On the taco tour in Mexico City

A do-it-yourself taco tour of Mexico City’s historic centre reveals flavours from across the nation.

By Nicholas Gilman
Published 9 Oct 2019, 06:00 BST
Tacos being prepared at Taquería Los Cocuyos, Mexico City
Tacos being prepared at Taquería Los Cocuyos, Mexico City
Photograph by Nicholas Gilma

Tacos are part of Mexicanidad — the hallowed state of being Mexican. Tortillas have been around for centuries, having been made by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica in pre-Hispanic times, and the idea of packing them with ingredients, to create taco snacks, is older than the hills. Acting simultaneously as plate, fork and spoon, tacos are not only a logical dish, but an integral part of quotidian life.

Mexico City is home to people from all over the country and its taco options encompass every region. I’ve devised a taco walking tour in the city’s historic centre, a route I still follow after 25 years. Begin with a stand-up taco de guisado (a stewy, slow-cooked dish) at Salón Corona, a lively beer hall that first opened in 1928. Mole verde (green sauce), bacalao (salt cod) and pulpo (octopus) are among the recommended dishes, and the beer here is cold and on tap.

Next, head down Calle de Bolívar to Los Cocuyos, a tiny locale that’s always packed; you’ll be able to tell which it is from afar by the small crowd that always seems to be gathered outside. While I enjoy a taco of tender suadero (flank steak), I usually opt for the melt-in-the-mouth lengua (tongue) here, with crispy fried tripe thrown on top.

Continue walking until you reach Calle República del Salvador, then turn right. Head along Ayuntamiento to El Huequito, a hole in the wall that’s the best place to sample tacos al pastor (pork marinated in chilli and spices, cooked on a vertical spit). The meat is juicy and succulent, with a smoky aroma that lingers.

Across the street is Tacos de Canasta Las Especiales, located in the same building as the old XEW radio studios, where many famous musicians got their start; perhaps ranchera singer Lola Beltran downed a few tacos while she was waiting for her big break. Make sure to try the delicious mole verde or carnero en adobo (marinated mutton) options.

Los mejores tacos del centro histórico’ (‘the best tacos in the historic centre) shrieks the sign at Taquería Gonzalez on the corner of López and Vizcainas — and, judging by the huge crowd gathered at the corner, they might just be right. My top pick here is longaniza (spicy sausage), but the tacos filled with cabeza (oven-roasted cow head) are also delicious — although I must admit I try to put the key ingredient out of my mind while eating them. For more cabeza options, head to Taquería los Güeros; with lengua (tongue), buche (lips) and oreja (ear) on the menu, nothing is wasted.

Originating from central Mexico, barbacoa refers to a specific form of cooking that involves wrapping meat (usually mutton) in maguey leaves before roasting the parcel in an outdoor pit. A good place to try this succulent, smoky style of meat is Cocina Vianey, located near the Mercado San Juan market; the latter is also well worth a visit for its exotic array of produce and meats on display.

Craving something other than carnivorous offerings? Don’t despair. I always followed the rule that seafood was never to be eaten on the street until I discovered El Caguamo, the best seafood stand in the city. It serves up four types of ceviche, fried fish filets and a hearty seafood soup that should satisfy anyone’s maritime cravings. 

Read more about Mexican food in our cover story here.

Published in the November 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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