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The past year has been a very good one for food in Mexico City. We’ve had a wonderful time exploring new restaurants, tracking down exciting dishes and meeting great people along the way. There have been so many memorable moments over the past year that it was hard to sit down and come up with a list of the ones that really stood out the most. Through debate and discussion (and some revisits), we narrowed down the worthy field to our top favorites. Here are our Best Bites of 2012 from Mexico City.

El Pozole de Moctezuma
First up on our best food experiences of the year would have to be the pozole at El Pozole de Moctezuma. Located near Metro Garibaldi, the building is nondescript and shows no sign of the deliciousness that lies within, so if we hadn’t been taken there by a friend, we never would have known about it. But what a discovery! The friendly staff showed us exactly how to build the perfect bowl of pozole, from choosing the color and flavor of the broth to adding oregano, chili powder, lime juice and, of course, a splash of mezcal. A bowl of soup never tasted so good or filled us up more satisfyingly than that at El Pozole de Moctezuma. Best of all, the place is a long-term neighborhood fixture that celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2012, a fact that bodes well for future visits.

Burritos at Los Burros a Todo Mecate
Next on our list is a familiar treat to many outside of Mexico, the burrito. Unlike what you might expect, the burrito is a very rare commodity in Mexico City; they’re just not eaten here. So when we discovered a crowded street food stand selling burritos, we knew we had to try them. The stand was called Los Burros a Todo Mecate, or roughly, “Burritos, Freaking Awesome.” Los Burros makes myriad different burritos, but the one that we really loved was the hawaiano, or Hawaiian, version. Made with bacon, ham, sliced hot dogs, pineapple and onions, the large burrito was stuffed to the breaking point. Even better, Los Burros splashes every one of its burritos with the customer’s choice of a dozen homemade sauces, from orange-pasilla seed to peanut or habanero. We recommend the tocino, or bacon, sauce for the burrito hawaiano. Delicious!

Churros from Churrería El Moro
Our best sweet bite of the year was from Churrería El Moro, an old establishment in the Centro Histórico that offers amazing churros. These long, sugary, deep-fried snacks are sold all over the city, but the ones at El Moro are some of the best. What sets El Moro even further apart from the competition, however, is its Mexican chocolate. As thick as a milkshake, the chocolate can be served hot or cold and is the perfect addition to the churros, which are dipped into the chocolate by adults and children alike. This is now one of our favorite dessert spots whenever we’re exploring the markets and street vendors in the Centro Histórico.

Banana-Leaf-Wrapped Tamales
Fourth on our list is a very popular Mexican comfort food, the tamal. Traditional tamales are made with corn masa that has been mixed with lard and then filled with meat and other ingredients. The masa is then cooked inside a corn husk until soft. There are seemingly endless types of tamales, though most are made with chicken, mole, red or green salsa, or just served plain. The best tamales in Mexico City, however, are those cooked within thick banana leaves, which better trap in juices and moisture, creating the most melt-in-your-mouth tamales to be found. It’s a rare event to find bad tamales, but whenever we have a craving for them, we look for those wrapped in the dark green foliage of the banana tree.

Two places stand out to get these tamales: street booth at the northwest corner of Altamirano and García Icazbalceta, Colonia San Rafael (nighttime only), and a small stand at the corner of Calle 16 de Septiembre and Vicente Guerrero, right outside the Xochimilco market (early mornings only).

Cajeta Empanadas at Salamanca 69
Last, but certainly not least, is another dessert. Empanadas are half-moon pastries that come in a wide variety of flavors, though the most common is pineapple. One rainy night after eating subpar street quesadillas in Roma Norte, we came upon a small restaurant called Salamanca 69 that sold warm empanadas stuffed with cajeta filling. Cajeta is a sweet, thick syrup usually made from caramelized goat’s milk. We’d never seen it used in empanadas before and were immediately intrigued. The gooey cajeta filling dribbled down our fingers and chins as we munched down every last morsel. After the quesadillas and the bad weather, these fantastic empanadas hit all the right notes. It was a reminder that, for every miss, there are far more hits in this amazing food city, and we can’t wait to see what best bites we’ll encounter in 2013.

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