Tuesday, September 27, 2011


We rented our first place in Mexico City in 1998 in Colonia Roma, before it became the hotspot it is today. The 2-bedroom 1950's era apartment was cheap enough (3000 pesos a month) to overlook the ugly block with its earthquake damaged buildings and garbage strewn vecindades. How things have changed since then!

Roma is one of Mexico City’s great hodge-podge neighborhoods. Inaugurated in the early 1900’s, it was the first fully planned subdivision, with underground cables, running water, and even a trolley line. It was home to famous politicians, actors, writers and bull fighters.

From the beginning it was a mixed neighborhood, a sociological experiment in egalitarianism. Grand mansions sat next to apartment buildings and single family houses of various economic levels. Parks, fountains, and lots of trees helped create the French ambiénce beloved of president Porfírio Díaz.

The mix of high-low, rich-poor, beautiful-ugly became more pronounced over the years. In the 30’s the money moved west to Condesa and Polanco. Decay set in. The houses of the Porfirato period were torn down and replaced with more utilitarian buildings, often of breathtaking ugliness. Mansions became offices or schools. The earthquake of 1985 severely damaged the area, leaving it neglected and unloved, like Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard’.

But now it seems the time has come to bring the old diva out of retirement, dress her up, and put her in a new show. Restaurants, cafés, bookstores, boutiques, art galleries, and organic food stores are sprouting like whiskers on an adolescent’s chin. Weekend markets entice crowds to stroll down the tree-shaded alleé which runs the length of Avenida Álvaro Obregón, Roma’s main drag. Even the garbage collectors add to the eclectic mix—one truck I passed was blaring Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman.’

The neighborhood is perfect for a walking tour. The intersection of Calle Orizaba and Álvaro Obregón is the hub of the area. Along Orizaba are two small parks, Plaza Rio de Janiero, with its reproduction of Michaelangelo’s naked David (there are lots of naked men in the fountains of Colonia Roma—the camellón of Álvaro Obregon is lined with them.) A few blocks south is Plaza Luis Cabrera. Streets branching out from here are the most interesting in Roma. Stroll along Colima, Tabasco, Durango, or Jalapa to soak up the feeling of yesteryear that Roma offers. Below are some photos to give you a preview.

Some Highlights of Colonia Roma:

1. Casa Lamm—Cultural center in an old mansion

2. Hotel Brick—have a drink at the swanky bar

3. Broka--Comida corrida & tapas bar

4. Rosetta—Superior Italian food in a lovely old house

5. Delirio—Cool lunch spot with great take out items (try the lemon/cardamom marmalade!)

6. Trouvé and Chic by Accident—Retro home decor stores

7. MUCA—Contemporary art museum

8. MODO—Museum of design—collections of weird objects

9. Artes de Mexico—small craft store in a great old house

10. Art galeries--Arroníz, OMR and Nina Menocal are three of the best

11. El Pendulo--Bookstore, café, cabaret theater—great rooftop.

12. Taco stands at Álvaro Obregón and Insurgentes—street food heaven

13. Weekend markets: Vendors set up along Álvaro Obregon on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays only there's a flea market in the park at Cuauhtémoc and Tabasco. Sundays only there's a tianguis in the other park at Álvaro Obregón and Cuauhtemoc--there are great food stalls along Tabasco.

14. MOG, Asian fusion food, retro/futuro decor

15. Bar Covadonga, The ultimate Roma-mix bar.

My first apartment (below). The pozole verde at the place downstairs is one of the best things you'll eat in Mexico City (it's on Zacatecas between Córdoba and Merida).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's Fiestas Patrias time again, so that means food, and lots of it. Belt-expanding breakfasts, long, leisurely comidas, and visits to those late night taco stands are all part of the celebration. If you're not lucky enough to be invited to some abuela's house for comida, don't despair. You can still find the best food in Mexico City with a little help from the experts. I asked three residents of Mexico City who are known for their culinary expertise to tell us their favorite places to eat.

Nicholas Gilman, Lesley Tellez and Cristina Potters all write passionately about food, love to cook, and love to eat. They all blog regularly about food in Mexico City and beyond.

Nicholas Gilman is the author of 'Good Food in Mexico City'. To visit his blog click here. "There are more than 30,000 registered places to eat, so five isn't easy, but here goes," he said.

1. Contramar (Durango 200, Colonia Roma) - Excellent seafood, relaxed atmosphere. Try the pescado a la talla. Lunch time only, no reservations. (Their website: www.contramar.com.mx)

2. El Caguamo (Ayuntamiento, corner Aranda, Centro). The best puesto for seafood in the city--even the owner of Contramar eats here! (Read about both places here.)

3. Coox Hanal (Isabel la Católica 83, Centro) The best Yucatecan food in el DF--and I've tried them all. I love their pan de cazón. (Read Nick's blog post here.)

4. El Huequito (Ayuntamiento 21, centro) A little hole in the wall that does exquisite
tacos al pastor, which are uniquely Defeño. (Read more here.)

5. Merotoro (Av. Amsterdam 204, Condesa) This is my favorite place for 'creative' cuisine. The menu constantly evolves, taking advantage of the amazing seasonal variety in Mexico.
(Read more here.)


Lesley Téllez blogs about Mexican food and culture in The Mija Chronicles. She also gives street food, taco and market tours through her company Eat Mexico. "Places I can walk or ride my bike to are more likely to become favorites," she confessed.

1. Tacos Gus.
My favorite tacos guisados in the city. Get the swiss chard, calabacitas, or the green chorizo with potato (Amsterdam 171, Colonia Condesa). (See article.)

2. Merotoro. My husband and I like to go here when we want to splurge on a nice dinner. I love the crusty bread dunked in Baja olive oil, and the Ulloa wine. (Avenida Amsterdam 204, Colonia Condesa).

3. Tlacoyo and quesadilla stand in front of Mercado Medellín. (corner of Campeche and Medellín, Colonia Roma) The quesadilla de quelite drizzled with red salsa reminds me why I live in Mexico.

4. El Vislito. (formerly known as El Vipsito) Unparalleled tacos al pastor. It's only open after 10 p.m., which adds to the ambience. (Avenida Universidad near Petén, Colonia Narvarte)

5. Nicos. Traditional Mexican food made with high-quality and locally grown ingredients.(Av. Cuitlahuac 3102, Colonia Azcapotzalco). Read Lesley's blog post about this. "Well worth the trip to Azcapotzalco!" she notes.


Cristina Potters shares her vast experience with Mexican food on her blog http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com/ "I've eaten in 28 of Mexico's 31 states, plus Mexico City. These five popped up as first thoughts."

1. El Bajio, Classic Mexican food from star chef Carmen Tititia. Now in several locations, but the original in Azcapotzalco is still the best. http://carnitaselbajio.com.mx/

2. El Portalito, A simple fonda in Colonia Condesa which offers a great comida corrida. (Read about it on Cristina's blog post.

3. Jaso, High-end cocina de autor in Polanco. http://jaso.com.mx/

4. Rokkaku, Peruvian-Japanese fusion? Who knew? Read this for more information.

5. Tortas Los Compadres, On Calle Chilpancingo near the metro--reliable tortas.


Also check out Ruth Alegria's food blog: http://www.ruthincondechi.com/2011/09/el-grito.html

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MY MEXICO CITY: Headline News

Recently, my friend Roberta was viewing the Mexico City marathon from her balcony in Polanco. She watched the runners, the cheering crowds, and a few folks dressed as clowns as they passed by. Wanting to share this simple pleasure of life outside her window, she sent an email with photos to several friends back in the States.

"A few wrote back really surprised," she told me. "Weren't you afraid something would happen, like a stray bullet hitting you or a bomb exploding?" one of them wrote. "They don't expect anything normal like a marathon to be going on in Mexico City."

Hearing this story reminded me, once again, of the skewed impression many people get of life here in Mexico City by reading and watching the news. News media feed on the sensational. A headline that shrieks about eight decapitated bodies found in a cantina makes more compelling copy than one that describes several thousand people running 26 miles with their heads attached.

But the truth for me and Roberta is that life in our big city is much more peaceful, pleasant, and just plain normal than what the media suggests. So I thought to myself, "Hey, I worked for a newspaper once. I'll just go out and find some headlines myself, normal headlines about my Mexico City."

The sun finally made an appearance today, so I set out with my camera (carefully hidden in a plain bag, along with my journalistic license) to see what I could find. I recorded all of what follows within a few blocks of my home in Colonia Condesa. If you see any more good headline news out there, let me know!


"It was quite an ordeal, but we're much better now," said Leticia Burbujas, 32, one of the survivors. "The kids are so young they probably won't remember it."



"They're awful," says ex-New Yorker and long time Mexico City resident, accountant Moishe Pipkin, 53. "Soft and spongy--these people don't know from bagels."...



For more than a year now this clock in Parque Mexico has been giving the right time, and neighbors are not happy about it. "How can I explain that I'm an hour late when I have that thing staring at me," complained dental assistant Marta Pantorrilla, 39...



"It's disgusting," complained Evelyn Wright, 61, formerly of Boston, whose living room window has a view of the statue. "There are naked statues all over Colonia Roma. This one has a penis! Not as big as that David statue in the Plaza Rio de Janiero, but it still isn't right! These Mexicans just don't care!"...



When asked their names the two fled, but Ciro Sanchez, 16, who was squeezing oranges at the time, had the story. "They were very concerned that I not put ice in their drinks," he noted. "But they seemed happy. One of them told me, 'This tastes just like orange juice--only better'"...