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Editor’s note: The year is coming to an end, which means it’s time for us to look back on all the great eating experiences we had in 2014 and name our favorites among them. 

Tacos el Patán
This hole-in-the-wall eatery is located in one of the busiest commercial sections of downtown Mexico City. We found it one day while we were shopping for stuffed animals and have since returned several times. El Patán is open every day but only serves fish tacos, the best item on their menu, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Those days they also offer skewered shrimp and deep-fried fish quesadillas made with the same fish as that used in the tacos. The rest of the week, the taquería prepares cecina (salted beef), chicken, suadero (brisket), al pastor and longaniza (a type of sausage) tacos. But the fish taco – made from barracuda, no less – was the best of its kind that we had this year.

Merendero Las Lupitas, photo by PJ RountreeMerendero Las Lupitas
In Mexico City it’s not always easy to find northern-style food. But at Merendero Las Lupitas, three generations of cooks have been serving authentic northern dishes to chilangos for more than 50 years. Located in the heart of a gorgeous colonial neighborhood in Coyoacán, this restaurant is appealingly appointed in pure Mexican style, with brightly colored wooden tables and chairs and traditional handicrafts. A beautiful mirror depicting the life of a Tarahumara village covers one of the walls. The service is outstanding, and the food is the best northern cooking we’ve ever had in the city.

Tacos de Canasta La Abuela
Just a block away from Mexico City’s financial district, one unlikely food star sets up shop most mornings. From Monday to Saturday, at La Abuela, 72-year-old Arnulfo Serafin Hernandéz (pictured at the top) feeds hungry office workers, commuters, neighbors, schoolkids, government officials and tourists from all over the world with one of the simplest Mexican dishes: tacos de canasta. These delicious treats are fried-in-lard tortillas filled with ingredients such as potato, refried beans, chorizo or chicken, folded and kept warm in large canastas, or baskets, throughout the morning.

Mezcal

Mezcal, like tequila, is distilled from the fermented juice of the maguey, a kind of agave; the smokiness comes from the underground roasting of the succulent. Once regarded as a drink of the lower classes in Mexico, mezcal has become hip in a city that is always in constant pursuit of the next trend. It’s more than just the latest thing for hipsters and college kids to latch onto, however. Groups like Los Mezcólatras and Mezcales Tradicionales are trying to teach people how to drink and enjoy real mezcal made by small producers. We’re not the only ones who’ve fallen in love with this centuries-old drink. Mezcalerías have opened all over the city, but here are two of our favorites:

Corazón de Maguey
This upscale mezcalería in the heart of Coyoacán has one of the largest mezcal selections in the city. All of their mixed drinks aim to highlight and not obscure the star attraction. Appetizers, main dishes and desserts are also great here.

Mexicano
The mezcal selection is constantly in flux according to availability. However, you can always find minero, or double-distilled; de pechuga, a smoother variety that has become very popular; and sotol, a mezcal cousin from the northern states of Mexico. The mixed drinks here are made with mezcal, pulque and exotic fruits, of which xoconostle (a sour cactus fruit) is our favorite.

Los Limosneros
This downtown restaurant opened a couple of years ago, and ever since our first visit, we have loved their interpretations of classic Mexican dishes. This stunning restaurant is the brainchild of Juan Pablo Ballesteros, whose great-grandfather was the founder of Café Tacuba, one of the most emblematic restaurants in Mexico City. Juan Pablo set out to make something special in a city full of special places, and he had a century of success behind the endeavor. Will Los Limosneros stand the test of time and become the next family culinary fixture in the Centro Histórico? Only time will tell, but for now, Juan Pablo’s passion is obvious everywhere you look. Great-grandfather Rafael would be proud.

PJ Rountree and Ben Herrera

Published on December 15, 2014

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