When I told people I was going to Mexico City, the top responses I got were:
- It's not safe.
- Don't die.
- Why don't you just go to Cabo or Cancun?
My friend Vivek and I were having dinner at Absinthe, a great and dark brasserie in San Francisco, after we were both good and drunk, he decided we needed to take a trip to Mexico City for the first time. He had eaten at Cosme in New York and found out the chef, Enrique Olvera, original restaurant, Pujol, was in Mexico City (Distrito Federal or D.F.). We are both foodies and I always say the best way to explore a new culture is through it's food. Logistically it made sense too. Mexico City is surprisingly convenient with daily non-stops from LAX, JFK, and other major hubs. You can leave in the morning and be in the local cantina sipping mezcal by happy hour. The USD also goes a long way in Mexico.
I think it's really easy to prejudge a city you've never been to. And I think it's even easier to do this as an American with our neighbors to the South. But the fact remains I was a bit nervous on the way down and even when we had adjusted to be there. A theme started to occur: how does one respond to things one cannot understand? It's a common sight to see policía standing guard on street corners armed with automatic rifles. One time we walked to Chapultepec, and we passed by one of these policía standing guard. Except he was sleeping. It was only when we walked by did he wake up. You realize quickly that this is everyday life. It's not extraordinary to the locals at all. The fact is as a foreigner you're actually less of a target. There are unsafe pockets no doubt, but just like in your home city, be smart, know where to go and where not to go.
When we visited the Freida Kahlo Museum, we noticed a group of Mexican students staring at us. Eventually one of the students came over and asked if she could take a photograph with me. She was really nice and asked me where I was from. I said "California." She seemed disappointed as I was less exotic than her imagination.
D.F. is on the rise and is only getting cooler by the minute. The tequila is softer and the tacos warmer. Do yourself a favor and get down there!
Where We Stayed
AirBnB - We actually found an amazing apartment to rent which was cheaper and bigger than any hotel we found. Let me know if you want the listing.
Where We Visited
Museo Soumaya - A free public museum with works from Dali, Kahlo, Rivera, and more.
Chapultepec - D.F.'s version of Central Park. You can spend days exploring and not even see it all.
Frieda Kahlo Musuem - A bit on the outskirts of the city with long lines but once inside it's quite inspiring. We spent several hours on a bench just people watching and soaking it all in.
Where to Eat & Drink (Just a few highlights)
Azul - A good classy place to eat dinner. We had grasshopper topped guacamole, hibiscus enchiladas, and mole stuffed pastries.
Pujol - Michelin starred dining. Had the most amazing experience here. It was incredible to have these really classic Latin flavors brought onto a world class stage.
Panaderia Rosetta - A frenzied and tiny bakery. A real local spot. Amazing pastries.
Tomas - A cool tea shop.
Riviera Del Sur - Great for late night drinks outside. We had our last dinner here. Had a real slow and cozy atmosphere.