72 hours in Mexico
Mexico City is having a major moment right now, and I’m here. for. it. I don’t know if it’s in my head, or just my group of friends incessantly posting on Instagram, but it seems as if millennials are giving the middle finger to Trump by eating their weight in tacos, posing in front of graffiti walls, and taste tasting their way through a smokey lens of mezcal.
After a bit of push and pull between David and I, we decided on Mexico for our Fall getaway last year. I can’t write this without admitting that I was a little intimidated to travel to the big metropolis given our current political climate and my parents' overly cautious point of view. That being said, the anxiety was stripped away after a few friendly smiles and tequila shot offerings on every corner once we cleared customs.
The stress and anxiety of travel is something that I am continuously trying to manage. I can’t help it yall, this Texas girl is still learning to spread her wings. Once I’ve had time to settle in, my overwhelming thoughts tend to dissipate, but it’s always a process.
Now onto the fun stuff. We departed on a 10-day trip, that started with 3 nights in Mexico City. I fell pretty hard for this vibrant and welcoming city and couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things to do, eat, and experience in such a short period of time.
We only had 2 and a half days to fully explore CDMX, and while we could have easily spent our entire trip here, this gave me a great introduction to what Mexico had in store for me over the next 10 days.
I’m highlighting some of my favorite spots based off the itinerary I planned beforehand, and have hidden gems sprinkled in that we came across organically as well. As always, there are a few “do next time” ticket items that I’ll be sure to cross off the list when I have the opportunity to visit again.
Hotel Casa Mali
There’s no shortage of buzzed-about boutique hotels in Mexico City, and Hotel Casa Mali, which is in the heart of Condesa, did not disappoint. The hotel sits on a quiet street right alongside Parque Mexico and is walking distance to great restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Our suite, complete with a beautiful room, outside patio, and spacious kitchen and living room area was on the first floor, overlooking serene greenery and more dogs than I could count. I loved that it felt more like a b&b, fully equipped with a washer/dryer and fridge. Our stay also included complimentary breakfast, coffee, and tea.
Transportation tip: Uber everywhere. It was easy, clean, and convenient. If we didn’t walk, we Ubered. Getting picked up from the airport was a breeze as well.
Our first stop after checking into Casa Malí, was right around the corner at El Tizoncito. This was a recommendation from a friend and the perfect introduction to tacos al Pastor. It felt authentic. We had arrived in Mexico - no frills. Our server brought out the salsa tower of my dreams, complete with warm frijoles - which if you know me, you know I love a good bean dip. We stuck with what the locals were ordering, which were tacos al Pastor and Dos Equis. The meal was exactly what you want after hours of travel.
“The salsa tour of my dreams!"
Rosetta was so cozy, and what I’d imagine home would feel like if I lived on a quaint cobblestone lined street in Italy. Leave it to us to forgo tacos for Italian food on our first night out, which ended up being one of the better decisions we made on the fly. The restaurant was built in the former Beaux Arts mansion, which is why the aesthetic was so rich with culture.
We walked in pretty late sans reservation and were lucky enough to snag a seat upstairs after having a cocktail and complimentary breadsticks while we waited in the tiny, dimly lit nook near the entrance. With each room we passed, I fell in love more and more with the restaurant. Greenery hung from every corner, beautifully painted murals lined the walls, and many of the menu items were presented on ornate dishes. The burrata was outstanding, as well as the two dishes of homemade pasta and bottle of wine that our waiter recommended. The meal was so memorable that we made sure to stop in at Panaderia Rosetta for a latte and croissant later in the trip.
For those of you who like to Netflix and chill, Chef’s Table is surely in the rotation. Before heading on our trip, we watched the season 2 episode featuring Enrique Olvera, head chef of the world-renowned Pujol (not to be mispronounced as poo-hole…). Fancy, white tablecloth restaurants, where you’re sure to be ravenous for a hamburger after, aren’t really my jam. That being said, David and I always seek out at least 1 buzzed-about restaurant, and Pujol is hands down, the one worth splurging on.
Let me start by saying, the aesthetic of the restaurant was my favorite part of the experience. Their beautiful floor to ceiling windows upon entrance, elegant lighting, tasteful bar and insta worthy patio (which we sadly couldn’t enjoy due to rainy season), were all top notch.
I also give the service an A+. Now onto the food. We went with the tasting menu and paired our dishes alongside spicy mezcal margaritas and a nice bottle of red wine. The food was wonderful, and I highly recommend anyone visiting Mexico city to go, but I’m not sure I’d prioritize going there again. My favorite dishes were the street snack appetizer (otherwise known as delicious baby corn), and the aged mole. I remember thinking the tortillas were some of the best I’d had our entire trip too.
Be still my heart. Contramar was the absolute highlight of my culinary experience in Mexico, and possibly, of all time during my travels. The only reservation I could manage was a late lunch, so we showed up hungry, and full of caffeine. Given the early seating arrangement, we had our choice of the front patio, seated between two preppy bachelors and a fabulous gay couple with a lovable pup seated to my right.
What struck me about Contramar, was the sophisticated, yet casual vibe it possessed. There were a handful of locals, definitely some tourists, and women dressed to the nines at noon on a weekday.
Most of the bloggers I’d followed to help plan our trip recommended the tuna tostadas, so going in, we knew that their signature dish would be a go-to choice. Honestly, nothing else we ordered would matter after taking the first bite. The tostada was perfectly crisp, the sashimi-grade tuna, outstanding, and the accompanied golden leeks, fresh avocado, and lime wedge made all the difference. The only other thing I remember eating there were delicious pickled onions and vegetables that came out while we waited for our food. Little did I know, the experience would get better. Our charismatic server (I hate that I don’t remember his name), treated us to a Mexican staple, the carajillo. This coffee cocktail poured over ice, was the perfect patio sipper to get me through the rest of the afternoon.
To this day, I talk about that single meal. It was more than just a delicious tostada. The ambiance, the service, the sunshine, and the friendly company next to us made the experience one that I’ll never forget. Don’t worry, I’m 5 months out from my next Mexico City girls trip and have already made a reservation for us ladies (patio preferred).
Churrería El Moro (La Condesa location)
Finally, dessert. Or breakfast? Or even a late night snack. Churrería El Moro was such a treat. The charming, old school vibe was exactly what we were looking for before heading back to the hotel to freshen up for a night out. We were indulgent and ordered the trio of ice cream churros, which was just enough sugar to not need a nap immediately afterward. You walk up to an adorable counter, place your order while watching chefs in traditional blue aprons knead the fresh dough, and find a seat inside or out. Pair these churros with a cup of coffee, and you’re set to sit and people watch overlooking the park for hours.
The only place I’d highlight where we went strictly for a nightcap with friends, was the CondesaDF rooftop bar. The bar was on the top of every list and featured by many bloggers, but I wasn’t that impressed. Guests socialize in comfy lounge chairs, the cocktails are fairly standard (they did make a good spicy margarita), and sushi bites are available if you are hungry. Maybe it was just too late in the night to really appreciate the views, but I’m not sure that this is a place I’d go back to visit.
We spent quite a bit of time in the park that bordered our hotel. From sunrise to sunset, there are tourists and locals alike enjoying coffee during their morning walks, having puppy play dates, reading on benches, and playing music for strangers. Some of my favorite memories with David were walking through that park, people watching and finding gratitude in the beauty that surrounded us.
Airbnb Food Market Explorers Tour
As of late, we’ve booked an Airbnb Experience or two in just about every city we travel to. Our adventure with Elizabeth was one of the highlights from our entire stay in Mexico. The other couple backed out last minute, so we were lucky enough to have a private tour through some famous markets in the city.
To start the adventure, we hopped on the subway, which is something we would have never done on our own. I was a bit hesitant during the first thirty minutes or so because Elizabeth explained to us that sex trafficking was common in the area (the white American blonde haired tourist in me tensed up), all the while reassuring us that we’d be safe by her side. Elizabeth is a journalist, very passionate about her work and Mexican politics, and is a no-nonsense badass. Her demeanor along with her local knowledge of the city and friendly relationships she had with many market vendors made that anxiety of mine disappear pretty quickly.
We spent a few hours walking the corridors of the market, taste-testing things like fried plantains covered in condensed milk and jam, Oaxacan cheese, a variety of dried mole and fresh fruit. The food was the soul of this market, but I really enjoyed shopping for crafts to take home for friends in family as well. I walked away with a few beautifully woven bags, which my sister and I use to this day for a trip to the beach or hauling groceries. Near the end of the market, we had a delicious sit-down meal, complete with a Mexican coke and local beer to wash things down.
One unique thing I learned from Elizabeth that I would have never realized without her local knowledge, was about the widespread harassment women endure when taking public transit. On our way home, I noticed that there were arrows on the ground, meant to separate men from women and children on the subway. The separate subway car system was built to combat the terrible reality of harassment and assault that happens on the often-crowded public transit options that the majority of locals take each day. It was one of the many moments when I realized that the problems we face in the states are shared by all cultures and races.
David and I have learned rather quickly that museums aren’t really our jam. We’d much rather have an afternoon rose’ or a scoop of gelato in the park to do as the locals do and people watch. That being said, we really enjoyed our visit to Frida Kahlo’s home, Casa Azul. Being in Mexico, I needed to know more about what that statement of a unibrow was all about.
“I needed to know more about what that statement of a unibrow was all about."
Pro tip: buy your tickets online in advance so that you can skip the line. This must-see destination is tucked away in Coyoacan, where Frida not only grew up but also lived her last days. After she passed away, her not so knight in shining armor of a husband (Khalo was no saint either), Diego Rivera, donated the house to the government, which opened as a museum in the last 50s.
Her most famous work is on display, and many of the rooms are preserved from decades ago. It’s a stunning exhibit, full of textiles, a swoon-worthy kitchen, greenery, and colors that’ll make your Insta-friends jealous. My favorite part of the museum was viewing Frida’s studio, completely in tact and showcasing her paints, pastels, and even her wheelchair pulled up to an easel.
If you aren’t already familiar with Frida’s story, viewing this cobalt beauty will make you want to learn more.
DO NEXT TIME
I hate the feeling of coming back home from a trip and not seeing or doing that one thing your friend, Mom or co-workers recommended and are going to ask you about. The truth of it is, there’s always more to explore. As mentioned, I’m headed back to Mexico City this year with 7 of my closest girlfriends and have the opportunity to experience more of the culture that David and I missed out on.
Two top restaurants on my list, which are both highly recommended by both friends IRL as well as bloggers, are Nico’s and Huset. I’ll also be making time for craft cocktails at Gin Gin, and sneaking in an Airbnb Experience of the outrageous, Lucha Libre show. Finally, my Instagram won’t be satisfied until I show off the beauty of Castillo Chapultepec. As always, leave a comment with your favorite finds from Mexico City!