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The Hippest Restaurants & Architecture in Mexico City! Edible insects in Condesa & Roma, futuristic buildings.

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Well, here we are at June 2020. What a year of change and reckoning…

Over the past week, you may have seen my thoughts and resources on #blacklivesmatter on social media (@lacarmina). Before I continue with my travel stories, I thought I’d say something here as well.

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These words by Oren Jay Sofer (reflecting on the George Floyd homicide and resulting protests) resonated with me:

“Stay with the discomfort. It’s in the crucible of that pain that transformation happens. That’s when we can start making real changes in our lives and say — I’m not going to be a part of this anymore. I’m going to educate myself, I’m going to speak out. I’m going to do something.”

(Spoken in a Ten Percent Happier live meditation. Illustration via @witchesofatlanta Instagram.)

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Black lives matter, and there are so many ways we can show our support. Donate (here’s a list of suggested funds). Amplify BIPOC voices and creators. Lobby for changes within your industry and community. Truly inform yourself, speak out, and put in the lifelong work to be anti-racist.

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Nobody has a rule-book for going forward, but I’m determined to do my best to be an ally for life. 

In that vein, it feels right to keep sharing meaningful stories about travel and culture around the world. I feel travel is one of the most powerful tools we have to wake up from prejudices, and realize there is no true separation between any of us. 

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As Anthony Bourdain (RIP) put it: “The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

(I’m including these photos, as they mark a turning point. They were taken by Joey Wong at Joshua Tree, January 2020. We barely knew about coronavirus at the time… Now, we’re in a whole new world, and it’s up to us to make it a better one.)

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International travel may not be feasible for some time. But from home, we can still be curious and open to different ways of being.

As Anthony Bourdain also said: “To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with — that can’t be a bad thing.”

In that spirit, here’s a new cultural dispatch from Mexico City one of the best destinations out there for foodies and art-lovers! I got to eat insects (they were delicious!) and gaze at space-age architecture… Grateful that CDMX got to be one of my final trips for now.

azul condesa tortilla lady making handmade tortillas

You may remember that I went to Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead 2019. During the journey, my friends and I dined at three of the hippest restaurants in Mexico City.

We began with a bang at Azul Condesa, which specializes in Oaxacan dishes (Oaxaca is considered one of the best food regions in the country). As soon as we saw this lady making fresh traditional tortillas, we knew we were in for a meal to remember.

eating crickets guacamole mexican bugs dishes food

The eatery is located in La Condesa, considered the hipster area of CDMX. Azul’s sleek decor and presentation matched the chic feel of the neighborhood.

I was excited to eat bugs in Mexico City! This isn’t a novelty — insects are traditionally eaten by locals, and prepared in unexpectedly delicious ways. The gooey ant larva (escamole) and crispy grasshoppers paired crazily well with the fresh corn tortillas and guacamole.

azul restaurant mexico city fine dining review menuu

We sampled juicy pork tacos wrapped in banana leaves, and a perfectly grilled Yucatecan fish with avocado and plantain.

Be sure to order one of the moles from Azul’s extensive selection. The mole negro, or “king of the moles,” was the best I’ve ever had. This dark, velvety sauce is made from over 30 spices and ingredients, resulting in a complex mix of spice, smokiness, sweetness, and heat. You can also try moles from different regions of Mexico; some are made with yellow chilhuacle or red guajillo chiles.

mexican hot chocolate restaurant azul condesa cdmx

The Aztec adored xocōlātl, or hot cocoa. For dessert, the chef came over with a hot chocolate station. Choose from various flavors such as vanilla, spicy, or the chef’s selection, which he then mixes by hand in a traditional pot.

(All Azul Restaurant photos by Luke Walter.)

Meroma mexico city cocktails hipster bar

On our second night, we made our way to the Roma neighborhood. As depicted in the Alfonso Cuarón film, this is an elegant area with plenty of parks and restaurants.

We had an artful meal at the local hotspot, Meroma. The ground floor houses a craft cocktail bar. Guests access the restaurant through a concealed staircase in the back corner.

meroma menu review cdmx

Meroma specializes in flavorful small plates, served on fine colorful tableware. I enjoyed the handcrafted Mezcal sour (lime, egg whites and bitters) so much that I ordered a second one.

instagrammable restaurants mexico city hip design meroma

Meroma’s chefs focus on sustainable Mexican ingredients, while drawing upon techniques from all over the world. The fresh daily catch is a must. Loved the yellowtail ceviche, elegantly draped with leaves.

roma coolest restaurants meroma cdmx

We ate up every bite of the grilled quail with vegetables, and agnolotti filled with fresh cheese, mushrooms, sage, and thyme.

The contemporary desserts are a must. We recommend the goat milk tart with rice cream and chamomile, and cacao pot de creme with parssion fruit caramel, cacao crumble and coconut sorbet. Treat yourself at Meroma — you won’t regret it.

el cardenal restaurant mexico city

For a fine and traditional Mexican meal, book a table at the charming El Cardenal. The restaurant has several locations, each with classic decor and recipes that were handed down throughout the centuries.

edible insects weird food dining mexico city

El Cardenal’s classic menu includes mole with chicken, and ceviche. My favorite dish was the Gusanos de Maguey (Maguey Worms) — be adventurous, and you may be amazed at how tasty bugs can be!

The mezcal worms are lightly fried or toasted, for a pleasing slightly crunchy texture. I ate them wrapped in a tortilla, with a smear of guacamole and salsa verde (green chile hot sauce). So. Good.

el cardenal review menu cdmx

What do bugs go well with? For any Mexican meal, you can’t beat a fresh fruit margarita. El Cardenal makes a fab lemon one with a salt rim; I asked for mine with no sugar.

weirdest mexican food where eat bugs insects mexico city

I’m officially a fan of eating creepy-crawlies. I’d come back to El Cardenal any time for more of these wrigglers.

Don’t forget that “bizarre foods” depends on cultural context. Bugs are historically eaten in Mexico, and they’re a cheap and sustainable source of protein. Give them a try, and you’ll discover a whole new phylum of dining!

teleport portal mexico city art

Now, let’s appreciate the futuristic architecture found throughout Mexico City. You’ll find space-y design in the most unexpected places, such as this old library we stumbled into. (Beam me up, aliens… I’m ready to leave this planet!)

Camino Real Polanco México fountain pool

CDMX is home to many works by Luis Barrigan, the Pritzker-winning Mexican architect inspired by Le Corbusier. His mid-century designs are recognizable for their clean lines and bright colors.

I was keen to visit Luis Barrigan’s Casa — but they don’t permit photography, so I couldn’t share the experience with you. Instead, I went to Camino Real Polanco, and was mesmerized by the swirling whirlpool fountain at the entrance.

luix barrigan hotel Camino Real Polanco design

Camino Real Polanco Hotel was built in the late 1960s by Ricardo Legorreta, a modernist architect and student of Luis Barragan. A psychedelic pink and yellow cow looks over the swimming pool and garden.

modern mexico city design art hotels winding staircase

Poke around the hotel, and you’ll come across glorious corners like this twisting white staircase. Talk about synthwave architecture…

mexico city architecture Camino Real Polanco hotel

Anyone can hang out at Camino Real Polanco’s bar, which has blue geometric planes and shallow water elements. Groovy, baby.

soumaya museum space futuristic building mexico city

Another architectural must-see is Museo Soumaya. This space disco structure opened in 2011, and was named after Soumaya Domit (late wife of Carlos Slim, the Mexican business billionaire).

interior museo soumaya winding ramp

Soumaya is an art museum that offers free admission for everyone. The  curving white ramp reminds me of the Guggenheim in NYC, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (The Soumaya Museum is the vision of architect Fernando Romero’s firm Fr·ee.)

soumaya museum architect, art sculptures collection free

Soumaya’s select collection includes Mexican artists and European old masters. A bronze of Auguste Rodin’s The Three Shades (Les Trois Ombres) sits beneath the apex. (It’s part of his 1886 group, The Gates of Hell.)

silver modern mexico city museum, soumaya architect

Close up on Soumaya’s futuristic silver exterior. It’s like a sequin purse, or spaceship, or snakeskin… no wonder I’m into it.

exterior Biblioteca Vasconcelos building library

Last stop: Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos, which opened in 2006. The highly Instagrammable library includes lush gardens, creating a green oasis within the metropolis.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos architecture interior Mexico City

Look up, as you enter Vasconcelos Library… Wow!

The trippy design layers concrete and glass walkways with stacks and reading areas. It’s fun to randomly go up staircases and look out from the balconies.

 whale skeleton beautiful mexico city library Vasconcelos

Artist Gabriel Orozco’s Ballena (Whale), a painted whale skeleton, hangs from the center of Biblioteca Vasconcelos,

Museo Nacional de Antropología courtyard entrance architecture

Here’s a last look at the imaginative design of the Museum of Anthropology (I featured the Museo in depth, in this post). Did you know there was such epic contemporary architecture in CDMX?

If you missed my article about Mexico City’s human sacrifices, green alien masks, elongated skulls and other bloody artifacts, check it out here.

day of the dead art exhibit history museum mexico city

I still have a Mexico City Goth shopping / bars / clubs guide to share with you. And more Day of the Dead coverage to come… You can see all my alternative stories so far in my Mexico travel category.

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Two final notes before we go. It was an honor to be interviewed for “Learn From The Pros: How To Become A Successful Blogger.” I shared tips on blogging and monetization, and how to gauge one’s success. I hope you find the article helpful.

Also, friends in France: you can catch me on Canal Plus TV on June 10, at 9pm! I appear in the bagelheads body modification segment of “La Gaule d’Antoine,” a new program with Antoine des Caunes. (I did a Tokyo TV show with him a few years ago.)

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Let’s end with more words from Anthony Bourdain, as I’ve been thinking of him… (He’s been gone two years now).

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.”

 Take care of yourselves, my friends.

2 Comments

  1. Posted June 13, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I love CDMX so much…. I’ve been many times, so I know all these places you highlighted are amazing places to check out.

  2. Posted June 13, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Wow that’s a great post..such lovely restaurants n delicious food. Yummy

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