Colonia Juárez – our 2019 “neighborhood to visit” in Mexico City – was a forgotten district for many years, known more for its karaoke bars and strip clubs than its charming plazas or cafés. Originally founded as an illustrious upscale neighborhood for the city’s industrialists, the area saw an influx of Asian immigrants mid-century, abandonment after the 1985 earthquake, and then fame as the city’s LGBTQ hangout in the 2000s.
Over the past decade, the neighborhood has been turned upside down – newcomers are clamoring for a chance to reside behind one of its gorgeous French architecture facades, and restaurateurs, having taken note of Juárez’s rising popularity and its unique mix of old and new, are flocking to the area. Like the hood itself, the best off-the-beaten-path places include a little of the traditional and some new strokes of genius. Here are some of our favorites:
Na De Fo
Colonia Juárez has long been home to a large Korean community, so it’s no surprise that restaurants like Na De Fo, which was opened by second generation Korean-Mexicans ten years ago right next to a massive apartment building popular with Korean residents, have proliferated. One of the best Korean barbecue spots in the neighborhood, Na De Fo has tables with built-in grills that are often sizzling away with various cuts of pork, beef and chicken (whichever protein you choose, we recommend the soy sauce marinade). There are also dozens of different noodle bowls and a kimchi soup with a kick.
Mixiotes de la Familia Castelán
For a quick and delicious meal, try the mixiotes sold at the food stand on the corner of Bruselas and Genova. Mixiotes are little packages of heaven – shredded meat (chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit or any other protein) mixed with an adobo sauce of chiles and spices, wrapped up in a little package and steamed. They are traditionally made with the thin, translucent skin of the maguey cactus, but these days a type of waxed paper is more commonly used. The meat is then served hot in a taco with your choice of toppings (there should always be nopal, or cactus, on hand). These mixiotes have just a tiny bit of heat and the hint of clove that is a signature of this dish. The stand has been in the neighborhood for over a decade and is incredibly popular with the office set during lunch hour.
Tortas Don Carlos
Mirroring the fast-paced madness of the lunch rush, which lasts pretty much all afternoon, Tortas Don Carlos is renowned for their deliciously chaotic sandwiches – a wild mix of cheese, meat and toppings are tossed around on the grill and eventually land on bread slathered in mayo and adorned with a chipotle pepper or two. Try the Cubano or the lomo y pierna; they make a mess but will fill you up.
Yi Pin Ju
In the tradition of great Asian food in Colonia Juárez, the minimalist Yi Pin Ju recently opened to great fanfare – their spicy Szechuan cuisine has us swooning. The classic Chinese menu is about 12 pages long, but have no fear, get #501 – carne recocido sabor de Sichuan – a spicy boiled then fried pork belly dish that is by far the best thing on the menu. Also good are their grilled bok choy, the spicy beef, and the pork and chive dumplings.
Coco Lovely Food
Coco’s tiny back-of-the-house theater (films are screened on Thursdays at 8 p.m.) spreads its art-house vibes to the rest of this adorable café, making it the perfect setting for an existential conflict over a tartine and a cup of coffee, or a chance encounter between strangers. In fact, the backstory of the building that houses the café seems like something straight out of a movie: once owned by one of the neighborhood’s upper-class families, it was abandoned after their son died trying to save the child of their maid in the 1985 earthquake. Abril, Coco’s owner and the woman behind the recent renovation, can tell you this incredible story and more about the neighborhood and its history, so make sure you ask.
La Rifa has a discrete spot on the Dinamarca plaza ideal for working with a view or just simply sipping cacao and people watching. Owner Daniel Reza has been experimenting with Mexico’s most popular endemic plant, cacao, for several years now, making the chocolate bars, confections and drinks that they sell at La Rifa. There is both lavado and fermentado cacao in various sizes and levels of bitterness (think sweet, semi-sweet and dark chocolate). The fermented cacao, besides its distinct processing also has a more acidic, fruity flavor (think cherry or ripe banana combined with chocolate). All their chocolate and coffee come from Soconusco in the north of Chiapas, from Comalcalco or Comalcán in Tabasco.
We can almost guarantee that you have never had a slice of pizza like this before – blue corn dough topped with roasted crickets, or hibiscus blossoms, or maybe cochinita pibil pork and red onions. Inspired by classic Mexican snacks, the pizzas at Pixza satiate not just our appetite but also our inner do-gooder. The company donates a slice of pie to the homeless for every five slices sold and also employs homeless kids, providing them with job training and life coaching. Moreover, they source from small-scale local farmers and pay fair trade prices for blue corn and other ingredients. This is a meal you can feel good about.
A master of gelato, owner Jose Luis Cervantes pairs expert craftsmanship with the craziest local flavors he can convince people to try, like Mexican pepperleaf and lime, green tea ash with jasmine, blue corn, and cacao. Despite the gourmet flavors, Joe Gelato’s is a down-to-earth Sunday afternoon hangout where families, friends and thrill seekers come for gelato with an edge. Joe chose Colonia Juárez when he opened up in 2018 because of the neighborhood’s growing popularity and central location – residents from all over the metropolitan area come into Juárez every day to work and eat, making this a prime spot for his first ever gelato shop.
Loose Blues Dining
Tucked upstairs and out of site from the vintage hipster Loose Blue clothing and housewares shop, Loose Blues Dining offers a seafood-heavy menu featuring a delicious mash-up of Asian cuisines and a robust craft beer and cocktail list. Try the Japanese-style fried rice with bacon, one of their curries, or kakuni, Japanese braised pork belly served with spinach and a hard-boiled egg. Loose Blues takes Juárez’s reputation as the mecca of Asian food in Mexico City and dials up the hipness factor.