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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!!

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10 Comments on “Mexico City Cantina Crawl Report”

  1. #1 Joy
    on Mar 31st, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Brendan and I once visited Mancera by *ourselves* and it was so creepy. I think the beer was barely cold. But we also felt we stumbled onto a new-yet-old cantina that no one else knew about. Wrong.

  2. #2 livingonrefrieddreams
    on Apr 1st, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    oooh! i’m excited! we should be heading down there in june. I’ll be sure to refer back to this ‘cantina crawl’ before we go for the key locations!!!

  3. #3 Dayna
    on Apr 4th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    LOVED this post!
    I just had to tell you, the reason why your first “mariachi” band didn’t have trumpets was because that’s not a mariachi band!
    They’re called a “grupo norteño” o simply a “norteño”. Very different!
    Now I must say this is an excellent guide for anyone looking to go to real cantina in D.F. ;)

  4. #4 Albert Weiss
    on Jul 4th, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    yeah! good review! i am a fan of mexican cantinas,do not miss La Faena, El Gallo de oro and if you want to eat REALLY good try Antonios Bar, it is not in donwtown really, and its more a familiar kind of place in colonia del valle or something…it worth it!
    I love mexican cantinas! thank you for the post!

  5. #5 A Mariachi-filled Night Out in Plaza Garibaldi – Midwesterner in Mexico
    on Aug 12th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    [...] may have heard of Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City, best known as the local hub of mariachi action. I posted back in March about our visit there after the Cantina Crawl, but I thought I’d follow up with a bit more [...]

  6. #6 RCM
    on Nov 9th, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    You can find all the “Cantinas” in downtown Mexico here (in spanish), magazine: “Ritos y retos del Centro Histórico”
    Website of the special number “Guía para comer bien en el Centro Histórico” (See page 33):
    http://ritosyretos.com.mx/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=60

  7. #7 cantina - StartTags.com
    on Jan 25th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    [...] list: birria, a Mexican meat stew usually made with lamb or goat. Along with pozole and menudo, …Mexico City Cantina Crawl Report Midwesterner in MexicoAs a follow up to my previous post regarding the map of cantinas in the Centro Historico, I am [...]

  8. #8 La Raza de la Noche : Cantinas y Elma Madero « flâneur: “from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer"… or "a person w
    on Apr 6th, 2010 at 4:00 pm
  9. #9 Rox
    on Jan 27th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I loved your post! My husband and I are going to the DF in April and I love history but I also had to find something to do for him. A Cantina Crawl and a visit to Plaza Garibaldi sounds perfect!

  10. #10 Carlos
    on Jun 7th, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    LOL the painting on “Bar Mancera” is “The Triumph of Bacchus”, from spanish painter Velzaquez.

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