guide was passionate about this mural, and the history of Mexico City. The people on our tour were super cool. Everybody was swapping stories about their favorite Diego Rivera murals. Even my cousin and aunt who are from Mexico City said that this was an excellent off-the-beaten-path museum that they will recommend in the future.
After a good deal of walking around Chapultepec Park, we were thirsty. We still had some time to kill before we met up with my uncle again for dinner and wanted to get a drink. Mercado Roma has valet parking and three levels of different concepts so there is something for everyone.
The first-floor has live music and a bunch of high-end food vendors trying to replicate a traditional market’s food court. The second floor has a sitdown restaurant and the third floor has a beer garden and bar.
I thought this was a great place to hang out and get a drink before dinner. We got some nachos with our drinks but they weren’t anything special. I was super focused on dinner. Everything that I had heard and read about the Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatl said that I shouldn’t fill up on nachos.
Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatle
A restauranteur friend of mine who is originally from Mexico City had recommended the place. He saw the list of restaurants I want to try and said they were all yuppy. He thought that I needed to add some down-home neighborhood favorites to the list and recommended this place. Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatle is an old school favorite that you won’t find in any guide book.
The first thing that I noticed about Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatle is that on a Sunday afternoon the place was packed with multigenerational families. Lots of kids and lots of grandparents. The second thing that I noticed was that the place needs to allocate a little more money to the maintenance budget.
A chamorro is a pork shank and Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatle serve a braised pork shank in the braising liquid. In Guadalajara, I am used to dry, adobo rubbed chamorro pork shanks that are roasted, not braised. The braised pork shank meat is so tender you don’t need a knife because it falls right off the bone.
I absolutely love going out to eat with my uncle. The guy always knows what to order, you know, the exotic stuff. Chamorros are a pork product and it turns out there were excellent carnitas as well. We order every cut, especially the buche, pig stomach. The texture takes a little getting used to but it just melts into the rest of your taco.
The next thing that blew my mind was that they had cecina de Yecapixtla. There was even a neon sign advertising cecina from Yecapixtla. I have been hearing about this place called Yecapixtla and their cecina for years. Out in the middle of nowhere Morelos they make something like a soft beef jerky. Cecina is a thinly sliced beef that is salt-cured and dry-aged. It is eventually cooked but the aging really enriches the flavor. It is a little salty but rich in flavor. I am now deadset on visiting Yecapixtla, Morelos one day.
Everything that we ordered was exceptional. The tepache (fermented pineapple soda) was great, the verdolagas were great, the carnitas, cecina, and chamorros were some of the best I have ever had. For me, the food was so good that I am going to forget there was a leak in the roof and we would feel an occasional drop of water on the table.
Conclusion of One Perfect Day in Mexico City
It took me a little while to write this article. I kind of put it off to write a couple of SEO friendly articles. What an experience of reliving this day. It was perfect. My family is amazing and that is probably a part of why this day was so special. I can not wait to do it again.
I hear the Dolores Olmeda Museum in Xochimilco has a lovely collection and there are some great places to eat heirloom vegetables in the canals. It would be amazing to see an axolotl in the wild.