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Mexico is a massive country, so making a list of the most notable restaurants in Mexico is no easy feat.
That’s why this article is going far beyond just the best restaurants in Mexico (though, I’ll tell you that too) to uncover:
- Top-rated restaurants in Mexico
- Chef’s choice: Top chefs’ favorite restaurants in Mexico
- The most unique restaurants in Mexico
- Street food stands in Mexico
- Traditional markets in Mexico
- Fast food in Mexico
- Cafes, bars, and breweries in Mexico
- International restaurants in Mexico
- Vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Mexico
- Binge-worthy shows about restaurants in Mexico
- And oh-so-much more.
Grab some chips and salsa or whip up a batch of fresh guacamole, because this is not an article to read when you’re hungry!
Quintonil restaurant in Mexico City is one of the top-rated spots in the country. Image courtesy of Quintonil.
What are the top-rated restaurants in Mexico?
There are no Michelin-starred restaurants in Mexico because there is no Michelin Guide to the country, but there are still a few spots who have earned other culinary accolades. In fact,11 eateries in Mexico made the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019.
Pujol, created by the world-famous Mexican chef Enrique Olvera when he was only 24 years old, came in at number three on the list, while Quintonil, also in the capital city, followed close behind at No.11.
Sud 777, Rosetta, Maximo Bistrot, and Nico’s also made the list and are all located in Mexico City as well.
Outside of the capital, you can also find Alcalde in Guadalajara ranked at an impressive No. 14 on the list, Pangea in Monterrey at No. 15, Le Chique in Cancun at No. 32, and La Docena, with locations in Mexico City and Guadalajara, at No. 38 and No. 41 respectively.
Most spots offer contemporary or European-influenced Mexican cuisine; Nico’s is the only traditional Mexican spot on the list.
Maximo Bistrot veers off course with French cuisine and the La Docena restaurants stand out as a New Orleans inspired oyster bars.
On the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019, Pujol came in at No. 12 and Quintonil came in at No. 24.
Chef Francisco runs Alcalde in Guadalajara, one of the top-rated restaurants in the country. Image courtesy of Alcalde.
Chef’s Choice: Top Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants in Mexico
I reached out to some of the top chefs in Mexico to discover their go-to spots for the cuisine in the country.
Chef Ana Garcia runs La Villa Bonita Mexican Culinary Vacation cooking school in Tepoztlan and has been featured on the Food Network, PBS, Newsweek, Travel and Leisure, Bon Appetit, and more.
So, where does Chef Ana go when she’s hungry?
Nico’s in Mexico City!
Chef Jonatan Gomez Luna at Le Chique in Cancun (No. 32 on the Top Restaurants in Latin America list) was also kind enough to answer my query.
He said: ‘You ask me a very complicated question due to the great variety of restaurants and great chefs that this country has, but if I opted for one, I think it would be Blue and Gold of the research chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita.’
He continued to say that Chef Ricardo is a mentor and researcher for the Le Chique kitchen but, of course, the food at Blue and Gold (Azul y Oro) is delicious as well. Chef Jonatan also shared another favorite with me, saying:
‘If a modern restaurant were the new generation of Mexican chefs, I would opt for ALCALDE of Francisco Ruano from Guadalajara.’
Thank you Chef Ana and Chef Jonatan for sharing your favorite restaurants in Mexico!
La Gruta cave restaurant in Mexico City
What are the most unique restaurants in Mexico?
From treehouses to underground caves to blind dining and more, these are the most memorable and unique restaurants in the country.
La Gruta – Mexico City
La Gruta is built into a volcanic cave outside of the sprawling Teotihuacan ruins in Mexico City. Order up traditional dishes and watch folkloric ballet and pre-hispanic dance shows while you eat.
Then, your waiter will give you a candle to light and place in the shimmering grotto. Legend has it that when you exit the cave, your old life will end and a new one will begin.
Alux cave restaurant in Playa del Carmen
Alux – Playa del Carmen
Alux is also in a cave, but this one was created by the underground fresh-water rivers – called cenotes – that carved up the rock under the Yucatan Peninsula. The cavern Alux is built into is more than 10,000 years old.
Alux serves up ‘Mexican cuisine with Pre-Hispanic and international touches’, but you can also stop by for a drink at the bar if you want to see the caves without sitting down for a bite to eat.
Kin Toh – Tulum
In a city known for its lush greenery and jungle atmosphere, it’s only fitting that Kin Toh was built into a treehouse, a literal escape from the stresses of everyday life going on below.
The Kin Toh menu offers Mayan-Mexican cuisine that diners can enjoy from private nests overlooking the Mayan jungle.
Image courtesy of the Black Hole
Black Hole – Cancun
The Black Hole Sensory Restaurant in the Pyramid at Grand Oasis is a blind dining experience.
Taking the concept of blind taste tests to the extreme, this establishment will challenge your taste buds – and conventional eating practices – with a 27-course tasting menu eaten completely in the dark.
Frida – Cabo San Lucas
Frida is located in the Grand Velas Resort in Cabo San Lucas. It makes the list of most unique restaurants in Mexico because it serves up the most expensive taco in the world.
Would you drop $25,000 on a single taco?
If you’re one of the very few people with the ability to spend that frivolously, Frida is the place to do it.
Their wallet-busting taco is made with Almas Beluga – the most expensive caviar in the world – Kobe beef, lobster, black truffles, and other delicious ingredients I’ll never be able to afford but love to day dream about eating someday.
Image courtesy of Chico’s Paradise
Chicos Paradise – Puerto Vallarta
As the name implies, Chico’s Paradise is a remote jungle paradise outside of Puerto Vallarta, balancing precariously above a rushing river. There’s a zipline, waterfalls, swimming holes, beautiful views and, oh yeah, some tasty seafood as well.
Hosteria de Santo Domingo – Mexico City
Hostería de Santo Domingo is the oldest restaurant in Mexico City. Founded in 1860, it’s been serving up flavorful Mexican fare for almost 160 years.
The restaurant is located in an old Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and specializes in Chile en Negoda, a traditional dish in the colors of the Mexican flag – green chile, white sauce, and red pomegranate seeds – that’s now synonymous with Mexican heritage and independence.
Although Chiles en Negoda are most commonly served in the month of September, Hosteria de Santo Domingo dishes it up all year ’round.
Image courtesy of Hueso
Hueso – Guadalajara
El Hueso Restaurant in Guadalajara has more than 10,000 animal bones adorning the otherwise stark white walls of the place.
It’s kind of like walking through a desert full of animals that the vultures have picked clean – if the desert had communal tables and exquisitely cooked food. It doesn’t, though, and that’s why I recommend getting your fill of animal bones at Hueso in Guadalajara instead.
Speakeasies in Mexico City
There are multiple speakeasies in Mexico City, like Hanky Panky, with an entrance through an empty taqueria, and Jules Basement, with an entrance through a fake walk-in freezer. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, head to Artemesia to order a round or two of absinthe and see where the night takes you!
Taco and empanada street food stand in Oaxaca, Mexico
Street Food Stands in Mexico
Mexico is a street food lover’s heaven. There are stalls upon stalls of stands selling sweet, savory, spicy, and salty snacks, full meals, drinks, desserts, and everything in between.
Food varies widely across Mexico, so the most popular street foods will vary by city and state as you travel through the country.
But, typically, you can always count on some variation of a corn tortilla with meat, whether it’s a taco, quesadilla, empanada, or tlayuda. These usually cost around 10 to 30 mxn / .50 to 1.50 usd each.
Chopped fresh fruit is another common street food in Mexico, with mangos and watermelon being especially frequent finds. Cups come natural, with no toppings, or preparada with salt or chili powder on top.
Elote is corn on the cob and another street food favorite. It comes slathered in mayonnaise, chili, lime, and cheese, or you can get esquites, a cup of corn kernels, prepared the same way.
Finally, if you hear a loud whistle like a train coming into a station, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the camote vendors.
Camotes are sweet potatoes topped with sweetened condensed milk. While not as common as the other street foods on this list, it’s definitely the most noticeable.
Market in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico
Traditional Markets in Mexico
Market culture is alive and well in Mexico, and you can’t walk through any city without stumbling into at least one or two.
Mexico City alone is estimated to have more than 300 markets, the largest of which is La Merced which sprawls across 88,000 square meters in the city center.
These markets sell produce, raw meat, spices, salsas, sweets, and other staples – working more like grocery stores than restaurants – but most have stalls selling prepared foods, pastries, and traditional drinks like tejate and atole as well.
Is there fast food in Mexico?
As our southern neighbors, Mexico has welcomed many US fast-food chains into the country and are also home to many of their own.
You can find Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Little Ceasar’s, KFC and most of the other common names sprawled across Mexico.
To eat ‘local’ (in the broadest sense of the term) try the roast or fried chicken at Pollo Feliz, the most popular fast-food chain with more than 500 locations in Mexico and the US, or try tacos al pastor at the El Tizoncito or El Farolito chains that run rampant through Mexico City.
Craft beer flight at the Consejo Cervecero brewery in Oaxaca
Cafes, Bars, and Breweries in Mexico
There is a small but growing craft beer scene in Mexico.
Mexico City has nine breweries and Oaxaca has three more that are all mixing up interesting and experimental batches of beer. Even San Miguel de Allende, a city of only 150,000 people, has a brewery.
If you’re into craft beer, most major cities in Mexico will have one or two breweries where you can find it.
Beyond these, there are also many, many, many bars scattered across Mexico. From fancy cocktails at speakeasies to dollar beers at dive bars, you can find whatever vibe you’re looking for any night of the week.
When in Mexico, make sure to drink mezcal (tequila’s cheaper, more fun cousin) pulque (called the drink of the Aztec gods because it’s been around for a thousand years) and michelada (beer with a sugary chili sauce on the rim).
Just like bars, cafes range from upscale to quick to-go windows in Mexico. One thing I love about traveling in Mexico is that most cafes serve iced coffee (which can be hard to find in other parts of the world) and you can even find filter coffee (sometimes) as well.
In the countryside, you’ll probably be served cafe de olla, a super sweet coffee prepared in a clay pot. I recommend trying it at least once, but if you don’t like sugar in your coffee, this drink probably won’t be for you.
You can find just about every cuisine in the world in Mexico
International Restaurants in Mexico
All major cities in Mexico have international restaurants in most popular cuisines like American, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Spanish food.
Cuisines like French and Chinese food are less common, but still available, and you’ll see food from other South American countries like Peru and Colombia sporadically as well.
If you’re on the hunt for international restaurants in Mexico then the major metropolis of Mexico City should be your first stop, followed by the other large cities like Monterrey and Guadalajara.
Smaller cities will have fewer options and rural areas in the countryside will have little to no international restaurants to choose from.
Vegan burrito in Mexico City
Are there vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Mexico?
I’m always pleasantly surprised by the amount of vegetarian and vegan options I find in Mexico.
Mexico City has plenty of vegan restaurants – from taco stands to international foods – and I’ve also come across them in every single city I’ve traveled in here so far.
Most cities also have vegan and vegetarian health food shops and markets where you can find tofu and other vegan snacks as well.
Although Mexico has a reputation as a meat-heavy cuisine, the lack of cheese in many dishes and prevalence of vegan-friendly corn tortillas makes it pretty easy to find vegan and vegetarian dishes almost anywhere you go.
Barbacoa consome (broth) at El Pica 1 – one of the best taco spots in Mexico according to the Taco Chronicles on Netflix
What are the best shows about restaurants in Mexico?
The second best thing to binge-eating tacos in Mexico is binge-watching TV series about them.
If you want to learn more about the best, tastiest, and most hidden restaurants in Mexico, there are tons of shows you can check out to do so.
The Taco Chronicles on Netflix is a personal favorite of mine.
The crew tried tacos in restaurants, markets, and street food stalls across the country to definitively choose the best tacos in Mexico. This short seven-episode series is a great intro to the many different types of meat and cooking styles in the country.
Chef’s Table, another highly-recommended show on Netflix, spotlights top chefs from around the world. Season two, episode four follows Enrique Olvera, the chef behind Pujol in Mexico City.
Of course, Anthony Bourdain ate his way through Mexico on his original show, No Reservations (S5 E1), and his second hit, Parts Unknown (S3 E4) as well. For an irreverent and always authentic take on Mexican restaurants and food, Anthony Bourdain’s commentary is a must.
This article is part of the Mexico City Gluttony Guide. Read the rest below:
Then, browse the complete Mexico Series for 40+ more articles on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in the country.
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