It would be wrong to travel through Mexico City and not get your hands a little dirty. That means eating at markets and testing the street food.
Mercado San Juan is a perfect example of shock value in all aspects food: exotic animals (including their eggs), bugs, fruit, tortillas and juice. Blue corn tortillas are stuffed with beans and grilled on silver metal sheets. Ostrich eggs are perched next to duck and quail eggs on display. Woven baskets of scorpions and platters of sautéed grasshoppers are offered up appealingly with 4 different salsas. And then there’s crocodile, lion and rattle snake available on a menu towards the back. The scene is an experience in itself as you wander past each display.
But you’re not a tourist this month, you’re a local. And you pass up the offer to pay 100 pesos for a scorpion with dip. Yet you do purchase about 10lb of fruit as the fruit seller gives you (unprompted) a ton of samples. You’re essentially guilted into buying, but the produce is exceptional, especially the strange papaya/mango-like fruit called sapodilla and which some say tastes like honey, almond and sweet potato pie.
When you leave Mercado San Juan, you spot a colorful wild-west-looking bar (Las Duelists) with saloon swinging doors, and decide to take a look. The place is covered floor to ceiling in colorful Aztec murals and, as it turns out, has been around since the ’30’s. It’s one of those Pulquerias you’ve heard so much about. Pulque is an alcohol made from the same agave sap as tequila and mezcal, but its origin dates back to the Aztecs who believed it was a gift from the gods. Typically a white milky color with 3-5% alcohol content, the substance can be consumed straight or added to fruit smoothies, which Las Duelists is known for. They have flavors like piña colada (your choice), mango, pineapple, mint, red wine and even Oreo cookie. You wouldn’t say you loved the pulque smoothie, but you’ve now experienced it… and that’s what counts.
You move on to the famous street vendors and for the equivalent of $1 USD, purchase 3 El Pastor (marinated pork) Tacos with a water and unlimited toppings like (extremely) spicy green salsa, which -ahem- some may confuse with guacamole and pile on their tacos. They’re the best tacos you’ve ever had. You cross the street to the oldest churro restaurant in Mexico City, El Moro, and have a cup of café de leche (coffee with milk) and split 4 churros to dip in chocolate sauce with your friends.
Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal
You make your way down the street to the Mariachi section and Tequila Museum where your friends try different mezcals. You stare at 100s of different brands of tequila and make friends with the Mariachi bands.
On the way back to the metro, you pass a man in full get-up: sombrero, gun in holster, matching pants and red jacket with an embroidered cock fight on the back. Is he on his way to a party or heading back to work after a lunch break?
On the subway, you purchase a bag of (what looks like) Cheetos (though they taste like peanut butter) and ride the rails with the locals. You get to see a Spanish rap performance, a set of dancers, and politely refuse the shaving mirrors being sold by a passing salesman.
When you exit the metro at your stop, you walk by a popsicle stand (you’ve been spotting them all over the city) and have a choice of at least 60 different fruit ice or ice cream popsicles. You go for the popsicle with white local fruit, guanoabana, with large watermelon-like seeds and eat it on your walk home… where you arrive just in time to get ready for dinner.
It’s a tough life of eating here in Mexico City, but somebody’s gotta do it.