Mexico City is known for its culinary wonders, many of which can be found at simple street stands and small street-side establishments. But ordering and eating street food in such a busy place can be overwhelming. Don’t let all your options get you down!
Here’s what you need to know to enjoy all the Mexican street food you can stomach:
Follow the Crowd
Go where the crowds go. At peak hours before work, at lunch, after work, and in the evening (and, often, until long after the bars close), you can tell the best quality street food in the city by the lines that form and the crowds that gather around. Look for street food stands in neighborhoods with larger office buildings or commercial centers, with stands feeding workers as they come and go during the day and night.
Club Tengo Hambre‘s “Mexico City Street Food Essentials” tour focuses largely on the Centro Histórico region of the city, in the blocks south of the Palacio de Bellas Artes and west of the Zócalo. Mariana Gómez, one of CTH’s guides, says that the best spots in the city are family-owned and operated, passed down through generations. Her favorite location of El Huequito, a small chain cooking up the shwarma-inspired al pastor tacos, has been open since 1959.
You can trust that the food you are eating is fresh when you can see it being prepared before your eyes: handmade tortillas, hot stewed meat, freshly melted cheese and chopped veggies. Don’t be afraid of spicy table salsa and guacamole, either.
Be Willing to Try (Almost) Anything Once
Mexico City is home to some truly spectacular street foods, many of which are unique to, or originally from, the metropolis. Eat tacos al pastor chilango-style, smothered in beans and cheese. Munch on tlacoyos made from blue corn masa, stuffed with beans, and topped with nopal cactus salad, meat, or cheese.
You can find all sorts of meats—tongue, cheek, eyes, nose, stomach—and you can find meat from all kinds of animals, including non-domestic exotics like lion or kangaroo. In many market stalls you’ll find vendors selling a variety of insects, which find their way into street food and haute cuisine alike.
But even vegetarians can to try some exciting new things, like black and blue huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn and tastes exquisite in a quesadilla with a bit of cheese. (FYI: In Mexico City, or CDMX, quesadillas don’t automatically have cheese! Any oblong-shaped tortilla with fillings qualifies.)
Be Ready to Eat Any Time of Day!
Street food is a regular part of many people’s lives in CDMX. It’s not just there for a quick lunch or inexpensive dinner option when you’re caught off guard or in a pinch.
Many street food vendors arrive well before dawn to begin prepping for breakfast, the cups of atole, and tortas de tamal or chilaquiles served as the sun is rising. And many vendors stay nearly until the break of dawn, serving those last few beef tongue tacos to the stragglers who didn’t stop drinking when the last bars closed.
The breakfast tour hosted by Eat Mexico, in the nearby commercial area east of Chapultepec Park, focuses on the street food most likely to sell out before noon. You’ll have to get out early if you want a still-steaming tamal, or a handful of tacos de canasta—one of the few street foods that don’t suffer from being made ahead.
In the nearby Condesa neighborhood, there is a place so popular it is even listed on Google Maps aschilaquil corner, where from 8 until noon you can grab a tortilla chip sandwich with red or green salsa, crema and cheese, all wrapped up to go.