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Dónde Comer y Tomar en la Ciudad de México

11 Sep
Chaibar Chaibar

English version here.

Solo viví en la Ciudad de México (otroramente conocida como el Distrito Federal) durante diez meses, pero en ese plazo corto, me gustaba explorar mi colonia, la Condesa, y la colonia aledaña, la Roma. Por esa razón esta lista tiene un sesgo por esas áreas. Abajo encontrarán algunos de los locales que extraño y que felizmente visitaría en el futuro.

Chaibar– NOTICIA: CERRADO. Ubicado a unos metros del Parque México, Chaibar significa mucho para mi. En el principio, cuando no conocía a mucha gente en mi nueva ciudad, y mas adelante, tras un día laboral intenso y estresante, Chaibar servía como mi refugio. Los empleados siempre eran amables y abiertos, y crearon un ambiente cálido que atraía a la gente día y noche. El chai es cremoso y sabroso, hecho con ingredientes naturales y leche de soya, con tres opciones posibles- té negro, té de limón, o campechano, una mezcla de los dos. A mi siempre me gustaba el campechano. Chaibar es un buen lugar para tomar tu te y mirar el mundo pasar.

Chilpa

Chilpa

Nuevo: Chilpa– Este nuevo restaurante remplazó otro favorito mío, Las Soupremes, donde servían, por supuesto, una variedad de sopas. Pero Chilpa es una buena adición a la colonia, donde la especialidad es los chilaquiles. Preparan tu tazón de chilaquiles a tu gusto, con una base de totopos. Tú eliges si quieres salsa verde o roja, huevos revueltos o estrellados, aguacate o queso, o carne. A mi amigo y yo nos gustó mucho lo que pedimos. La presentación de la comida es tan bonita, uno quiere admirarla y no comerla. Pero recomiendo comerla de una vez.

Libreria El Péndulo– Es una cadena de librerías que se denominan “cafebrerías”, con restaurantes en las premisas. La que está en la Condesa, en calle Nuevo León, donde me gustaba desayunar los fines de semana, cuenta con músicos en vivo los sábados por la mañana. Hay una cosa que siempre pedía para desayunar, los Huevos Macondo. Era un desayuno con sabor muy mexicano, con un huevo frito encima de una quesadilla llena de quesillo, huitlacoche y flor de calabaza, cubierto de salsa verde. Acompañado por un café o jugo, y sobretodo con un buen libro, es una buena forma de comenzar el fin de semana.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– Visité este restaurante en Roma Norte poco después de su inauguración, y de pronto entablé uan amistad con los dueños, quienes fueron muy sorprendidos cuando les dije que soy libanesa. Pero si mi cara no les convencía de mis orígenes, mi afinidad por su comida lo hizo. Pedir el plato libanés, un surtido de comidas distintas, es la mejor forma de probar todo en un solo lugar. Aunque las hojas de uva rellenas nunca han sido mi comida favorita, me encanta las que preparan aquí, llenas de arroz y carne y bañados en aceite de olivo. Eso, y el kipe crujiente (la cosa en forma óvalo en la foto), eran mis favoritas, aunque en realidad todo es rico.

Helado Obscuro– Vine una noche con una amiga, y cuanto más nieve comimos, mas borrachas nos pusimos. Aquí sirven nieve con licor, y con MUCHO licor. Unos ejemplos de los sabores que ofrecen son absenta y frambuesa o Kahlua chocolate. También vale la pena ir por la música y el ambiente 100% hipster.

Gourmart– Los dueños de este restaurante colombiano modesto en la Roma Norte siempre te saludan con una sonrisa. Tienen una carta sencilla, con solo dos opciones de comida de lunes a viernes. El café colombiano es una buena forma de comenzar el día, fuerte pero nada amargo, y por la tarde las mejores opciones son el  sancocho, un guisado que lleva pollo desmenuzado, elote, rajas de aguacate, una salsa no picosa, y arroz, y el sudado de albondigas, que son albondigas bañadas en una salsa de jitomate y cebolla- todo servido con una arepa al lado. Esta comida es muy buena para el alma cuando hace frío.

Rosetta Rosetta

Rosetta– Tenía ganas de conocer este restaurante desde que leí noticias sobre ello antes de llegar a México, y por eso pensé que cenar en Rosetta sería una buena forma de festejar mi cumpleaños. Y cuando llegamos esa noche lluviosa, no me decepcionaron. El ambiente es íntimo, y no es de sorprender, ya que el restaurante ocupa una casa porfiriana en la Roma Norte. La gastronomía es italiana con un toque mexicano. Recuerdo un pan divino, crujiente por afuera y con una masa esponjosa por dentro, un primer plato de hinojo frito, y una pasta hecha con un ragú jugosa con sabor a ajo. Para resumir, lo recomiendo para cualquier ocasión especial.

Riviera del Sur– He ido a este restaurante/bar en la Roma Sur varias veces con varios amigos, y siempre me ha gustado por su buena comida yucateca. La sopa de lima es como una sopa de tortilla pero mas sencilla, los kibis son muy parecidos al kipe libanés, y los tacos de cochinita pibil son una rica forma de consumir el puerco (sobre todo si te gusta lo dulce). La Riviera es amplio y tiene un ambiente amigable, así que es un buen lugar para pasar el tiempo con amigos.

Mercado Roma Mercado Roma

Biergarten– En la azotea de Mercado Roma, un mercado a la moda donde hay puestos que venden todo, de los sandwiches vietnamitas a las paletas, Biergarten es un bar de cerveza inspirado por los mismos que se encuentran en Alemania. Te da la oportunidad de disfrutar de una buena cerveza al aire libre. La carta de comida tiene buenas opciones, y si la cerveza no es lo tuyo, los ‘smashes’ son una buena opción de cocteles.

Los tacos callejeros cerca de la  Sumesa, Calle Oaxaca y Avenida Álvaro Obregon. Es difícil describir este lugar porque es un puesto callejero sencillo, y tengo que recomendarlo sin ningún enlace, ni foto, ni una buena descripción de su ubicación. Espero que siga allí y que no haya cambiado. Hacen tacos con una variedad de rellenos, con frijoles pintos y papas fritas crujientes encima. Simplemente es lo mejor. Imprescindible comerlo con una botella de Coca Cola.

También cabe mencionar: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

Where to Eat and Drink in Mexico City

10 Sep
Chaibar Chaibar

Versión en español aquí.

I only lived in Mexico City for ten months, but in that short time, I enjoyed exploring my neighborhood, Condesa, and the neighboring Roma neighborhood. For that reason this list skews heavily towards those areas. Below are some of the places I now miss and would gladly visit on any future visits to the city.

Chaibar– UPDATE: CLOSED. Located just off of Parque México, Chaibar is very meaningful to me. During the times when I felt either lonely as a newly arrived expat who didn’t have many friends yet, or disillusioned after a long, stressful day at work, I always found Chaibar to be a refuge. The employees were always so warm and friendly, and they created a convivial atmosphere that attracted people day and night to this closet-sized space. The chai is creamy and flavorful, made will all-natural ingredients and soy milk, with three options available- black tea, lemongrass, or ‘campechano’, a mix of both. I always enjoyed the campechano. Chaibar is a good place to drink your tea and people watch.

Chilpa

Chilpa

NEW: Chilpa– A new addition to this list of favorite places! It replaced an old haunt of mine, Las Soupremes, which served-you guessed it- all kinds of soups. But Chilpa specializes in another favorite of mine, chilaquiles. You customize your order, choosing whether you’d like your bowl of fried tortilla chips to include red or green salsa, scrambled or fried eggs, sliced avocados, shredded cheese, or meat. Whatever you pick, it’ll be almost too pretty to eat. My friend and I loved our chilaquiles.

Libreria El Péndulo– This is a small, local chain of bookstores that also have restaurants on the premises. The Condesa location, where I liked to eat breakfast on the weekends, had live music on Saturday mornings, which was a lovely accompaniment to the meal. There was one item I liked to order, called Huevos Macondo. It was a tasty Mexican breakfast, a fried egg on top of a tortilla filled with cheese, huitlacoche (like a very pungent mushroom) and squash, all covered in a mild green sauce. With a coffee or juice, and especially with a good book, it was a great way to start the day.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– I first visited this restaurant in Roma Norte shortly after it opened, and quickly became friends with the owners, who were quite surprised to learn that I’m Lebanese. But if my looks didn’t convince them of my origins, my fondness for their food did. I found that ordering the plato libanés, an assortment of different dishes, was the best way to get all of my favorite tastes in one place. Although stuffed grape leaves have never been a favorite of mine, I loved the ones here, moist and full of flavorful rice and meat. That, and the crisp kibbeh (the football-shaped item in the picture), were my favorites, though everything on the plate is delicious.

Helado Obscuro– I came with a friend one night, and the more ice cream we ate, the drunker we started to feel. Not only does this ice cream shop serve liquor-infused ice cream, but the ice cream is VERY liberally infused with the alcohol. Think flavors like absinthe raspberry and Kahlua chocolate. It’s also worth visiting this spot in Roma Sur for the very hisptery music and décor.

Gourmart– The owners of this modest Colombian restaurant in Roma Norte always greet you with a smile. They have a simple menu, with two specials served for lunch each weekday. The Colombian coffee is good first thing in the morning, strong but not bitter, and in the afternoon the best choices are the sancocho, a stew filled with chicken, corn, avocado slices, mild salsa, and rice, and the sudado de albondigas, meatballs in a tomato-onion sauce, all served with an arepa on the side (a corn-based wafer). Especially comforting on a cold day.

Rosetta Rosetta

Rosetta– Intrigued by reviews of this restaurant that I had read before I arrived in Mexico, I thought that a dinner there would be the perfect way to celebrate my birthday. And once we showed up on that rainy night, I was not disappointed. The ambience was homey and intimate, which is not surprising given that the restaurant occupies a former 19th-century home in Roma Norte. The cuisine is mostly Italian with a strong Mexican streak. I recall having bread that was divine, with a crunchy crust and light and airy dough, an appetizer of crispy, fried hinojo (a leafy herb), and a pasta dish with a meaty ragu studded with garlic and all kinds of delicious spices. All in all, a wonderful restaurant for a special occasion.

Riviera del Sur– I’ve been to this restaurant/bar in Roma Sur several times with different friends, and I’ve always enjoyed the Yucatecan food. The sopa de lima is a citrusy, pared-down tortilla soup, the kibis, which surprisingly are a lot like Lebanese kibbeh, are a good accompaniment to a cold beer, and the tacos de cochinita pibil are an ideal pork-delivery system (and are especially good if you have a sweet palette, since the pork is cooked in a citrus marinade). La Riviera is spacious and friendly, a good place to get a drink and relax with friends.

Mercado Roma Mercado Roma

Biergarten– On the top floor of Mercado Roma, a swanky market with food booths selling everything from banh mi to popsicles, Biergarten is a German-inspired beer hall that gives patrons the chance to drink a pint of beer outdoors while enjoying good music. The food options are good-I remember having poutine covered in gravy- and if ice cold beer on tap is not your thing, the smashes are a great cocktail option.

Street tacos near Sumesa grocery store, Calle Oaxaca and Avenida Álvaro Obregon. This one is hard to describe because it’s a street food stall, and I have to recommend it without a link, a photo, or a firm description of the location. I hope that this place is still there and still as good as usual. They make tacos with a variety of meat fillings that are topped with whole pinto beans and crispy French fries. It’s the best taco around.

Honorable mention: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

Being a Foreigner

18 Sep
Angel de Independencia

Angel de Independencia

Because I tend to have a general attitude of “I don’t give a fuck”, for the most part, I don’t mind being a foreigner. That’s not to say I go around playing music loudly at night, or littering in public places. I’m conscientious. But I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t like when others do. You only have one life, so why sweat it? If I have to smile and ask a waiter, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is. Can you explain?”, I don’t mind. I don’t blush and swell with excessive pride. I have done this being a foreigner thing before, and I know that sometimes you just have to accept that you look different, sound different, and generally don’t know your way around (at least at first).

I don’t want to be someone who feels especially special and unique by virtue of the fact that I am foreign. When you’re 20 years old and studying abroad during junior year of college, you content yourself with knowing that if anyone wants to know how that is said in English, or what it’s like in America, they can go to you. There were times when I studied abroad in Spain when I would be the only American in the room, and I felt special. One should absolutely accept that being a foreigner offers a unique perspective on things. But it is not all that is unique and special about you. That’s to say that when I go home to spend the holidays with my family, I know that there are aspects of my identity that are more important to who I am than my exoticness, my otherness. I think it is people who have difficulty separating the two who have a tough time readjusting when they go back home.

I also can’t forget that being a foreigner from any old country and being an American abroad are not the same thing. I’ve generally found that being an American in Europe and Latin America means being received warmly, perhaps with a sarcastic remark, and rarely as the first emissary of your kind to visit these shores. I have met maybe three people for whom I was the first American they had ever met. Being an American means you are never too far from familiar things; you turn on the TV and see the same actors with unfamiliar voices; you see the same junk food in the stores, the same golden arches and half-bitten apple at the mall. Here in Mexico, you see hamburgers offered at a lot of restaurants. Breakfast menus often include “hot cakes” (although it seems that someone came here in the 1950’s with that name and it stuck; nowadays we call them pancakes). I try to balance out consuming familiar things, such as the jar of peanut butter that I have at home, with consuming things that I know I’ll find only in Mexico, like eating a $5 lunch that includes soup, appetizer, entree (enchiladas, taquitos, fish), and a modest dessert. As I write this, I sit in a café where the soundtrack and the ambience could be lifted straight out of Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s almost too familiar. I want something disorienting, different, exotic.

But then again, I think about how much I stuck out like a sore thumb today at lunch when I ate at a fonda near work (one of these homespun restaurants offering a menu of the day that is typically only open for office workers during lunch hour). Sometimes it’s thrilling to not look like anyone around (although let’s face it, with my Lebanese Mexican looks I rarely blend into my surroundings), and sometimes it’s tiring. Sometimes you just want to go unnoticed. Again, you don’t want your identity to rely too heavily on being a foreigner, but sometimes you have to embrace the fact that you’re not from here. At the very least, I feel safe. I know that it’s entirely possible that I could wind up in the wrong neighborhood or the wrong taxi and all of a sudden being a foreigner is not cool, it’s an invitation to victimhood.

All in all, I mostly feel happy. Still a bit disoriented- I’m still learning streets in my neighborhood, and then I’ll work outward from there- and still a bit lonely, as I don’t know many people yet, but still very grateful for this feeling. Being a foreigner here makes me feel deliriously alive.