Kat Odell

A Food Influencer’s Guide Through Mexico City Without Eating a Single Taco

By Kat Odell

From delicate, buttery sushi to perfectly crisp and juicy fried chicken, there’s so much to eat in Mexico City other than tacos. I’ve witnessed the city’s culinary growth over the past two decades and came up with a food influencer's guide through Mexico City that doesn't involve tacos.

While all the incredible taco places still stand proud (with new spots opening on the regular), Mexico City has experienced a swell of delicious restaurants hinged on varying international cuisines. Some blend Mexican ingredients, history, and traditions with the flavors of India or Japan, forging a new genre of fusion cookery. With so much newness circulating Mexico City’s dining scene, now more than ever I urge you to put down the taco.

Luckily, my occupation has enabled me to work from home and pretty much travel as often as I’d like. Two years ago, my fiancé (a chef) and I threw our belongings into storage, and we’ve been homeless since then. We've mostly been living in hotels, jumping from city to city and country to country, on a path determined by both his work and mine. In the last year alone we’ve lived in Hong Kong, India, Dubai, and Brooklyn, and currently live in Tulum, Mexico. With our new home base, we’ve spent ample time in Mexico City.

We both love tacos and eat them almost every single day. But when we visit Mexico City, we like to catch up on the other new and noteworthy restaurants that have opened since our last trip. So, if you want to nail your next trip to Mexico City with incredible flavors, use this taco-free guide to some of the city’s most thrilling restaurants.

EM: Green Salad Hand Roll

Kat Odell

Located in Mexico City’s Cuauhtémoc neighborhood, EM serves a Japanese-leaning tasting menu. Request a seat at the central dining bar to watch chefs prepare dishes like a fun and refreshing Mexican riff on a Japanese temaki hand roll (which is nori seaweed assembled with white rice, squash blossoms, and local lettuces spiked with a yuzu dressing and a sprinkle of tart and crumbly cotija cheese).

Traditionally in Japan, hand rolls are filled with various types of seafood, but chef Lucho Martinez’s plant-based take incorporates some of Mexico’s most iconic ingredients: squash blossoms and tangy cotija cheese, yielding a playful new way to eat your greens.

Elly’s: Kampachi Crudo with Lemon Koshu

Kat Odell

Elly’s is the hip new kid on the block in the city’s Juárez neighborhood. Chef Elly Fraser commands a fresh slate of bright, Mediterranean-ish plates that also draw inspiration from elsewhere around the world, including Asia and Mexico. I love her play on crudo, which is essentially slices of raw, buttery kampachi that she arranges over a lemon kosho, a riff on the classic Japanese condiment, yuzu-kosho, made from yuzu citrus, chili peppers, and salt.

If you’re looking for a cool spot to grab dinner with friends, or even a buzzy bar decked out in an Insta-friendly, retro-chic aesthetic, this is your spot.

Quintonil: Avocado and Escamoles

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Quintonil is the work of chef Jorge Vallejo and wife Alejandra Flores. The venue is situated in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood, where guests embark on a foodie adventure that celebrates a mix of classic Mexican flavors and local luxury ingredients.

Vallejo's take on avocado and escamoles is unparalleled. Vallejo chars avocados and sautés escamoles (ant larvae, which resembles grains of rice and adds a creamy texture to dishes) in butter with serrano pepper and garlic. He then layers the two and tops the plate off with kale chips and dehydrated sorrel leaves, and a powder made from pickled spinach and onion ashes.

Personally, Quintonil is my favorite fine dining restaurant in Mexico, and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, meanwhile serving some of the best food in the city. It’s the perfect spot for date night or even a night out with friends when you just want a creative and extremely delicious meal.

Sushi Tatsugoro: Uni

Kat Odell

Mexico City’s Japanese food scene is exploding, all thanks to the city’s up-and-coming Little Tokyo neighborhood. While Sushi Tatsugoro is technically outside the neighborhood, it’s only a five-minute walk away, located along Paseo de la Reforma.

Pictured clockwise from the top in the above photo is Chef Daisuke Maeda's fresh Santa Barbara uni nigiri, followed by a hand roll filled with Ensenada uni, toro (fatty tuna belly), and ikura (salmon roe), and finally, Ensenada uni nigiri. The great thing about dining here is that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg flying to Japan for amazing sushi... you can just come here!

Masala y Maiz: Masala Fried Chicken

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Celebrating the unsung marriage of Indian, Mexican, and East African cuisines, Masala y Maiz is a shoe box-sized, Juárez-based natural wine bistro. The cozy two-room dining space is always packed, and it’s here where you’ll find some of the city’s brightest and most exciting cooking.

Beside a bottle of funky grapefruit juice-hued Mexican wine, sign up for the Masala Fried Chicken that chefs Norma Listman and Saqib Keval pair with cardamom-roasted yams, Ethiopian-spiced buttered greens, pickled onions, green chutney, and honeyed Mexican chili oil. While you’ve probably enjoyed a ton of great fried chicken in the past, I promise after trying this version, you’ll never look at the classic buttermilk-fried version the same way again.

Rosetta: Hoja Santa Mole

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Mexican-Italian fusion might not sound familiar, but chef Elena Reygadas has nailed this fusion mashup at Rosetta. Within a romantic, plant-adorned atrium dining space, she weaves seasonal Mexican ingredients into pastas and risottos. But one of her best-known dishes is a spunky green take on a traditional Mexican mole. Think hoja santa (root beer leaves), poblano chili, and other Mexican spices blended into a thick mole-style sauce that sits atop a flat corn tamale specked with wild Mexican herbs.

Pro tip: Reygadas also operates a small bakery and café about a half a block away called Rosetta Panadería. Every morning pastry fans from around the world line up to try her guava danish, a flaky pastry filled with guava paste and creamy cheese.

Lorea: Pistachio and Spearmint Mochi

Kat Odell

I tried Lorea's sophisticated 14-course tasting menu, orchestrated by chef Oswaldo Olivia, in the city’s Roma neighborhood. The meal kicks off with mochi.

As a person who loves chewy textures, I'm somewhat obsessed with this pistachio paste-filled bite. The mochi — which is wrapped in warm, blanched spearmint leaves — is a creamy, chewy, and refreshing start to Olivia's wordly-inspired, Mexican-rooted tasting menu.