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March, 2009:

Mexico City Cantina Crawl Report

As a follow up to my previous post regarding the map of cantinas in the Centro Historico, I am delinquent on an report on our Cantina Crawl findings! Good times were had by all, and we managed to hit 4 cantinas prior to walking over to Plaza Garibaldi, hub of mariachi action. I wasn’t sure how busy the Centro Historico would be on a Saturday night, but there were plenty of folks walking around & we didn’t feel any more conspicuous than a group of 16 gringos + latinos normally would. :)  Since several of the cantinas close a little on the early side, we started our activities around 8PM. I think it might be even better to do the crawl during a Saturday afternoon to perhaps maximize the # of local patrons + chances for free snacks.

Stop 1: La Mascota. Definitely would recommend this spot. Plenty of tables, a good crowd, a two-piece band playing hits of the 80’s, a jukebox, attentive waiters, free food (aka botanas). If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain & David Lida, it’s good enough for us.

At La Mascota I introduced Susan to one of my favorite drinks, the bandera-- a trifecta of tequila, sangrita, and lime juice.

At La Mascota I introduced Susan to one of my favorite drinks, the bandera-- a trifecta of tequila, sangrita, and lime juice.

No one was exactly certain what was in this drink called "Hierbabuena" (recommended to Ben by our waiter). It was mint-licious, but gave his belly a good coating of cream that was not the best way to start a night of drinking...

No one was exactly certain what was in this drink called "Hierbabuena" (recommended to Ben by our waiter). It was mint-licious, but gave his belly a good coating of cream that was not the best way to start a night of drinking...

 

We even secured some free botanas! (gorditas de frijol with a tasty salsa verde on the side)

We secured some free botanas! (gorditas de frijol with a tasty salsa verde on the side)

Stop 2: Bar Mancera: wouldn’t necessarily rush to this spot…given that we were the only people here outside of two older ladies working the bar + a random cat. The architecture was cool, the paintings were fascinating/disturbing, and the drinks were cheap, but I think our large group slightly terrified the 2 employees, who seemed perfectly content to sit and chat without concern over their lack of customers. :) Perhaps it sees more traffic during the day??

 

One of Bar Mancera's helpful servers pouring tequila while in a slight panic stemming from multiple, simultaneous orders.

One of Bar Mancera's helpful servers pouring tequila while in a slight panic stemming from multiple, simultaneous orders.

 

The elaborate bar at Mancera

The elaborate bar at Mancera

So...this painting was on the wall in Bar Mancera....I'm not exactly sure what is being depicted here, but it seems a little sketchy...

So...this painting was on the wall in Bar Mancera....I'm not exactly sure what is being depicted here, but it seems a little sketchy...

Stop 3: La Puerta del Sol. I might rank this as “not a hot spot but friendly service & cool seating”. I am a sucker for half-moon booths. :) Additionally, it was a high point for me personally as I had my first photo opp in a cantina with swinging doors. I felt like a might have been in a Western/Mexican historical movie, (except for the fact that I was a woman in a cantina for a reason other than prostitution).

Yes!! Thank you swinging cantina doors! I am almost a movie star

Yes!! Thank you swinging cantina doors! I am almost a movie star

The bar at La Puerta del Sol, filled with bargain-priced Negro Modelos galore

The bar at La Puerta del Sol, filled with bargain-priced Negro Modelos galore

The sweet booths at Puerta del Sol, plus the slightly-odd open kitchen with pots-o-mystery-meats

The sweet booths at Puerta del Sol, plus the slightly-odd open kitchen with pots-o-mystery-meats

Stop 4: Salon Corona. As it turns out, there are actually two Salon Coronas. We first went to the one marked on my map at Bolivar 24, el original. This little hole in the wall was *packed*, much to the chagrin of our large group! However, an attentive employee informed us of Salon Corona II and personally escorted us over there to a table set for 16. Salon Corona II (at Filomeno Mata 18) is a 2-floor establlishment with a patio & was also pretty busy, but didn’t have quite the same über-bustling feel as the original. However, they did have sweet-ass beer mugs, cheap cerveza, and magical tacos al pastor.  A fine choice for a “We’re out for a night of drinking BUT we should probably eat something at some point” stop.

The outdoor seating at Salon Corona II... see and be seen!

The outdoor seating at Salon Corona II... see and be seen!

Very tempted to liberate one of these mugs from the bar, but it would have violated my cardinal rule of Beer Glassware: don't steal mugs from places you intend to come back to.

Very tempted to liberate one of these mugs from the bar, but it would have violated my cardinal rule of Beer Glassware: don't steal mugs from places you intend to come back to.

Final stop: Plaza Garibaldi. A must-do! We walked to Garibaldi via Lazaro Cardenas, which is the main drag lined with mariachis decked out in their suits, chasing down cars that drive by (end goal: to get their band hired for a gig that Saturday nite). I’m not going to lie– seeing grown men in tight pants chase after cars makes the trek at least semi-worthwhile before you’ve even *gotten* to the plaza.

Now as I’ve explained to others, Plaza Garibaldi is not the best place for people who are looking to “see it” and get on their way. There is no official performance or specific must-see/must-do there. It is much more of a “go, stand around, buy a $25 peso chelada (beer), do some people-watching, negotiate with a few mariachi bands, sing along to a few songs, and eat a tamale purchased from an elderly woman sitting on a step” kind of place. If you are lucky, you will find a carnival game set up on the sidelines where you will have the opportunity to win fabulous cash and prizes. And by “fabulous cash and prizes”, I mean garish ceramic animal-shaped banks worth <$1 USD.

Also, be aware that Plaza Garibaldi is under construction at present, as the Mexico City government actively works to spruce it up a tick to make it look a bit more welcoming in the light of day. Do not be dissuaded by the ample chain-link fences because remember: you are not going so you can see a thing. You are going so you can experience the culture. A culture of men in tight pants and manly hats.

The first mariachi band that we hired may or may not have been sleepwalking.

The first mariachi band that we hired may or may not have been sleepwalking.

Someone proposed that perhaps I had hired the shortest mariachi band possible in order to make myself feel taller. (God knows that is a constant quest of mine...) ;)

Someone proposed that perhaps I had hired the shortest mariachi band possible in order to make myself feel taller. (God knows that is a constant quest of mine...) ;)

 

We later found a superior mariachi band who was both awake AND had trumpets (*key* to any successful mariachi band). Segio had an instant bond with the lead singer & promptly initiated a sing-off.

We later found a superior mariachi band who was both awake AND had trumpets (*key* to any successful mariachi band). Sergio had an instant bond with the lead singer & promptly initiated a sing-off.

We were excited to spot 1/2 of the band Duran Duran hanging out in Plaza Garibaldi. They have fallen on tough times.

We were excited to spot 1/2 of the band Duran Duran hanging out in Plaza Garibaldi. They have fallen on tough times.

We all tried our hand at the balloon dart toss. All the men failed to puncture 3 balloons with as many darts. The balloons tried to take their revenge on Sergio by eating half of his face.

We all tried our hand at the balloon dart toss. All the men failed to puncture 3 balloons with as many darts. The balloons tried to take their revenge on Sergio by eating half of his face.

I was careful to ensure that all 3 darts actually had sharp tips. (savvy dart player, this one)

I was careful to ensure that all 3 darts actually had sharp tips. (savvy dart player, this one)

Yes!! I hit all three balloons, but then a giant earthquake emerged and almost swallowed me up in a crevasse!! Or that's what this photo was meant to depict, had you actually been able to see the crevasse. Damn.

Yes!! I hit all three balloons, but then a giant earthquake emerged and almost swallowed me up in a crevasse!! Or that's what this photo was meant to depict, had you actually been able to see the crevasse. Damn.

And finally, here is John drinking a chelada while wearing his new birthday hat that Luis kindly purchased for him. I was excited about it until we got the hat home, where John proceeded to wear it the entirety of the next day in our apartment while shouting out demands at me in a southern accent and making shooting noises/gestures with his fingers. The term "varmint" can indeed be overused.

And finally, here is John drinking a chelada while wearing his new birthday hat that Luis kindly purchased for him. I was excited about it until we got the hat home, where John proceeded to wear it the entirety of the next day in our apartment while shouting out demands at me in a southern accent and making shooting noises/gun gestures with his fingers. The term "varmint" can indeed be overused.

In summary, I would say that while there are a couple minor errors on my cantina map (most notably, El Nivel is closed), if you wander around those general streets, you are sure to find something to keep you entertained! Have fun & please report back with any new cantina discoveries to add to my list for the future!!

The many, the not-so-proud: the Kickdogs of Polanco

My husband long ago added the term “kickdog” to our daily vocabulary to refer to any dog who might be more efficiently moved across a room by kicking it rather than waiting for its 400 mincing steps to get it there on its own. (For the record, I have never seen John kick a dog. A pigeon? Yes. But a dog? No.)
 
In our fancy-pants neighborhood of Polanco, there is an interesting mix of kickdogs and dogs that could probably bite off your arm in 3 seconds flat. For every overdressed chihuahua, there is its antithesis. Someone like the guard dog a few doors down from us that we have named “Cujo“, whose vicious barking often leads us to believe he may well penetrate the house wall + the iron fence in one fell swoop.
 
I believe that in neighborhoods like this, heavily armed with watchdog weaponery, the kickdogs have a better sense of their own weakness…their daintiness…their inability to escape the wearing of doggie booties. To that end, I was struck by this image of Mexico’s favorite kickdog, the chihuahua, being embarrassed by its owner outside Eno restaurant in Polanco.
 
"You don't even understand *my* needs"

"You don't even consider *my* needs"

Why is this dog hanging his head in shame?
  1. He is small enough to be set atop a carry-on suitcase…with room to spare.
  2. He doesn’t even have a collar/tags, because he is too much of a wuss to remotely be considered a flight risk.
  3. Although he sees the sidewalk with its easy path to freedom, the thought of jumping from a 2-foot-high perch has him frozen in terror.
  4. He has a secret longing to be carried inside his owner’s oversized purse, where he spent most of his formative years.
Perhaps somewhere in the middle of the kickdog<–>guard dog spectrum are the Fountain Dwellers.
Shortly after this photo was taken, we saw a young boy drinking from this fountain. They take the old "hair of the dog" sentiment to heart at a young age around here.

Shortly after this photo was taken, we saw a young boy drinking from this fountain. They take the old "hair of the dog" sentiment to heart at a young age around here.

Avoid a Reverse Mullet in Mexico City

Reading my friend Lesley’s post today that mentioned a recent crap haircut reminded me to share a secret gem with any local ladies in my blog audience. After 2 years in DC, I finally found a hairstylist I was happy with who charged reasonable prices (~$40) AND understood the fine balance between cutting-vs.-talking (visit Bubbles Salon at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, VA and ask for Tsigie–703.415.2040). 

You can imagine the tension, then, when I was forced to start anew here in Mexico after my hair reached a shaggy, straw-like consistency. I carefully (ha) selected the first hair salon I saw within walking distance, and prepped my piece of scrap paper with key Spanish hair-cutting vocabulary. The salon owner spoke English (¡Que suerte! I thought at the time), so we confirmed that yes, I was asking for what I thought (a simple haircut).

I started to get nervous when he broke out the razor on the back of my *shoulder-length* hair… My suspicions were confirmed upon returning to our apartment building, where another prior salon visitor saw my new do and piped up, “Oh! You got the reverse mullet from La Luna too!”   Yes indeedy: party in the front, an awkward 2 inches missing in the back.

Due to apparent lack of creativity, I returned to the same salon for my 2nd haircut, but had the wherewithal to request a different stylist. This time, my haircut took a concerning ~10 minutes and was executed in much the way I might have trimmed a Barbie doll’s hair as a child. The stylist also had not quite mastered the art of flattery, asking both if I was interested in getting highlights (I’ve never dyed my hair) and if I was interested in threading (a method of eyebrow hair removal). Erm, no, thanks; I’ll just go home and self-consciously spend 10 minutes in front of the mirror with a tweezers.

When my friend Joy passed along a business card to me for “An American Hairdresser in Mexico”, I was initially skeptical. “I don’t need a special American hairdresser,” I briefly thought to myself. Then I looked in the mirror at my Barbie/mullet mix. Oh, wait. Yes, yes I do.

It is with the hope of preventing another sketchy haircut that I pass along to you the name of Ronit, a lovely woman based in Polanco who is originally from the DC/Maryland area. She works out of her apartment on Lamartine and can be reached at 55.5250.2021 or ronitsabban [at] yahoo.com. It’s been a few weeks so I don’t precisely recall the price, but I know she offers a discount for your first visit & it was definitely <$600 pesos. She even has a monthly e-newsletter with hot discounts! Tell her Julie sent you & maybe she will offer you some magical pirouette chocolatey-wafery snacks. It was all I could do not to impolitely scarf down the whole can.

Best of luck, and may the reverse mullet not be with you.

Animal Highlights of Mexico, Part 2

Despite the wealth of mercados here in México, our non-edible purchases thus far have been quite restrained (if I do say so myself). I continue reminding John how lucky he is to have a wife who is not obsessed with pottery / Dia de los Muertos figurines / vessels made out of copper / traditional silver jewelry, since if I was, our peso outflow would be considerably higher. :)  That said, the one area in which we both seem to have a weakness is animals.

To that end, I thought I’d share the montage of animal figurines that we’ve acquired over the last couple months (with the bulk being extremely recent acquisitions from yesterday’s Bazaar Sabado down in San Angel).

While others may leave Mexico with pottery and dishes, we will leave with a veritable stable of ceramic/wooden/lacquered Mexican animals.

While others may leave Mexico with pottery and dishes, we will leave with a veritable stable of ceramic/lacquered Mexican animals.

To introduce you to our stable of little friends (from left to right):

  1. Ferdinand, the bull. John was drawn to him due to the slightly-crazed look in his piercing yellow eyes. Source: San Angel 
  2. Vato, the duck. You can find these peering-over-the-edge-of-the-counter ducks all over the place here, but they tend to be decked out in tacky golden armor. We preferred Vato’s subtle, blue design. Source: San Angel
  3. Spidey, the Spiderman bank. I suppose one could argue this is not an “animal” per se, but I feel like half-man/half-animal (or arachnid; whatever, let’s not split hairs people) is a high enough percentage to include him here. This was my big prize for hitting 3 balloons with 3 darts at the fan-favorite Balloon Dart Toss game while slightly-tipsy. Source: Plaza Garibaldi
  4. Pooh & Eyeore, also a bank. When we returned to Garibaldi this past Friday night with the parents, we were thrilled to see the Balloon Dart Toss set up once again on the fringes of the plaza. It was hardly a question as to whether I would gamble another $20 pesos on another gem here. Although Marcia & John failed to bring home the bacon, I would say this bank is obviously worth the $60 pesos spent in total among the 3 of us?? Source: Plaza Garibaldi
  5. Hop-a-long, the heavily lacquered dead frog playing a guiro. We came across this gem in a mercado in Morelia, where there was a whole band’s worth of instrument-playing frog carcasses. John hoodwinked me by claiming he was buying Hop-a-long as a gift for his mother who “loves frogs”. As soon as Hop-a-long made it back to our apartment, John informed me that there were in fact no plans for Hop-a-long to depart our home. He is now shown off to every visitor with the pride of a new parent. Unlike with babies, however, most visitors recoil in horror upon observing that Hop-a-long was once able to hop on his own volition. Source: Mercado de Dulces, Morelia
  6. and 7. and 8.  Jackie, George and Herman, the pigs. We had been eyeing these guys for a few weeks now at gorgeous furniture store Toca Madera, located on the west side of Plaza San Jacinto in San Angel. (address: Plaza San Jacinto #15, phone 55.5616.4748)  Upon our return with my parents yesterday, Marcia revealed that Jackie, George and Herman fit perfectly into her plan to buy a little gift for John. Therefore, he became the proud Papa Pig to these triplets yesterday at about 12:30PM.

We will keep you appraised of any further additions to the Herickhoff Family Farm.

Makes a Nebraskan feel right at home…

My parents are visiting Mexico this week from Nebraska. To help them adjust, we found this slowly-moving cow herd on the road outside our B&B in Malinalco. Mexico can always be counted upon for the random herd of livestock to help make a Nebraska farm boy feel like he never left…

To tie back in to my previous post, this was pretty much the most danger we came across during our trip to Malinalco, Mexico. Who knows-- these cows could well have been drug mules in disguise... making off with pounds of cocaine in their multiple stomachs...???

To tie back in to my previous post, this was pretty much the most danger we came across during our trip to Malinalco, Mexico. Who knows-- these cows could well have been drug mules in disguise... making off with pounds of cocaine in their multiple stomachs...???

This was my favorite artsy-livestock photo. Pretty purple flowers + soft brown cow in the sunlight, casting a suspicious eye towards the carload of gringos infringing on her territory...

This was my favorite artsy-livestock photo (there's a phrase you don't hear often enough). Pretty purple flowers + soft brown cow in the sunlight, casting a suspicious eye towards the carload of gringos infringing on her territory...

I’m pretty sure rural Nebraska is the last place that the gentleman on the horse would have guessed that I was from, with the rear window of our Maxima rolled down like a moron so I could get the optimal angle/number of cow photos possible…

“Am I going to be a victim of violence in México?” Take this simple quiz to find out!

As most of my fellow Mexico blogs have addressed recently, the news coverage around security in Mexico has reached fever pitch in the last few months. A flurry of articles in the US press is sending everyone into a panic, which is only amplified by so-called experts busily spreading fear regardless of facts. Some people are convinced that tourists are being gunned down in Cancun on a daily basis (NOT TRUE!! Reality: drug cartels killed the man who was the area’s “anti-drug chief’), and that rebel armies are seconds away from taking over Mexico City (NOT TRUE!! Reality: I am not aware of any nearby rebel armies, and I reckon that even if they did exist– if they tried to storm the city, they would end up stuck in traffic & probably lose motivation by the time they arrived at any important government buildings).

My recent favorite is an e-newsletter my friend Todd forwarded me from a travel agency in Omaha, NE who specializes in trips to Mexican beaches. The email alert starts off with:

“So, is Mexico Dangerous?? Should I Go there?
If you have plans to visit Tijuana, on the California boarder,
Juarez, Mexico on the Texas boarder, Nogales on the Arizona
boarder, Mexico City or similar cities – don’t go! As the news is
correctly reporting, there are some major drug “wars” between
rival gangs, and who’s going to run the drugs across the US boarder.
There is a travel advisory on traveling to the U.S./Mexico BOARDER
TOWNS, that have the drug traffic problems. On the other hand,
if you’re going to beach locations like the Riviera Maya /Playa del
Carmen area, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas etc., you’re over 1,000
miles from where they are having the major problems. “

Now to be clear, I do not dispute the risks of being a tourist in the towns along the border. (Although I have no idea where the Texas “boarder” is…)  But I love how they throw in “Mexico City or similar cities” just for good measure.  First, given that Mexico City is one of the top 5 largest cities in the world with 20+ million people, what are the “similar cities” in Mexico that you should avoid??? Helpful. Also, what is the basis for listing Mexico City in the first place? Even the State Department Travel Alert for Mexico does not highlight Mexico City as a place to avoid because of violence.

Anyway, what I consider important to remember here is: any city can be dangerous if you’re an idiot. By no means am I trying to make light of the situation on the border, which I fully agree has become disturbingly violent and is wise to avoid as a tourist. But Mexico is a huge country (761,000 square miles, 3x the size of Texas). The drug-related drama on the border is NOT indicative of what you will experience in the remaining 90% of Mexico.

To make it even easier for potential visitors, I have written up a quick quiz to help you determine your risk level for traveling in Mexico. As I said, obviously bad things can happen anywhere, but there are some fairly clear issues that you should consider first.

The Official MidwesternerInMexico.com Quiz for Determining your Risk of Violence in Mexico

(please answer yes or no to the following questions)

  1. I am the head of a powerful drug cartel.
  2. I am employed by a recent drug cartel start-up, and my title is “Business Development Manager, Mexico”.
  3. I cannot leave the house without my 3 diamond rings, diamond stud earrnings, and emerald necklace.
  4. I only travel by limo.
  5. I insist on wearing shorts, sandals with socks pulled up to mid-calf, a Hawaiian shirt, and a floppy hat at all times, while using my obnoxious American “outside voice”.
  6. I have a tendency to flash wads of cash while trying to pay for a $10 peso bottle of water with a $1000 peso bill.
  7. I travel strictly using libre taxis hailed off the street in Mexico City, like the green VW bugs, because I don’t want to pay the extra $30 (+/-) pesos for a safer sitio taxi.
  8. I am a high-level Mexican law enforcement official actively engaged in the fight against drugs and am not on the narco payroll.
  9. I prefer to drive long trips between cities in Mexico only at night, and I am too cheap to pay the tolls to drive on the safe, well-maintained cuota highways.
  10. I insist on going out drinking by myself, getting loaded, then stumbling around the back alleys of Mexico City singing “You are my sunshine” at the top of my lungs.
  11. I sell drugs to a circle of depressed, soccer-moms in a US suburb, and I am traveling to Mexico to take advantage of the crazy dollar/peso exchange rate to find a new dealer for my drug supply.
  12. I am visiting Mexico to conduct a major business transaction for which I intend to convert $20,000 USD into $306,000 pesos in public at the airport currency exchange desk.
  13. I ask taxi drivers to take me on tours past the homes of local drug lords, where I get out of the taxi and take photos from the middle of the street during broad daylight.
  14. I insist on traveling to parts of Mexico City not mentioned in guide books or specifically mentioned as areas full of criminals, like Tepito, a.k.a. the “Thieves’ Market”.

OK, end of quiz! Time to review your score. 

If you answered yes to #1, #2, or #8: I strongly recommend you avoid travel into Mexico, leave Mexico if you are already here, or seriously consider a new line of work.

If you answered yes to #3, #4, or #6: perhaps you have forgotten that you are visiting a country where the daily minimum wage for 2009 is $54.80 pesos. That is $3.58 USD PER DAY at the current exchange rate. Please bear this in mind and stop flaunting your money like a fool.

If you answered yes to #7 or #9: have you checked the exchange rate lately?? During the 8 months we have been here, it has gone from 10 pesos / 1 dollar to 15.3 pesos / 1 dollar. Stop being a cheap ass and spend the extra pesos to pick the safe option.

And finally, if you answered yes to #5, #10, #11, #12, #13 or #14: you are simply not very smart and probably shouldn’t be allowed to travel, period.

I hope this insightful quiz has eased your fears about travel to Mexico, as long as you are not an idiot or a criminal.

In our eight months here, we have been amazed by all that Mexico has to offer and truly hope we have the chance to show more of our friends & family around Mexico City and beyond. I do not feel scared or nervous on a daily basis. I take normal minor precautions and have thus far (knock on wood) been completely fine here in the heart of the action, D.F.  Hopefully our stories will inspire others to travel to Mexico’s amazing cities, towns, beaches, and jungles as well. It is totally fair to be a little worried and take the appropriate extra precautions for travel in an unfamiliar land, but don’t let the craziness of the border drug wars prevent you from experiencing the rest of a beautiful country.

Map of Cantinas in downtown Mexico City!

After a few “bottle service” episodes at the über-trendy clubs & lounges here in Mexico City, we have been itching to check out the more autentico cantinas in the Centro Historico. (For those not in the know, most of the glam spots here are big fans of the “buy a whole bottle of liquor” approach to drinks, which then comes with various mixers like Coke, OJ, tonic, etc. and you/your waiter mixes your drinks at your table. I find it expensive/slightly pretentious but I suppose arguably more cost-effective if you’re out with a large group.)

Anyway, we are making a trek to the cantinas of the Centro Historico of D.F. this Saturday night. More details to follow… if I have the guts to break out a camera in any of these places…  Since I’m not making any guarantees, I thought I’d at least share the Streets & Trips map assembled by John and I after an evening of online/guidebook research!  Hope this is of use to anyone else looking to make a similar exploratory voyage to the cantinas of Mexico City!! (click on the map to enlarge for a printable version)

Mexico City's Centro Historico marked with all the hot cantina options!

Mexico City's Centro Historico marked with all the hot cantina options!

For the less-bold, the Secretary of Culture here actually hosts a 2-hour cantina tour (paseos de cantinas) on Thursday nights at 8PM for $100 pesos, as blog Wagamama Wonderings tipped me off to. I dropped them an email a while back to confirm details (at paseosculturalesdf@yahoo.com.mx) and was told the $100 pesos includes a glass of wine as well as a narrated history of pulque, wine, and other booze. The tours leave from near the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Wish us luck!!

***UPDATE***: View commentary/photos from the Cantina Crawl here: http://www.midwesternerinmexico.com/2009/03/31/mexico-city-cantina-crawl-report/.  Also note that El Nivel is now closed, and we were unable to find an open entrance for La Terraza del Zocalo post-10PM. Gallo de Oro was either closed that night or shut down, but there is another bar on its street quite nearby. Also, La Faena seemed popular but had a cover charge so we skipped it on principle. Finally, I neglected to mark La Opera, which still has bullet holes in the ceiling from Pancho Villa. It is located on Av. Cinco de Mayo #10 between Lazaro Cardenas & Simon Bolivar.

Dinner at Izote!

Blog updates have a been a bit slow recently, due to a combination of a looming accounting exam this past Friday and visitors in town!  John’s mom and aunt, Penny and Chris, made the trek down to Mexico to escape the highly-unpleasant climes of most of the US during the month of February.  They seemed to have a lovely time exploring all over Mexico City, as well as a brief side-trip via fancy-pants bus to Morelia.  (FYI, the high rent buses here are apparently fantastic, with only 3 seats per row, sufficient leg room, multiple movies, a decent bathroom, and coffee/tea factilities– check out 360-degree views of ETN’s buses here: http://www.etn.com.mx/360.html)

Anyway, as a celebratory “John’s belated birthday dinner”, the four of us visited Izote, Patricia Quintana’s much-heralded restaurant in Polanco known for its fantastic modern renditions of traditional Mexican dishes. It unfortunately lacks a website, but is located on Presidente Masarik 515 in Polanco between streets Sócrates and Platón, phone #5282 3262.

The Herickhoff/Oetjen clan pose while dining at Izote

The Herickhoff/Oetjen clan pose while dining at Izote

The food was all fantastic. The menu has a great representation of seafood, and the various ceviches are all excellent choices for apps. (Alas, we neglected to get any appetizer pics, but the scallops in a Seville orange sauce were amazing and the lobster enchiladas quite tasty as well.)  Prices are generally in the $80-200 peso range for appetizer-sized dishes, and between ~$200-390 pesos for entrees. We were appreciative of several reasonably-priced bottles of wine, and had a fantastic sauvignon blanc from Argentina for about $400 pesos. 

Our only complaint was the service– we had several waiters who covered our table, but our apparently “primary” waiter was too good to pour wine.  Our bottle of wine was in a bucket next to the table, thereby implying the waiter would be pouring it… First I sat with my glass empty for about 15 minutes, so John finally started pouring refills.  Naturally the snobby waiter quickly appeared to take the bottle out of John’s hands, with a smirk that seemed to say “how tacky of you to do this”.  When we later ordered a second bottle, snobby waiter brought the bottle to us, then left it on the table until a *different* waiter came over to open it… who then promptly dumped in the ice bucket without pouring any. Minor complaints, but when you’re eating at one of the top restaurants in Mexico City, one hopes for more attention, less condescension… :) 

Brushing that aside, however, I will reiterate that Izote is definitely worth a trip to check out some fantastic food using authentic, local ingredients. While one could argue that you can find the same for a fraction of the price at the local tianguis, it is fun to see such a innovative, modern take on Mexican food once in a blue moon when the budget permits!!  (and to that end, many thanks to Penny and Chris for treating us to such a memorable meal)   Here are a few more pics from our night at Izote with a few must-tries for your next visit!

John had a fantastic grilled shrimp dish that was a special on the menu that night, seasoned with some kind of adobo mole.

John had a fantastic grilled shrimp dish that was a special on the menu that night, seasoned with some kind of adobo mole.

Chris ordered fish cooked "Pacific" style, that came accompanied with the best beans I've ever sampled & fantastic corn.

Chris ordered fish cooked "Pacific" style, that came accompanied with the best beans I've ever sampled & fantastic corn.

 

Penny also had a shrimp dish cooked to perfection with some green, cilantro rice and a tasty salsa verde

Penny also had a shrimp dish cooked to perfection with some green, cilantro rice and a tasty salsa verde

Personally, I felt I was the winner with shrimp accompanied by a jamaica mole (made from the jamaica flower that is also boiled to make flavored water here). The sauce was incredibly rich but didn't overwhelm the shrimp, which were huge and also perfectly cooked. The accompanying cornbread was an added bonus. :)

Personally, I felt I was the winner with shrimp accompanied by a jamaica mole (made from the jamaica flower that is also boiled to make flavored water here). The sauce was incredibly rich but didn't overwhelm the shrimp, which were huge and also perfectly cooked. The accompanying cornbread was an added bonus. :)

Included with your meal is the coffee of your choice... Three of us chose Cafe de Olla, which is an incredible blend of coffee, brown sugar, chocolate, cinnamon and cloves. MUST learn how to make this well at home!! (and buy super-cute pottery to serve it in) :)

Included with your meal is the coffee of your choice... Three of us chose Cafe de Olla, which is an incredible blend of coffee, brown sugar, chocolate, cinnamon and cloves. MUST learn how to make this well at home!! (and buy super-cute pottery to serve it in) :)

Penny however opted for the cafe con leche-- a bit of coffee topped off with heated milk. A perfect end to the evening!

Penny however opted for the cafe con leche-- a bit of coffee topped off with heated milk. A perfect end to the evening!

Finally, I recommend saving room for dessert-- for any almond/marzipan fans out there, Izote offered an almond cake with a marzipan-y center & white chocolate exterior, perched in a sea of mango sauce that I almost licked off the plate.

Finally, I recommend saving room for dessert-- for any almond/marzipan fans out there, Izote offered an almond cake with a marzipan-y center & white chocolate exterior, perched in a sea of mango sauce that I almost licked off the plate.

However, the dessert winner was probably the "chocolate box" (not sure what the description was in Spanish), that offered a box formed of thin chocolate that had 'tipped over' to spill out an amazing vanilla bean cream sauce dotted with chocolate truffles and blackberries. A must have for any chocolate fan!

However, the dessert winner was probably the "chocolate box" (not sure what the description was in Spanish), that offered a box formed of thin chocolate that had 'tipped over' to spill out an amazing vanilla bean cream sauce dotted with chocolate truffles and blackberries. A must have for any chocolate fan!

 

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