Editor’s note: We asked Brooklyn-based writer Julie Doherty Meade where she heads first for food when she arrives in Mexico City. Meade is the author of Moon San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and the Bajío, Moon Living Abroad in Mexico, Moon Metro New York City, and the upcoming sixth edition of Moon Mexico City.
Flying in from New York, I usually arrive in Mexico City in the evening, right on time for a shot of mezcal. The cantina can wait till tomorrow, though. After a travel day, I’m looking for something comforting and classic, and I’m partial to old neighborhood places. Since I often stay at one of the inexpensive hotels in the Roma Norte, my go-to is Café Paris, an old-fashioned diner on the corner of Cordoba and avenue Álvaro Obregón. It’s the perfect place to unwind, offering zero pretension and unfussy food, and they never rush you out the door. Plus, with its wood-grained Formica tables and aquamarine booths, the old-school atmosphere is a charming antidote to all the trendy bars and restaurants that now populate the Roma neighborhood.
If I’ve got an appetite, I like the generously served chilaquiles en salsa verde with a fried egg on top, but the one thing I never skip at Café Paris is the café con leche and a pan de dulce, coffee with hot milk and a sweet bread, a classic Mexico City snack. This particular treat originates in the cafés de chinos, bakeries owned by Chinese families, which were ubiquitous during the early 20th century in Mexico City, after a large influx of Chinese immigrants to the country. These cafés originally served Chinese food, as well as breads, pastries and coffee, though their menus gradually became more Mexican than international. Today, a few of these old-time establishments still survive in the Centro Histórico and Roma, though not many.
While Café Paris isn’t technically a café de chino, it serves a delicious traditional café con leche. When you order it, they bring a glass tumbler to your table and two pitchers: one filled with scalding-hot milk and the other with oily, dark-roasted, ultra-concentrated coffee. You indicate to the server how much coffee you want in your glass (caution: it’s strong), and they fill the rest with milk. It goes best with soft and spongy, lightly sweetened bread dipped in – I like conchas, sugar-topped sweet rolls, and biscuits. I’m sure there’s plenty of caffeine and sugar in my favorite late-night snack, but somehow, the sweet nostalgia it inspires is just what I need before bedtime. And if I don’t make it to Café Paris the night I fly in, it’s always a great spot for breakfast the next morning.
Published on April 25, 2014