Back in February of this year we had a quick little three-night trip to Mexico City, colloquially known as DF (Distrito Federal). This was our second time to visit DF, the last time we were there was for a month back in early 2012. The weather this time of year is consistently dry with warm days and comfortably cool evenings.
All photos in the post are taken by iPhone 4. Next time I will share better photos from early 2012, taken with an actual camera.
Mexico City, DF (Distrito Federal)
Arrival at MEX (Benito Juárez International Airport) is surprisingly easy. Once you leave the secure area, after clearing immigration and customs, there are a number of authorized taxi companies with service desks located within the airport. Their rates and services are all similar but ‘Excelencia’ and ‘Nueva Imagen’ were recommended to us by a local and we have used both without any issues or complaints. Flat-rate airport transfers to the center (Condesa, Roma, Zona Rosa, Reforma) are around $15 US with the authorized airport taxis.
Mexico City, DF (Distrito Federal)
We got an amazing deal on an apartment with Airbnb, in what has quickly become the foodie center the city – Colonia Roma Norte. We love renting an apartment, not just for the household amenities like a kitchen but also for the great local environment they tend to offer.
Special Note: Get $30 off your first booking if you sign up for Airbnb here (new accounts only, first minimum reservation of $75).
Most of the international hotels in DF are along Paseo Reforma and in the Centro Historico, these areas can serve as a central but very touristic base to see the city. Polanco, a posh barrio located just outside the center of the city, is packed with upscale international hotels, embassies, parks, gated homes and the internationally renowned Museo Soumaya and Museo Jumex. Polanco is likely the most analogous to an American city and is certainly worth visiting if you have some extra time. To be a little bit closer to the sights, local culture and best vegan options in DF, we recommend staying in Colonia Roma or Condesa.
Vegan Eats & Such
Mexico City, DF (Distrito Federal)
Along with revisiting a few of our old favorites in DF, we also tried some new restaurants and the highlight was easily Cate de mi Corazón (view our review here).
If juice is your thing, over the past two years we’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of juice bars (especially in Condesa and Roma) popping up in DF. With all the amazing produce down there they aren’t short on ingredients and now they certainly aren’t short on juice bars and small markets selling freshly made juices featuring exotic and delicious fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Morning beverage: Organic Soursop juice from Eek’o (Jugo Orgánico Artesanal de Guanabana). It’s gluten-free, GMO-free, and freshly made. The juice does not contain added water, preservatives, artificial flavors or sweeteners, concentrates or coloring. The juice carries the USDA certified organic seal. We found this at a cute gourmet food shop, “Bottega Culinaria” in Col. Condesa.
At Bottega Culinaria, we discovered vegan-friendly cactus tortillas and they were bright green. Unfortunately they didn’t taste anything like nopal (cactus), but it was pretty interesting to try!
We went to our favorite falafel place in Mexico City called, Falafelito, it’s our fourth time there. I noticed this year, they opened two new locations in DF: Coyoacán and Colonia Nueva Oriental Coapa. The one in Condesa was near us and the one we went to in 2012. They added a burrito option, which was pretty cool. View our early 2012 review and more photos here.
At Azul Condesa, we had loads of yummy fresh cocktails/margaritas and had vegan organic hibiscus flower enchiladas, served with light tomato and smoky chipotle sauces (Enchiladas de Jamaica orgánica: bañadas en salsa ligera de jitomate y chile chipotle). Their vegetarian enchiladas can be made without cheese (queso). These dishes were pretty filling! It’s our third time dining there. View our 2012 reviews & more photos here and here.
We found some interesting products at a grocery & restaurant Orígenes Orgánicos (@ Colonia Condesa) that we haven’t seen before (view my 2012 review here). One of the new products we’ve tried was the kombucha by La Semilla Colectiv and it was pretty refreshing and minty.
We also found some Sudevi vegetarian wheat ‘meat’ (there are different flavors and types, but some of them aren’t vegan due to ingredient cheese, so read the ingredients carefully) at Orígenes Orgánicos. We tried their vegan Jamón con Adobado (Marinated Ham), which was savory and mildly smoky and pretty good in quick tacos-to-go and a squeeze of fresh lime. This one was our favorite. We also tried vegan Jamón con Jitomate y Chipotle (Tomato & Chipotle Ham) and vegetarian “chorizo” or crumbles, they weren’t as flavorful as the Jamón con Adobado.
We walked towards Centro Historico and explored the area. It was a pretty hot day and I remember that we were pretty exhausted. Most of the international hotels in DF are along Paseo Reforma and in the Centro Historico, these areas can serve as a central but very touristic base to see the city.
We discovered a cute café & gourmet grocery shop with a minimal and industrial aesthetic, “Abarrotes Delirio” within walking distance from the apartment in Roma Norte. We tried some of their freshly squeezed juices ($18 – $25 pesos each) – guava & Jamaica flower (hibiscus), organic mango, guava, mango & passion fruit and Jamaica flower (hibiscus)/ginger/sugar. We loved the guava & Jamaica flower (hibiscus) and mango/passion fruit juices.
To make up for the crappy meal we had at the vegan-friendly Volver Co. in Col. Roma Norte (not worth to talk about it here; all I can say was that the staff brought a non-vegan meal to us and we made it clear that our meals should be made ‘vegano’), we had the most amazing and freshly made gin-based drinks at Butcher & Sons within walking distance from the apartment in Col. Roma Norte. They use real spices and freshly squeezed fruits in their cocktails, which was so fabulous about it. I so recommend this bar to go to – great gin cocktails, rustic vibe, and fun bartenders. Prices for cocktails were reasonable, about $90 – $100 pesos each. My favorite was the Spicy Tanqueray & Tonic (gin, thinly sliced orange, star anise, cilantro and gin), so refreshing and unique (first photograph below). View the gin cocktail menu here.
On Day 3, we took a taxi and explored Polanco, a posh barrio located just outside the center of the city, is packed with upscale international hotels, embassies, parks, gated homes and the internationally renowned Museo Soumaya and Museo Jumex. Polanco is likely the most analogous to an American city and is certainly worth visiting if you have some extra time.
Museo Soumaya (private art museum) wrapped in shiny hexagonal aluminum tiles and designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero.
Founded in 1946, a must to try in D.F. – Nevería Roxy their fruity vegan nieve (Mexican creamy sorbet). Our favorite flavors are maracuyá (passion fruit) and mamey. It is vegan as long as you request nieve (water ice or sorbet). Get a bola grande scoop if you want an enjoyable, lasting nieve and make sure you get it without a cone since it may not be vegan (I haven’t asked about the cones and I didn’t need them anyway). View our 2012 review here; they have several locations (we went to the Polanco location this year).
Thoughts on Mexico City
Mexico City is probably the easiest and most culturally enriching international trip you can take from just about anywhere in the United States, it’s an international destination with domestic travel effort. For us (on the West Coast of the US), it’s usually about the same price as a ticket to Boston and with a slightly shorter travel time. Served by a number of North American airlines with connections across the country, you can likely get to DF with just one stop. With a metro-population of about 20 million people, one might think this city would overwhelm you.
The reality is that each barrio in DF often feels like its own self-contained community, ostensibly breaking this metropolis down into a bunch of small towns. Whether it’s for a long-weekend or an extended stay, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting DF. It’s safe, the local and friendly and helpful, the weather is temperate, the beauty of the architecture and parks will captivate you and the food will make your mouth water…what more do you need? Oh yeah, how about the fact that it’s downright affordable!?