In the last century, the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods were residential havens for Mexico City’s middle class. Today, these neighborhoods are the hub for the city’s hippest shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Zach and I, as well as Tim, rented Airbnb rooms in Roma Sur, the southern part of the Roma neighborhood, for our week in Mexico City.
What I liked best about Roma Sur – and what will inevitably change about it – is that it’s in transition. It’s still caught in that in-between state of old and new normal. There are some modern homes and condo buildings mixed in with the late 19th century homes and mansions – which have been divvied up into flats or condos. We could walk down the street to the Mercado Medellin for a taste of a regular neighborhood market or we could pop into a great restaurant, as yet undiscovered by the guidebooks and NYT travel section. So, to me, Roma Sur felt authentic and slightly undiscovered but on the precipice of a boom.
One of my favorite places in Roma Sur was a recommendation from our Airbnb host. Cine Tonalá, an arthouse cinema with a restaurant/bar. We went at least 4 times during our trip and saw a movie. Zach and I definitely have an esthetic and this checked all the boxes: great atmosphere, sweet potato fries, veggie burger (for Zach), beer and cocktails, independent films, and incredibly laid-back. My one criticism would be the theater. It wasn’t that great, but it worked. We saw Jackie, a film we never got around to seeing in the States, and it was, as always, fun to experience the cinema in another country. I love you, camotes fritos!
Another great spot was Mercado Medellin, a recommendation from both of our Airbnb hosts. We spent a decent amount of time at the market. It was our first stop after Tim arrived in town and only a block north of his place. I think the highlight was the woman in front of the market selling quesadillas. Quesadillas in Mexico City are not the quesadillas you know. I mean, in theory, they are. But they are just so much better! Fresh, hand-pressed blue corn tortillas filled with cheese and a variety of fillings cooked on the griddle in front of your eyes. It’s hot and gooey and actually warms your heart. Your order is served on a plate covered in plastic for easy clean up. Once inside the market we poked around a bit before sitting at a seafood counter for some ceviche and soda. Tim and Zach later ended up with some jicama, and Tim stopped for another quesadilla (or two?) before we finally left.
If you can believe it, we actually went directly from the market to Los Parados for al pastor tacos, Mexico City’s specialty. It was everything you want in an al pastor place – walk up, the trompo (vertical spit shaped like a spinning top) glistening with delicious meat and a pineapple topper, cheap. Don’t ask me how many Tim ate.
A few other places we really liked: Metate – a very small restaurant/bar with our favorite mezcal of the trip; Cucurucho – a great coffee shop where we sat around and enjoyed a beautiful morning; La Cadencia – an under-the-radar restaurant with killer juices and amazing chilequiles; Lulo – a new pizza place with Mexican craft beers and friendly owners; finally, Tim’s favorite food stall on Coahuila.
Roughly ten blocks north of our temporary home, Roma Norte began. The main avenue, Obregón, is a wide boulevard lined with shops, restaurants, and bars and split by a pedestrian walkway. Roma Norte is home to some amazingly hip joints and we thoroughly enjoyed eating our hearts out. Plus, there’s street art and food vendors around every corner, gorgeous 19th century mansions, and some eclectic architecture.
Abutting Roma on the west is Condesa. Condesa is truly gorgeous. The tree-lined avenues exude a sense of calm dignity and quiet solitude. For me, the neighborhood was characterized by its two parks – Parque España and Parque Mexico. The best way to experience both Roma and Condesa is to simply meander around. And we did a lot of that – turning down shaded side streets, admiring stately mansions, and exclaiming each time we saw a dog, especially dachshunds (of which there were a surprising amount).
As I mentioned, there are a lot of amazing restaurants in Roma and Condesa. Tim had quite the food agenda, and we did a pretty good job of tackling it. Though he did his own mini food tour after Zach and I departed. Here is a sampling of the delicious establishments we visited in Roma Norte and Condesa: Lalo – we went for their breakfast and it was wonderful with a delightfully playful atmosphere; Panadería Rosetta – an incredibly small space, we ordered pastries para llevar (to-go) and ate on a sidewalk bench; El Kaliman – a destination for al pastor tacos, they have a variety of tacos which you order via their spreadsheet menu; El Parnita – a place known for being the place to people-watch, the food was homey, satisfying, and simple; La Clandestina – a dimly lit mezcalería, it’s been featured in the NYT so half the clientele spoke English, but it’s damn good, the bartenders were extremely inviting, and Tim and I finished off the entire complementary bowl of pumpkin seeds; Mercado Roma – an upscale market with lots of curb appeal, gourmet vendors, and a biergarten on the rooftop.