Stacks of Churros and Carnitas Costra de Queso: What a Travel Writer Eats in Mexico City

I first visited Mexico City right after I got engaged to my wife. We had such an amazing time that it has permanently remained on our list of future cities to visit. When a trip to Peru fell the day before we left, we bought tickets to Mexico City without hesitation. We had no plan, hotel, or reservations, but we were excited and thrilled to be back. Here are some of the best things we’ve done without planning or prepping.

where i stayed

Live Aqua Urban Resort Mexico

Going to Mexico was a serious last minute decision, so of course I hadn’t planned where we would be staying. It was only an hour before the flight at the airport that I started looking and came across Live Aqua Urban Resort. It had fantastic reviews, was budget-friendly, and promised a luxury experience. After a bad hotel experience on our last visit, I was taking no chances.

And boy, did the hotel deliver. Upon entering, there was a scent of peace and calm. The hotel has its own signature scents, bubbling waterfalls and beautiful scenery. Once at reception we were quickly assisted and the concierge made last minute dinner reservations for us at La Popular (more on that later). The hotel room was spacious and comfortable, with a bed so comfortable it was hard to get out of. The massive bathroom had a tub, a shower that comfortably accommodated two – or even three – and a vanity that comfortably allowed two guests to get ready side-by-side.

The author and his wife in Mexico (Carlos Ratti)Expert tip: Mexico City is full of amazing food, so skip it homemade breakfast and catering.

Although the hotel was fantastic, what stood out above all was the spa. I’ve been lucky enough to have massages in many places, and our massage at Live Aqua was in my top five, ever. An hour before our appointment, we take advantage of the hydrotherapy pools with a glass of champagne. The massage itself was perfect. We added a scrub at the end of the massage, which was rubbed all over our body before being taken to the showers. We left with glowing skin and were so, so relaxed. Be sure to make a reservation in advance if you have a tight itinerary. The spa is filling up.

Crush factor: The spa didn’t have bathrobes that suited me, but they had massive towels that wrapped around me with a little extra to spare.

Marriot Reforma

Wanting to be closer to the center of town, we left Live Aqua for the Marriott in Reforma, a solidly four-star hotel right in the middle of it all. Outside there is an urban park and one block away is the Zona Rosa, the historic queer neighborhood. The hotel’s spacious lobby has a large, cozy bar, as well as a rooftop bar and swimming pool. If you are hungry and don’t want to leave the hotel, there is a steak House and one Mexican restaurant on site, although I haven’t tried either. And while restaurants, bars and good service are certainly essential, ultimately the bed is what makes the hotel, and the bed in our room was perfection. I slept like a baby!

Exterior of the hotel (Carlos Ratti)

where i ate

The popular Taqueria

We arrived in Mexico without a plan. We barely managed to find a hotel before boarding a plane. We were starving when we finally arrived at the hotel after almost an hour and a half in heavy Mexico City traffic. Concierge recommended The Populara taqueria just two blocks from the hotel and we jumped on it. Located in a small mall, you’ll need to take the elevator down, before entering the dimly lit restaurant with music so loud you might think you’ve entered a club. The service was excellent, the drinks strong and delicious and the food – well, it was really good.

The Popular starts you off with at least seven different types of salsa, which you can enjoy with tortilla chips and all your foods. We had quite a few items (we were hungry) and everything was fantastic, but our favorite bite was the Carnitas Costra de Queso, a popular style of taco in Mexico City. The flour tortilla is grilled with cheeseforming the perfect crispy crunchy crust, before being stuffed with absolutely perfect carnitas.

Lorea

After more than a decade of working in Europe’s top Michelin-starred restaurants, chef Oswaldo Oliva has returned to Mexico City to open Lorea, which is located in Roma Norte in a townhouse that doesn’t give away the incredible restaurant at inside. From a kitchen visible across the dining room, Lorea serves a menu that celebrates local product and ingredients at their peak. Choose from an eight-course tasting menu, which you can enjoy at the chef’s counter or in the dining room, and the à la carte menu, only available in the dining room. Always in love with a tasty menu, we enjoyed ourselves and sat down at the chef’s counter. Our food was absolutely fantastic, the standout dish being a taco with eightlacochea corn fungus that looks like the most incredible taste bomb.

Nobu

If you’ve always wanted to dine at Nobu, you might want to consider the Nobu in Mexico City. Not only is it much easier to get a reservation, but the bill was also half the going rate at Los Vegas Nobu. There are two locations, one in the same building as the Live Aqua Urban Resort and the other in Polanco, both fantastic. Serving an extensive Japanese menu, you’ll find sushi and sashimi, plus favorites like mirin-marinated miso black cod, and dishes with a nod to Mexican cuisine, like mini tacos stuffed with raw tuna . If you like a good tasting menu, Nobu’s omakase lets you try a bit of everything. And be sure to save room for dessert. It’s so cool !

What to do

Tasting of cheeses and draft drinks at the lactografia

I love cheese so much I wrote a cheese love letter, so when I saw a Mexican cheese maker offering a tasting class, I was all for it. Jessica owns Lactography, a small cheese shop in Roma Norte. She has made it her mission to conserve Mexican cheeses, champion Mexican cheese makers, and make cheese available to Mexico City residents and visitors. Our tasting included farm goat feta which was so different from what I expected from fetas. Then there was the Kato, a homemade washed rind cow’s cheese camembert with sake produced in Mexico. My favorite cheese was the truffle double cream cheese, which was rich, creamy and just divine. We also tried an alpine cheese with washed curds made from Jersey milk and a natural Chèvre with spices. The cheese was accompanied by locally made drinks, including two craft beers, sake and mezcal, as well as crusty bread and accessories.

crush factor: The tasting takes place inside the small shop, where you will be seated on tall bar-like chairs.

Photo shoot

The last time we visited Mexico City, we found Carlos, a photographer based in the city. Carlos is an absolute pro and a pleasure to shoot with big torque. As soon as we decided to return to Mexico, we immediately booked another session. It was just as fun as the last one and the pictures turned out amazing. Taking a photo while traveling is a great way to commemorate your trip and get great photos from it.

Churros master class

If you love desserts, meeting other travelers, and learning about Mexican desserts, you’ll love this churros class. From the same team that hosts a life-changing coffee tasting at CDMX, this class is so much fun! You will make a jalapeno and chocolate ganache for dipping the churros. Take notes because it was amazing! I have to do it again. Then we did Olla’s coffee with cinnamon sticks, dark brown cane sugar and orange peel. While this simmers, you’ll dive headfirst into making churros. Turns out it’s a lot easier to do than expected. Christian, our host, carefully assisted in the whole process, before teaching us how to fry the churros, which was the trickiest part. We learned how to make circles, spirals, hearts, and designs by quickly cooking (and eating) a huge stack of churros!

Cooking class in the forest

I love taking cooking classes when I travel, and they are all memorable, but this one was amazing. It’s a full-day experience, starting with a visit to a local market before heading into the mountains of Los Dinamos National Park, home to the famous Magdalena River. After the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s a relief to spend time in nature without your phone. There, in a family restaurant without running water or electricity, you will learn how to cook a multitude of Mexican dishes. You’ll make two different salsas and tortillas, and you’ll even catch your own trout at their on-site fish farm. The end result is a gourmet meal with your host, memories and skills that will last a lifetime.


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Crush factor: The bathrooms are a bit far from the restaurant. There are steps to enter the restaurant and the market. The chairs are a little wobbly, but you don’t spend much time sitting there, and a few were a little nicer.

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