How to Eat Your Way Through Mexico City Like a Local

Last updated 19th February 2019

It’s common knowledge that Mexico City is a food destination. As a visitor, it’s easy to discover five-star fine dining options across town and Michelin-awarded chefs representing restaurants with long waitlists for a reservation. But if you ask many locals, the best food is still found in the streets—unlisted on Yelp and unfindable on Google Maps. My wife and I visited Mexico City earlier this year with our two-month-old daughter and one objective: to find out which market had the best tacos. A Mexico City food tour seemed just the ticket to help us on our quest.

To our good fortune, we connected with Rocío Vazquez Landeta, the founder of Eat Like a Local. A former food blogger and global traveler, her initiative is to provide visitors to Mexico City a food tour that defies the standard of a guided tour. Before launching her business, Rocío took guided food tours in cities such as Istanbul, Tokyo, and Paris — and was regularly disappointed in the experiences. She decided that her home city in Mexico was in need of a food immersion that was truly local, where visitors could meet new people and eat the best food available in the streets and public markets.

We met Rocío at a café in La Condesa for the market immersion day tour, rather than the alternatives of the evening wine and pulque or night street food tours. Our daughter — Eat Like a Local’s youngest guest in three-plus years operating multiple tours per day — wasn’t quite ready to embark on our food journey just yet (read: major meltdown), so we enjoyed an extended coffee break with some strong espresso. When we finally set off, we stopped for tacos at three different street stalls on the way to the metro. I was worried I wouldn’t last the four hours of food touring ahead because I was already full.

Nearly all of Rocío’s earnings are given back to her community in support of the people we encountered on her tours. She overpays the food vendors, who have become close friends of hers, and focuses as many resources as possible to provide opportunities to the children of the markets. She’s an advocate of teaching English, encouraging the kids and local vendors to develop their language skills and interact with the guests she brings to their businesses. This, in turn, provides visitors like us with an experience that’s authentic and welcoming because the arrangement is set up to be mutually beneficial for guests and food vendors.

As we traversed the inner city from market to market, Rocío provided an urban and cultural history on all the neighborhoods we visited, the food varieties and the politics of the local businesses. I appreciated the education session as much as the food that followed.

We visited the Jamaica market, known for its flower vendors. Mixed into the long and vibrant aisles are small food stalls, where you find “the best carnitas tacos in all of Mexico.” Walking the full length of the market, we ate fresh fruit, flame-cooked esquites corn, green chorizo tacos and frijol quesadillas.

After a few more transfers on the metro and stops for fresh juice and small snacks, we arrived at La Merced market on the city’s east side. This is where we met the children Rocío has been helping support. More tacos followed with drinks, pastries and a long stop at a candy vendor, where we met some of Rocío’s mentees who practiced their English with us and passed our daughter around while we finger-picked different candies and michelada salts from the bins.

We took the metro northwest to the center of the city and walked through Colonia Juárez, a newly gentrified neighborhood with bespoke cafes and design shops. The last stop of our tour was a cocktail café, where we enjoyed an Aperol-mezcal spritz and spoke with Rocío for another two hours. I didn’t check my watch once during the tour, but it far exceeded the prearranged four hours. And we ate a lot.

For food lovers and families interested in a more underground cultural exploration, Eat Like a Local is the must-do Mexico City food tour. It’s casual, authentic, educational and incredibly flexible. We stopped everywhere that seemed interesting and were never rushed. When our baby needed a break, we found the nearest place to sit down and eat something, then moved on. Our family finished the day very full and satisfied—with a better understanding of one of the world’s greatest cities and some new local friends.

By Eric Greene