Colonia Roma’s 10 Best Mexican Restaurants

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There are so many eating establishments in the Colonia Roma, and very good ones, that a simple 10 best list is impossible so we have divided it into two, Mexican and non. Here’s our Mexican list.

Fonda Fina’s publicity tells us that “…we are an homage and a throwback to the origins of our home cooking.” This smartly appointed wood and tile spot, done in the obligatory retro style, nods knowingly at its down home neighbors, but the emphasis lies more on the fina than the fonda. Food is sophisticated yet earthy; it’s well executed by talented and personable chef Juan Cabrera. There’s heart in this food, and creative indulgence stays safely at a distance, opening the door to a smart, accessible repast. The smartly appointed wood and tile dining room is done in the fashionable retro style and is relaxed and cozy. It’s honest and Mexican and very good. See: Fine Dining @ Fonda Fina

Medellin 79, tel. 5208-3925, open Monday – Saturday 1- 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. See Google maps
Average pp: $300

sope de pork belly @ Fonda Fina
Una docena @ La Docena

La Docena is the D.F. branch of the Guadalajara hotspot which is now included on S. Pellegrino’s Latin 50 Best list. Young chef Tomás Bermudez is at the helm. The raw bar is one of the best in the city: ‘docena’ refers to oysters, flown in daily from the Pacific coast. The kitchen, whose concept is somewhere between New Orleans and Baja California offers simple grilled fare – the oysters a las brasas are augmented with shallot butter, Rockefeller, with the usual heap of ingredients. Burgers and po’ boys are artfully prepared. Artisan beers are offered. Ambience is cool and relaxed. It’s a party and you’re invited.

Álvaro Obregón 31, at Frontera, tel. 5208-0748, open daily 1:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. See Google Maps
Average pp $400

Barbacoa, the method of cooking wrapped meat over coals in buried ovens, is a technique that has existed in many places and cultures, including pre-conquest Mexico. Nowadays, barbacoa refers to a specific style of cooking from the center of the country, that is, Puebla, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Guanajuato, the State of Mexico, Michoacán and Morelos. These are the states that happen to produce pulque, therefore, the leaves of the maguey are used to wrap the meat, principally goat or mutton, before it is roasted. Most barbacoa restaurants are only open weekends, as the meat is prepared outside the city and shipped into town. El Hidalguense family-style uber-Mexican restaurant sports typical folkloric decor and friendly service. It’s the best bet for classic barbacoa in the Roma/Condesa area, and also offers a full menu of breakfast items such as eggs and antojtos as well.

Campeche 155, tel. 5564 0538, open Friday – Sunday only, from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m.
See Google maps
Average pp $250

Barbacoa @ El Hidalguense
tacos de guisados @ El Jarocho

The verb “guisar” means “to prepare food” implying more elaboration than the literal “cocinar”. Guisados are stews i.e. meats or vegetables in sauce. They can consist of anything at all, from chicharrón (pork skin) to eggs, to picadillo to pure vegetables. Any prepared or stewed dish heaped onto a taco is a ‘guisado’. While guisados venues traditionally offer their wares from clay cazuelas, modern stainless steel is becoming more common. In business since 1948, El Jarocho restaurant offers a large range of classic tacos de guisados such as carne de cerdo en salsa verde con verdolagas, pollo pibil, and moles verde and rojo. While seemingly expensive at 18-24 pesos each, the tacos are large and come with two tortillas so it’s really a 2-for-1 deal.

Manzanillo 49 (corner of Tapachula, behind the Sears, 1 block from Insurgentes), tel: 5574-7148, open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. See Google maps
Average pp $150

El Habanerito is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that offers some of the best Yucatecan food in town. It is run by the affable young Joselin Dzul.  Although she grew up in the capital, her grandmother was Yucatecan and her recipes have been passed on to Joselin who felt that it was time to show the world how her grandmother’s cochinita was really supposed to be done.

She opened her tiny locale in 2013, later moving to the other side of La Roma. The menu includes such classic Yucatecan dishes as relleno negro, papadzules, sopa de lima and empanadas de chaya. She explains that while due to the urban setting she has no ‘pib’ or traditional clay oven, the marinated meat is baked wrapped in banana leaves to give it more depth of flavor. Six traditional fiery salsas are offered. This is the best option for Yucatecan food in the area.

Frontera 177 (at Chihuahua), Colonia Roma, tel. 55 2742 3699, Open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 10 – 7:30, Sunday, 11-6 – See Google maps

Cochinita pibil @ El Habanerito
A mole verde at Yuban

Oaxacan cooking is perhaps the most talked about in and out of the country, but a highly skilled and artisanal interpretation of it has eluded us – until now. Chef Fernando Martínez, who also runs Senerí, artfully reproduces traditional recipes with a contemporary vision that respects integrity and quality. Many varieties of moles are offered, a dark, smoky chichilo is the chef’s favorite. It’s of pre-hispanic origin, the grandfather of the more elaborate and European influenced moles negros and rojos. Here, it’s served turkey and features the burnt – not toasted but burnt- seeds of the chilhuacle, that hard-to-get dry chili from the south. Most ingredients, even criollo (native) corn for tortillas is brought in from local Oaxacan sources, while fresh ingredients are local and organic, many from the nearby chinampas of Xochimilco.

Colima 268, tel. 6387-0358 Open Monday – Friday 6 p.m. – Midnight, Saturday 2 – 11 p.m., Sunday, 2-6 p.m. See Google maps
Average pp $500

While we’d like to think that there are fine ambassadors of every branch of Mexican regional cooking, that of Michoacán has always been under-represented in the capital. Chef Fernando Martínez has decided to remedy the situation. Seneri, located upstairs in the Mercado Roma, does not offer classic dishes of the region, at least not done in the traditional manner. The chef utilizes ingredients of the area, inventing new plates while touching on tradition. This is Modern Mexican cooking at its best. A fair example, from the brief but intriguing menu, is an appetizer comprising slices of marinated trout from Zitácaro with mayo of the local smoky chile perón and caviar from the fish itself.  Or there’s a generous chunk of juicy duck breast, lightly smoked, ‘lacquered’ with a toasted mole of capón plated with a bit of pureed butternut squash. These are all elements of the state’s gastronomy, astutely reassembled, artfully presented and perfectly cooked. The space is airy, jazzy soundtrack cheerful. Pricing is fair as well.

Querétaro 225, (inside Mercado Roma), tel. 5564 8989, Open Tuesday – Saturday 1:30 – 11 p.m., Sunday until 6, closed Monday See Google Maps

Smoked trout at Senerí

Huset is chef Maycoll Calderón’s venue for creative, market driven grilling. Its setting is a lovely restored early 20th century mansion. A table in the patio, lit by a million small bulbs like Montmartre’s Moulin de la Galette, is difficult to procure – reserve well in advance. The center of the kitchen is a large wood-fueled grill and smoke pervades almost every dish on the menu. The chef’s technique is to grill then sauce. He explains that “We have a wood oven, use seasonal ingredients, as local as possible; it’s fun, simple and delicious.” While not strictly Mexican, the national spirit prevails.
See: Michael Calderón: 10 Questions for the Chef

Colima 256, Cuauhtemoc, tel. 5511 6767<
Open Tuesday, Wednesday 2 p.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday, Friday 2 p.m.- 2 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. – See Google maps
Average pp $500

One of my favorite places to eat seafood is Contramar. Young owners Gabriela Cámara and Pablo Bueno opened their hangar-size space, decorated like a beach palapa, in 1998 with a simple vision: “to serve good food in a comfortable environment”. The menu has evolved over the years, and while it has become a fashionable, some might say trendy venue, the quality of the food has only improved. Simple west-coast fare with an occasional European or Asian touch is offered: tostadas, ceviches, tacos, sashimis are where it’s at. Start with an order of sashimi de atún, a signature dish, the fresh, thinly sliced tuna served on a crispy tostada or a coctél de callo de hacha (scallops). The classic Spanish pulpos a la Gallega, tender morsels of octopus sautéed with garlic, olive oil and paprika is done to buttery perfection. Reservations, are a must – it is always packed.

Calle Durango 200, near Plaza Cibeles, tel. 5514-3169, Open Monday-Saturday 1 – 6:30 p.m., Sunday 1:30-6:30 p.m. See Google Maps
Average pp – $500

Tostadas de atún at Contramar
A seafood tostada at Lucas Local; photo by Roberto Beltrán, courtesy Time Out

Lucas Local is the post-modern proposal of two young chefs, veterans of the pop-up Escondite. Ale Coppel and (Ms.) Alexander Suastegui. While not strictly Mexican, the dishes and ingredients offered are so very rooted in national tradition albeit deconstructed and turned inside out that I include it on this list. And because it is so very good. The chefs like to combine odd ingredients: The dish that has become very famous is the pressed lobster torta, which is a grilled cheese, lobster and a little truffle. Tacos de lengua are textbook perfect, the tongue buttery tender. Pulpo con verdolagas (octopus with purslane) is presented grilled over a puree of white beans and tzatziki for a creamy/tart touch. I love the rice bowl with everything in it and a poached egg on top. Go with an open mind as the menu changes often and capriciously.

Colima 65, tel. 6812-1073, open Tuesday – Saturday 1:30 – 11:30 p.m., Sunday until 6, closed Monday – See Google maps
Average pp $400

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About The Author

Nicholas Gilman is a food writer based in Mexico City; he's author of Good Food in Mexico CIty: Food Stalls, Fondas, Fine Dining.