The Best Lunch Spots In Mexico City
photo credit: Andrew Reiner
A trip to Mexico City should revolve around lunchtime. Yes, you’ll want to eat something great for breakfast and dinner too, but lunch is the biggest, most important meal of the day. Plan on eating around 2pm-ish, and expect to stay a while—lunch in Mexico City can last for hours (we’re talking into-dinnertime) with dining companions cycling in, out, and lingering around the table with drinks long after the plates have been cleared.
This buzzy small-plates spot on a quiet corner in Roma is consistently packed with tables of artists, off-duty chefs, and locals. The menu has a bit of an old-school-with-a-twist feel, with dishes like panko-breaded sea bass meunière, a floating island with plum sorbet, and braised leeks topped with dates, burrata, and hazelnuts. There are some equally nostalgic cocktails (get the Cosmopolitan) and coffee that’s made at Tormenta, the street stand right outside.
Sarde’s mackerel crudo is all over Instagram, but it’s not all over Instagram. People know about it, but not everyone knows about it. What we’re trying to say is that despite the hype, this seafood restaurant still feels like a bit of a secret. The dimly lit, cave-like space on a scenic corner in Roma works for a romantic lunch date, where you can share a not-too-big platter of oysters, clams, and ceviche before heading upstairs to flip through art books at Casa Bosques.
If this is your first time in Mexico City, a meal at Contramar is essential. And if this is your fourth time in Mexico City, a meal at Contramar is still essential. Set aside an entire afternoon for a long lunch in the sprawling dining room that turns into an all-out party fueled by micheladas and tostadas de atún. And while the crowd can skew tourist-heavy, you’ll still see plenty of locals mixed in. Do as they do and order a tequilita with the famous fish.
This old-school spot, with high ceilings and fans that are always spinning no matter what temperature it is outside, has been around since 1952, and once served regulars like Fidel Castro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Today, there’s a Soho House next door.) Legend has it that Castro’s order was “a torta with everything,” which then became known as the torta cubana: a roll stuffed with roasted pork, beef milanesa, eggs, chorizo, ham, and american cheese, which you can get here for just seven of today’s dollars. Order one of those and end your meal with something sweet, like their signature two shots of espresso with condensed milk.
Polpo is an Italian restaurant inside the picturesque Pasaje Parián, a leafy passageway with small shops, restaurants and even a spin bike spot, which feels more like Milan than it does Mexico City. Slide up to the tall wooden bar for snacky plates of freshly sliced salami and aged parmigiano reggiano, or, grab a table on the glass-covered patio and spend the afternoon drinking negronis while watching the crowds. The menu changes often, but if you see the butter lettuce salad or short rib-stuffed cappelletti on it, get them both.
If you grew up in Mexico City, you came to Klein’s with your parents. And now, you probably come here with your own kids for a hit of nostalgia and some very good matzo ball soup. Although the dishes are not kosher per se, this Mexican Jewish diner has a big menu using a variety of kosher ingredients, including the beloved kosher salami torta filled with thickly sliced meat and layered with avocado and some spicy pickled vegetables. Get that and the soup, plus a milkshake or the apple pie à la mode.
Canton Mexicali looks like a pretty straightforward Chinese restaurant. And that’s because up until a few years ago, it was. New owners have kept the very mid-’90s feel, but now serve Mexican-Chinese fusion to cool kids and a few loyal holdovers. The camarones chipotle (fried shrimp in a sweet and sour chipotle salsa) are an essential order, and the perfect introduction to what’s happening here. Add the spicy cucumber salad, dan dan noodles, and a round of Tsingtaos for the full experience.
This tiny restaurant has limited hours (it’s only open Thursday to Saturday between 2-10pm), but it’s worth rearranging your schedule to show up right when they open. The menu is small and changes often, which just means you should order everything on it. That might include a smoky sopa de pescado, or a perfectly charred roasted eggplant smothered in a yogurt sauce. Locals also like to start their night here with mezcal, cubitas, and vermouth, and many stay past dessert, so if you’re looking to blend in, partake in sobremesa and stay for a few rounds of drinks.
This new restaurant from the chef behind Rosetta and Lardo isn’t as packed as its sister spots, which means it’s easier to score a table (for now, at least). The huge plant-filled terrace overlooks a quiet side street, so it’s an ideal spot for an hours-long lunch after a back-to-back museum morning. You’ll find an Italian menu of crostini, pastas—like a fantastic homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta, spinach, and sage—and pizzas, plus a killer panzanella.
You'll instantly feel welcome at Ciena, a restaurant in Condesa where the staff make you feel like they’re your real friends, and not just someone you’ll ask food-related questions to for the next few hours. The international-leaning menu includes comfort classics like cheesy arancini and spectacularly fresh aguachile de camaron. If you’re not in the mood for a long lunch, act like one of the regulars and enjoy a glass of wine at the bar.