This bakery (with the same chef as the Mexican-Italian restaurant Rosetta across the street) has made every list, and for good reason. Expect to wait in line at the tiny storefront, which has only a few bar stools, for the best pastries in the city. Think cardamom buns, sweet-and-salty rosemary rolls, flaky puff pastries filled with guava jam, and a daily loaf of sourdough bread with grains like spelt or buckwheat. They also serve two decadent quiches; the vegetarian version, loaded with cheese, cream and sun-dried tomatoes, is almost like breakfast lasagna.
BTW: Take your treats a block away to enjoy them alfresco, by the fountain at the Plaza Rio de Janeiro.
Panadería Rosetta, Colima 179, Roma Nte. 06700
Fuel up for a day of touring the busy Centro neighborhood with one of the most old-school, white-tablecloth breakfast spots in the city. Join the Mexican families dressed in their Sunday best and chefs shoveling chilaquiles after a busy night. The nata (clotted cream) paired with soft, sweet breads is delicious, and you can’t miss with any of the egg dishes.
BTW: There are a few locations, so make sure you choose the one on Calle de la Palma, and get there early to avoid a wait.
El Cardenal, Calle de la Palma 23, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, 06000
Expendio de Maíz Sin Nombre
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this open restaurant is a unique dining experience. There’s no menu — just pull up one of the sidewalk chairs and tell chef Jesús Tornes (who also runs a stall at Sunday’s Mercado el 100) what you do and don’t eat. He’ll serve you until you’re full of dishes made from local ingredients he brings from his family farm and cooks over flames in a rustic, thrown-together kitchen. The real star is anything prepared from native corn — you can buy the masa or tortillas to take home.
BTW: Walk off your meal by shopping for the next one at Mercado Medellin, a traditional market specializing in products from Caribbean and Central and South American countries.
Expendio de Maíz Sin Nombre, Av. Yucatan 84, Roma Nte., 06700
In a residential neighborhood about a half-hour ride from the city center is hands down the best traditional Mexican restaurant you can find, with a slow-food seal of approval and fantastic wine list. Join the suited businessmen who have been flocking for years to enjoy their comida, or late lunch, with a drink or two from the waiter’s mezcal cart. What it lacks in ambiance, Nicos makes up for in service and food prepared with the utmost care: Chewy handmade tortillas need little more than a sprinkling of salt, Caesar salad (invented in Mexico!) is made tableside, and seasonal ingredients like escamoles (ant eggs) make the dining experience different every time.
BTW: Don’t skip the sopa seca de nata (like a French-Mexican version of lasagna) and end your meal with a café de olla.
Nicos, Av. Cuitláhuac 3102, Claveria, 02080
At the end of a day filled with walking and eating (the best way to experience CDMX), the best kind of dinner is the most casual. This small taco chain is known for its tacos al pastor — a few of those, plus the addictive complimentary bean dip that’s waiting at each table with chips, and you’re good to go.
BTW: Finish your meal with an ice cream cone from nearby Nevería Roxy, a 1950s-style parlor that offers local flavors like mamey and soursop.
El Tizoncito, Av. Tamaulipas 122, Colonia Condesa, 06140
Handmade pasta from Modena native Marco Carboni is rolled out onto a marble counter open to a modern dining room. The food is authentically, unapologetically Italian. (You won’t find a Mexican producer on the wine list, and the olive oil and balsamic are imported from Italy.) This means the menu relies on what’s the most fresh and close by, like Oaxacan potatoes and hoja santa leaf — not quite fusion but like nothing you’ve ever tasted.
BTW: End the night with a few more drinks across the street at Carboni’s new Italian delicatessen and standing wine bar, Bottega.
Sartoria, Orizaba 42, Roma Nte., 06700
A dark, cramped bar in the city’s Centro district, Bósforo has a wide-ranging selection of mezcals. Agave nerds and newbies alike would be wise to ask the bartender what’s on offer, since the selection of small-batch spirits is constantly changing. If you can snag a seat on a pillow in the opium-den-style room upstairs, where a weird mix of reggae, blues and funk wafts upward, you’ll avoid getting your shoes stepped or spilled on, but then again, it’s part of the experience.
BTW: Enjoy a few mezcals while you wait for a table at no-name sister restaurant next door that serves homestyle food prepared using ancient techniques.
Bósforo, Luis Moya 31, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06000
La Casa de Toño
This 24-hour diner runs a tight ship — you’ll be rushed in as quickly as possible, order off a checklist and have your plate cleared before you’ve even finished. But crowds line up out the door for a reason. One of the cheapest sit-down meals you’ll have in this part of the city, the hearty bowl of pozole (a spicy stew of pork and hominy) is just what you need to stave off a hangover. Toppings like lime, dried chile, shredded lettuce and sour cream abound, and there’s even a vegetarian version made with squash blossoms. There are other locations of Casa de Toño, many not open all night.
BTW: Hopefully you’ve come from Patrick Miller, an insane, Friday-only club where unbuttoned middle managers, sneakered cabdrivers and mesh-clad party kids gather in dance-off circles.
La Casa de Toño, Londres 144, Juárez, 06600