So, let’s get this party started right. Mexico City is the mecca for the hip, young and beautiful–and, might I add — the elite and wealthy. First, let’s get a few basic principles out of the way. If you want to truly experience Mexico City as the locals do, you must get a few things right. Of course, there are exceptions to these ‘rules’, which I shall call out as needed.
For starters, you must look the part. People take their social events seriously out here. Men are mostly dressed in formal suits, and their take on casual is losing the jacket (and in some rare occasions, the tie). Women are dressed in trendy outfits, and never leave home without a great pair of heels. Now, here’s the exception – if you are at a very nice restaurant or club and spot someone wearing faded jeans or a shirt whose sleeves are casually rolled up, it’s only because they can; this sighting is one of the top elite and upper class. They need not impress anyone with their fine clothes. Their wallet will do all the talking.
Next, in order to be fashionable, one must be fashionably late. Fact – nobody that’s anybody is seated for dinner before 9pm; the exception to the rule is the thirsty bunch whom you will find at their dinner table before 9, but who are just getting warmed up by having some pre-dinner cocktails and drinks. When going out to dinner, try not to be that first eager seating of the night. Plan in advance, and have your concierge book a reservation for you, and be prepared for a long night. It is rude for waiters to rush the patrons along during dinner. Don’t be offended if you feel you have to ask for the check. They have not forgotten you. They are just trying to give you some privacy.
I will now share with you a few of my favorite spots in the city that are well worth the wait, and I’ve frequented more than once. These are the ones that never fail to impress when I’m showing someone new around. One site I visit to learn about new spots is Concierge.com, hosted by Travel & Leisure magazine.
Where to: Be Hip, or Be Square
- the W hotel – Solea Restaurant & the Whiskey Bar – Settle in for a nice and loud evening at this intimate restaurant that hovers over a swanky lobby lounge that is guarded by a red velvet rope on most evenings. The food is excellent, even though it is more modern American than Mexican. Come for dinner; stay for cocktails.
- love ixchel – Both restaurant and club, this hot spot is one of those that you’d have to be looking for to find, and even once you’ve found it you can barely tell you’ve arrived. Venture downstairs into a dark and cozy ‘basement’, where the food is exquisitely prepared, and the ambience quickly turns into a disco club once the clock strikes midnight.
- Biko – This new discovery of mine is one I’d happily return to. The menu is vague, at best, and don’t bother asking the waiter to describe it, because you will only get lost in a myriad of words that describe such complex dishes that you are better off just saying ‘surprise me’, and see what fancy concoction is brought to you. The food here is best described as Spain meets Mexico, with a touch of whimsy and intricate flavors that will keep you guessing, ‘what else is in this dish’. [Save this one for when you are on expenses, or for a very special occasion. Well worth the cost, though a bit steep.]
Where to: Experience Traditional Cuisine
- San Angel Inn – This is an old monastery converted into a restaurant, in the style of a Spanish hacienda, with full courtyard and all. Tucked away in the small colonial town of ‘San Angel’, it is across the street from the Casa Azul – Diego Rivera’s and Frida Kahlo’s old residences and art studio spaces. Order a margarita, and you’ll be served tequila straight up with a squirt of fresh lime juice. Nice way to start off a meal, if you ask me…
- Cafe de Tacuba – Are you familiar with the band, of the same name? Well, the restaurant came first, in case you were wondering. Located in the busiest part of town, near the town square ‘Zocalo’, this restaurant is one of those places that does not look like much from the outside, but that is a thing of beauty once you’re inside. Open since 1912, its walls are decorated with precious works of art, and the decor is very ornate and seems to be dripping in gold and chocolate. As a matter of fact, one of its focal points is referred to as their ‘chocolate mural’, as it recounts the history of chocolate through the times, in homage to the god Quetzalcoatl whose gift of chocolate was seen as a symbol of love and friendship. This place holds a dear place in my heart. I booked a reservation for me and my husband here as a surprise since he is a big fan of the music band ‘Cafe Tacuba’ and had always told me of how they took their name after a famous restaurant in Mexico City. He topped my surprise by proposing marriage to me during that same dinner. Now, there’s a memory that’s even sweeter than chocolate itself.
If you ever find yourself in this beautiful city, I hope you get to make your own memories by visiting one of these spots, or discovering your own. Do share your comments with me, as I’d love to hear all about it.
~the sweetest mami~