A Quick Pit Stop in Roma Norte: Mexico City

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Calle_en_Colonia_Roma,_Cd._de_México

Okay guys, so this is way overdue. I’m already cringing scrolling down and seeing my last blog date almost a year ago, but the beauty of DF aka Mexico City makes up for it.

If you know me, I’m someone that is constantly saying that I miss places. Sometimes, it’s somewhere I’ve only been once, even only for a few days. Mexico City is one of those places. Ever since Drew and I went in November, I’ve basically taken on a pro-bono job doing PR for the city encouraging anyone who will listen to me to go, and even helping some of my friends plan their trips.

While it took me 25 years to start to like LA, it honestly took me 3 days to fall in love with Mexico City. Though I’ve always wanted to go, what prompted this specific trip was our trip to Havana, Cuba. Despite some loosening of the travel embargo between the US and Cuba, flights out of the US to Cuba are very infrequent and non existent on the West Coast. Instead of fly from LA to NY or Miami and then to Havana, I decided why not book the whole thing a la carte (and way more confusing and complicated because, obviously) and fly LAX to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Havana, Havana to Mexico City, and Mexico City to LAX. Two separate round trip flights that I had to match the times up juuuuust that perfectly. Did I pull it off? Yes. Would I suggest it to everyone, eh, it depends how much you love organizing trips. Average price of a roundtrip flight LA to Mexico City ~$300. And of course- my Cuba blog is coming soon.

I wanted to stay longer, but as Drew put it, Mexico City isn’t going anywhere (give or take) while Havana is changing so fast that by the next time we go, we may have to deal with Carnival cruisers or McDonalds. So because of that, we spent only 3 days in Mexico City. Mostly eating… and exploring… and eating.

Where we stayed: As y’all know, I love AirBnB, so we went for a really cute old apartment in Roma Norte. It’s a 2 bedroom which we didn’t need, but would be awesome (and insanely reasonable) for a group of 4 or so. This victorian building had huge iron gates on the street level with a little garden filled with residents bikes.

I chose Roma Norte after doing a good bit of research about Mexico City and deciding what vibe I wanted. Because we only went for a few days, I was willing to skip a good bit of the more educational and tourist activities (sorry!) to just pretend to be a local for a few days, so a flat on top of a coffee shop in a beautiful tree lined neighborhood was perfect. It gave me Upper East Side x Hayes Valley vibes (NY and SF) but with an amazing Euro meets Mexican flair. A mix of eclectic and upscale, but with none of the snobbery I’ve felt in comparable ares in the US. Plus, there were dogs EVERYWHERE. And Street food on street food. And BEAUTIFUL people. A lot of people walking at all times of night, accessible public transit, Ubers that came in under 2 minutes, pretty everything I’ve ever wanted, for maybe 1/4 of the price of the US.

While Mexico City may not be what you think of when you want to go on a Mexican vacation, think beyond the beaches and frozen drinks and give it a shot. Beautiful architecture, history, amazing food, and welcoming people made even a faced paced urban trip pretty relaxing.

What we ate:

Biko

No big deal, just the current 37th best restaurant in the world. I am horrible at taking night time indoor photos, but we went for the 6 course tasting menu, the first thing I’ve ever done like this (hey! I’m new to being fancy). I drank what ended up probably being a bottle of Tempranillo and annoyingly Snapchatted it all like an amateur fine diner.

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That’s Biko’s best known dish, the pineapple fois gras. Trust me- it was wild.

Contramar

Shout out my girl NJ for this suggestion, (and pretty much EVERYONE else who found out I was headed to Mexico City). This beautiful indoor/outdoor spot is best for lunch. I suggest their tostada atun and the fresh grilled fish, we opted to try both of their seasonings, one of each side as you can see. I washed everything down with three, maybe more, micheladas before exploring on foot on our last day.

One fish two seasonings

A photo posted by Lina Abascal (@linalovesit) on

Blue corn street quesadillas

This was another thing I had heard about, but couldn’t even begin to understand until I tried one. (Yes I ate this RIGHT before eating a full on meal at Contramar!) Street vendors, mostly women, make fresh blue corn tortillas on tiny grills on the street for quesadillas. I chose to add chicharron and salsa. Then they fold ‘em up and you just go for it full greasy face on the street. These babies were probably sixty cents and families and people on their break during work were flocking to put in their massive orders (was I supposed to eat 10? I could have…).

These fresh blue corn quesadillas brought me to tears. I’m in love with DF. A photo posted by Lina Abascal (@linalovesit) on

Taqueria Alvaro O.

This was a neighborhood taco joint we wandered into near our Air BnB on a night we wanted to keep it casual. I went for my ride or die, al pastor, topped with a good chunk of real ass cheese and some Corona. I love mixing high/low with my food and travel, and this was easy and bomb. Anywhere with al pastor on a pineapple spit is worth a try from me.

 

Another religious experience with pastor

 

A photo posted by Lina Abascal (@linalovesit) on

Places we went:

Gin Gin

I was lucky enough to get placed next to a guy originally from DF at a trade show I worked in Vegas earlier in November for work where I spent basically the entire three days gushing about how excited I was while taking notes about all of his favorite places. This adorable and impossibly cool gin only cocktail bar made the list. For you non drinkers, Drew claims to have gotten the best damn mocktail he’s ever had here (it had pepper in it?). The music was amazing, kind of house-y garage vibes but definitely NOT a club. The vibe here was sitting at a cute (non bottle service) table with friends chatting over gin cocktails occasionally doing a little staying-seated-dance.

180 Shop

This was a very ~locals only experience. We met a guy who was the owner of this shop one night and ran into him the next day as I was grabbing food as he grabbed a coffee, total neighbors kind of vibe. He told us about how the top floor of the townhouse is Air Bnb rental, the second is the sewing/manufacturing floor of the shop, and the street level is the boutique. I grabbed a really cute mesh panel tank and amazing neoprene trousers from here, both handmade at the shop and around $15-45 USD. There’s plenty of “hipster” shops in Roma, but a lot of them felt filled with Americana vintage I see all the time, this place was a gem filled with Mexican designers. 1000% recommend, say hi to the owner and his cute pup.

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My TL;DR travel guide:

  • Pick a neighborhood you love (seriously- try Roma Norte!).
  • Learn a few Spanish phrases at the absolute least, no not everyone speaks English.
  • Use Uber, it’s easier and cheaper than hailing cabs on the street, and no one will know you’re a tourist until you’re in the car.
  • Mix up aimlessly exploring and checking out things you’ve planned to make sure you get it all in. The city is huge and FULL of people.
  • Don’t be scared, just be aware as I hope you always are. I felt completely safe.
  • Eat any and everything. That means pulpo (octopus), tacos, the famous street tortas (sandwiches), and anything else you find.
  • Yeah, ok they were right about this one, don’t drink tap water. Duh.