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    Mexico City: A Foodie Mecca

    By David Landis, The Gay Gourmet–

    It’s a nonstop 4 and 1/2 hour flight, but Mexico City is a world away from San Francisco. At more than 7,300 feet, the high-altitude metropolis of 22 million seems like it would be a teaming surge of humanity. But, surprise: it’s not. This sophisticated city charms with neighborhoods of green gardens and purple jacaranda trees lining the streets, alongside cafés on every corner. A walkable city in the neighborhoods where tourists visit, this burg has it all: temples from yesteryear, world-class museums, a temperate climate, and most of all, great food.

    Of late, Mexico City (CDMX) has become a destination for global chefs who want to spread their innovative wings. So, it made sense for The Gay Gourmet to visit recently. Here’s my list of “must-do’s” in Mexico City.


    Contramar: At the top of any list of must-visit CDMX restaurants is the always-buzzing, upscale Contramar in the Roma district. Run by celebrity chef Gabriela Camara (who used to run the popular Cala restaurant in San Francisco), this is a place to see and be seen. It’s only open for comida. That loosely translates to lunch, although comida is often the main meal of the day, eaten at 2 pm. The focus here is the always-fresh seafood and the menu item to order is the whole red snapper fish, cooked half with green parsley sauce and half with red chili sauce. The service is always first-rate, if not overly efficient—but being packed the whole time, the waitstaff has to constantly move quickly. The menu is complemented by a well-curated wine list with both Mexican and international choices.

    El Cardenal: This is a restaurant in the heart of the city (sporting several locations). With a longstanding history, El Cardenal has food that rings true as authentic Mexican fare. While it’s known for its breakfasts, we went for lunch on the terrace. That said, the popular third floor is where the action is. To start, the server brings you a small bowl of green sauce with cheese, cilantro, and avocado to make your own small tacos. Our next course included a delicious soup I’ve never encountered before: a green tomato soup with purslane, onion, and diced chicken breast; simply sublime. For my entrée, I had the most creative Mexican cheese topped in squash blossom flowers. It looked like it belonged in a garden—or a museum. It tasted just as yummy. A Casa Madero chardonnay from Mexico was a light, crisp addition to the meal.

    Maximo: This newly-relocated restaurant in Roma has a modern, California vibe, boasting “sustainable cuisine with the products at hand.” Chef Eduardo “Lalo” Garcia is one of the rockstars on the CDMX dining scene and his establishment has been voted into six editions of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Some of the standout dishes include: soft shell crab tostadas with green macha sauce; a delectable chicken liver mousse; pea, fava bean, and mint soup; parmesan and mushroom risotto; and a perfect Wagyu flat iron beef steak.

    Pujol: Always in the top ten of restaurants worldwide, Pujol in high-end Polanco is chef Enrique Olvera’s temple to Japanese-inspired Mexican fine dining at an elevation unlike any other. Go for lunch, as we did, and you can enjoy the views of the manicured Zen-like garden, while savoring the conviviality inside. Get ready for a culinary ride of imagination, starting with a scallop margarita, an octopus empanada, bluefin tuna with shellfish chilpachole, mushroom mixiote with mole amarillito, and a tamarind nicoatole with guava ice cream. All are presented with aplomb in creative and unexpected presentations. The service is superlative and the wine list surprising and extensive. Overall, this was one of the best meals of my life.


    Hanky Panky: It’s quirky, hard to reserve, and even harder to find (in the Juarez district)—but well worth the effort. You enter through a working taco stand (yup, we passed by the entrance 3 times before finding it), then enter through a back door in the kitchen to an intimate, dim, 1920s-style speakeasy. Red leather booths line one side of the retro-chic bar, directly opposite from stools facing the always-busy mixologists. We were lucky enough to sit in the private sunken cubbyhole, accented by a glamorous chandelier. Hanky Panky boasts drinks from around the world and creative new concoctions, but, of course, I opted for a classic Negroni, executed to a T. The bar’s name comes from the Fernet, gin, and sweet vermouth cocktail invented in the early 1900s by lauded bartender Ada Coleman at London’s Savoy Hotel. Best part of the experience? You exit through the refrigerator door!

    GinGin: With two locations, one in Roma and the other in Polanco, this homage to the juniper-based liquor is all the rage. Sitting outdoors on the terrace on a warm night in CDMX allows you to enjoy the passersby (and their dogs), while sipping terrific cocktails. A diverse variety of gins spur the botanical libations that dominate the menu, including: Velloncino de Oro (a rosemary-infused gin cocktail), a Mexican Pimm’s, and, of course, a classic martini.

    What to Do

    For the uninitiated, don’t miss Teotihuacan, the extensive pyramids about an hour from the city constructed between the 1st and the 7th century. It’s unknown who built them, but they feature signs of various cultures, including Maya, Mixtec, and Zapotec. Also, Mexico City is host to some of the great museums of the world. Make sure to visit the famous National Museum of Anthropology, which, according to Wikipedia, “contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, such as the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone), and the Aztec Xochipilli statue.” Another must is the Frida Kahlo Museum (book early!), in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood. Also known as the Blue House for the structure’s cobalt-blue walls, the structure is a historic house and art museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Another great activity is a tour of the Palacio de Bellas Artes near the Zocalo (main square) of CDMX, with its numerous murals, including those of Diego Rivera.

    Where to Stay

    The St. Regis Mexico City in Cuauhtémoc is a luxurious, upscale offering in a great location with numerous fine restaurants. Another recommended option for the business-oriented traveler is the Hyatt Regency in Polanco, with stunning views. I wouldn’t recommend XOMA, the boutique apartments by Viadora. We had a bad experience there and suspect the establishment might be anti-LGBTQ+.

    All in all, put Mexico City on your destination map: it’s safe, beautiful, a lot of fun, and best of all, you’ll eat and drink well.

    Bits and Bites

    Inspired by Beatrice Wood, (the “Mama of Dada”), Beato Chocolates are a female-owned, self-proclaimed “anti-established” chocolate maker based in Ojai, California. Besides that, they make some tasty chocolate bars, including: the “Dance of the 89 Positions ruby chocolate,” (a “pink” chocolate); the “Titanic” (dark chocolate, rose, and sea salt); “Bed Stories” (dark chocolate with raspberries); and my favorite, “Menage a Trois” (dark chocolate, toffee, and sea salt). They don’t skimp; the dark chocolate is all 72%. These bars are both artsy and delicious!

    El Cardenal:
    Hanky Panky:
    National Museum of Anthropology:
    Frida Kahlo Museum:
    Palacio de Bellas Artes:
    St. Regis Mexico City:
    Hyatt Regency Mexico City:
    Beato Chocolates:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at:

    Or visit him online at:

    The Gay Gourmet
    Published on May 18, 2023