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The ecosystem that is downtown Mexico City never fails to amaze us. A few years ago, this part of the city was considered dangerous. But after some revitalization efforts from the government and a few private construction companies, much of the area is now safe for tourists and locals alike.

There’s more to downtown D.F. than tourist attractions, however. It is the cultural, political and economic heart of the city and the country. Any item imaginable can be bought downtown. There’s the lighting district as well as one for appliances, clothing, electronics, printing and a long list of others. For generations, people have been going there to buy by the piece or wholesale to supply small businesses all over the country.

One day when we were walking the area for wholesale women’s accessories, toys and stuffed animals, we happened upon a taquería that captured our attention because of the large picuda (barracuda) fish on its grill. We couldn’t call ourselves culinary adventurers if we didn’t stop and try some of the items on the menu.

After the first bite of the taco de pescado a la talla, we knew we had struck culinary gold. Juan Manuel, aka el patán (“The Lout”), has been preparing these types of tacos for about six years now. The recipe comes from Playa Azul, Michoacán, where he has some family. “Every time we visit, they prepare this dish for us,” Juan Manuel told us while prepping a barracuda for the grill. “It took us several trips before we got the recipe right to start selling it here. But we finally did and people loved it.”

This dish has a flavor that’s distinct from other pescados a la talla we’ve tried before. For starters, the barracuda has a stronger flavor than the red snapper that is used in other states, such as Jalisco and Guerrero. Also, the Michoacán-style a la talla fish is stuffed with pico de gallo and mayonnaise after being grilled, and then it’s covered in foil and put on the grill again to keep warm.

El Patán is open every day but only serves fish tacos 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.

While the eatery is small and hidden among stuffed-animal stores on a narrow street, its fish tacos are well known. On Saturdays, the busiest day, they grill between 15 and 20 barracudas, each weighing around 6 kilos.

El Patán is just one of many reasons why we like wandering around downtown; we never know what we’ll find, but we’ll bet it’s sure to be good.

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  • Best Bites 2015December 22, 2015 Best Bites 2015 (0)
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  • February 14, 2013 Coox Hanal (0)
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PJ Rountree

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