Editor’s note: It’s Breakfast Week at CB, and the second piece in the series takes us to Mexico City for a look at typical morning meals and the best places to find them. Stay tuned for more breakfast dispatches from other CB cities throughout the week.
Mexico leads the world in per capita egg consumption, according to the country’s National Poultry Institute. That’s not hard to believe if you’ve ever taken a look at a typical Mexican breakfast; in homes and at restaurants huevos are the first order of the day for many a desayuno. And with all those eggs they eat, Mexicans have come up with a number of ways to dress them up or down. One of the most popular ways to prepare them, for example, is huevos revueltos al gusto, two or three scrambled eggs with an additional ingredient or ingredients, such as ham, chorizo, sausage, vegetables or a la mexicana (onion, chilis and tomato). Huevos can also come divorciados, which are two sunny-side-up eggs, one bathed in green salsa and the other in red; rancheros, or fried and served over corn tortillas and refried beans and bathed in a red or green salsa; al albañil, scrambled and served with a very hot red salsa and fresh cheese; or ahogados, poached in green or red salsa. Most of these egg dishes are served with a side of refried beans, avocado and corn tortillas.
Before even the eggs, however, a typical breakfast in Mexico City opens with pan dulce, a sweet roll, and a cup of coffee, usually café de olla, boiled coffee with piloncillo (raw sugar) and cinnamon. As the city wakes up, it’s not uncommon to see vendors on utility tricycles all over selling pan dulce from woven baskets and café de olla from big plastic thermoses. These are just to get the appetite going, however. Besides huevos every which way, the main event might come in the form of molletes, open-faced toasted bolillos (white bread rolls) topped with refried beans, cheese and eggs, ham, bacon or chorizo; enchiladas; masa-based specialties like tamales, with the usual array of fillings; sopes, which are patties served with beans, salsa, cheese and sour cream; and even tlacoyos.
Locals might eat out to save time in the morning, or they might take a meeting over breakfast or they might even choose a fonda over cooking at home because it’s cheaper. On weekends, most families eat their morning meals together at restaurants, markets or street stands. Special breakfast foods pop up all over the city on Saturdays and Sundays. Among the more sought-after are consomé de borrego, mutton broth, and barbacoa de borrego, pit-cooked mutton, which is sold by the taco or by weight – and big families might easily put away a kilo or more. Tortillas are usually included, of course.
One of our personal favorites any day of the week is that crowd-pleaser, chilaquiles, a dish with a foundation of totopos, or fried tortilla strips or chips, and covered with sauce and toppings. There are two schools of thought on how the dish should be served: one way is to add the totopos to a boiling salsa, either red or green, and let them soften; the other is to combine the totopos with the salsa just before serving, so that they remain crispy and whole. Either way, chilaquiles are served with fried or scrambled eggs, pulled chicken or a thin slice of steak, a side of refried beans, sliced avocado and a bolillo. It’s a breakfast of champions that will give you the energy to make it to comida.
In addition to El Profe, Señora Ema and Café de Raíz, here are some of our favorite places in Mexico City to get a great desayuno:
This cafeteria/bakery is located a few meters from busy Parque México in Colonia Condesa. It’s a laid-back place, but service is friendly and fast. The bread is made in-house and delicious – especially the pan dulce. Try the chilaquiles divorciados, which comes with half green salsa and half red salsa.
One of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nicos serves an amazing variety of breakfast items. Their Huevos Azcapotzalco are two fried eggs topped with a fried tortilla and enveloped in the house red salsa. Black beans and cotija cheese are served on top.