Best CDMX Street Food Tour | Eat Like a Local

While we tried to limit the number of tours we took during our trip to Central Mexico, we knew from the beginning that a CDMX street food tour was non-negotiable. One of the most important parts of the slow travel experience is to eat like a local, and shopping at mercados and from street vendors is without a doubt the way to go if you want the most authentic, delicious, and inexpensive food. Mexico City is around 573 sq miles, and the 16 boroughs that make up the capital are home to over 9 million people, so we knew we needed a lot of help to find the best street food in the city.

Our search for the best Mexico City street food tour led us to John Chávez from Hungry Nomads, and while his reviews on Airbnb speak for themselves (over 600 reviews with a 4.99 average), I’d like to share what made this tour so special. First, a word of advice. We procrastinated on booking the tour, and were very lucky to be able to snag two last minute spots on our third day in the city by emailing him directly. Don’t make our almost-mistake, and make sure to book early, because this is an experience you won’t want to miss!

More Than Just a Street Food Tour: How to Use the Mexico City Metro

We met John at 9:30 AM in front of The National Museum of Art (MUNAL), and were joined by 4 other people, before starting the day off strong by tackling the Mexico City metro. It took a lot of pressure off navigating such a massive system (there are over 200 stations!) to have a guide to walk us through it for the first time.

The tour includes transportation cost, but for $15 MXN, you can purchase a refillable transit card which is also valid on buses, bikes, and trolleys. The metro only costs $5 MXN, or approximately $0.25 USD, and that includes all the transfers you need for each trip.

The posted map is easy to follow, but make sure to pay attention to the number of stops to your destination, as there are no announcements or screens to let you know at which station you are arriving. Another thing of note, the first several cars of each train are designated for women and children only. This gender-segregated system was put into place due to the high levels of sexual harassment, and even attempted kidnappings, women have experienced while using Latin America’s largest metro system.

Eat Like a Local at Mercado de Jamaica

Our first stop was Mercado de Jamaica, which is, among other things, the largest flower market in Latin America. The first thing we noticed is how much roomier this market felt compared to other markets we visited, with wide aisles, and plenty of space to stand out of the way and observe the various vendors. Unlike other markets we’ve been to, this one is open 24 hours a day because the vendors travel from all over Central Mexico (sometimes commuting 5-6 hours one way) to bring their goods here, and therefore depend on that flexibility.

A Local Breakfast

Our first food stop was a restaurant on wheels, located in the main fruits and vegetables aisle. Seriously, everything was set up on a bike and attached cart – I don’t think I would have even known they had food for sale if I was walking around by myself. Here we tried the traditional morning combination of a torta de tamal, or guajolota, and atole (a warm corn-based drink which you might remember from our trip to Oaxaca). Between the hearty tamal sandwich and smoothie-like consistency of atole, this was a very filling duo.

Sampling of Seasonal Fruits

Next up was a generous smorgasbord of seasonal fruits, some that I’d never heard of, including but not limited to, jicama, sapote negro, sapote chico, sapote mamey, guava, cherimoya, and purple bananas. I wasn’t expecting to be so surprised, but all the flavors and consistencies were quite unique if you’ve never tried these more exotic fruits.

A Surprisingly Tasty Street Food

After eating our fill of fruit, we moved on to something we’ve talked about purchasing on the street no less than 10 times, but were always too intimidated to order – esquites. Esquites are a common snack in Mexico, and consist of corn mixed with mayonnaise, cheese, lime juice, and chili powder. Our fears of being served a big bowl of mayonnaise were unfounded, because this was delicious. This stand in Mercado de Jamaica specializes in making different flavors of esquites such as mushroom or chorizo, and they even use the leftover corn husks as a serving bowl.

First Taco Stop

After a sampling of several different types of mole from a vendor who has been passing down family recipes for 3 generations, and a quick demonstration of how chicharrónes, or fried pork skin skin, are made, we made it to our first taco of the tour.

Carnitas Paty is unique in that when you order your tacos, you get to choose what type of pig meat you want. The options include cheek, snout, head, belly, tongue, and shoulder meat – basically any part of the pig you can think of. I had cheek and pork belly and Kelton had snout.

Cachete – cheek

Barriga – pork belly

Trompa – snout

Falda – skirt

Maciza – pork shoulder

Lengua– tongue

Street Food Special Edition

After all that food, we grabbed a much needed quick cortado from Feral Café, a specialty coffee shop that works with small local coffee producers, before continuing on to our second market of the day, Mercado de San Juan Ernesto Pugibet. My favorite stop was one block away from the market, and was essentially just a man and woman in an unassuming alleyway making delicious tlacoyas and pambazos on a small comal.

Tlacoya – an oval-shaped base of masa usually filled with beans or cheese and topped with salsa, nopales, cheese, and cilantro.

Pambazo – bread dipped and fried in a red guajillo pepper sauce and traditionally filled with chorizo and potatoes, lettuce and sour cream.

Make sure you try both of these antojitos on your CDMX street food tour – they were my favorite!

The Unique Mercado de San Juan

Things got interesting when we got to Mercado de San Juan. This market is known for carrying more specialty and exotic meats like crocodile, zebra, llama, and ostrich, to name a few. They also have a selection of boiled or deep fried crickets, beetles, crayfish, scorpions, cockroaches, worms, and even frogs. These various critters are considered delicacies, and after our positive introduction to chapulines in Oaxaca, we were eager to try some more.

After starting out with a selection of flying ants, crickets, beetles, and worms…you know, the tame stuff, I challenged Kelton to try a large cockroach. After biting off half (I think he got most of the gooey insides), he had no problem handing me the other half to finish.

Chapulines – crickets

Hormiga chicatana – flying ants

Chinicuiles – agave worms

Cocopaches – mesquite bug

Don’t Forget About Pulque

After two more taco stops, including one of the first recipes of tacos al pastor which I devoured too quickly to take pictures of, it was time to try pulque – an alcoholic beverage (similar in alcohol content to a beer) made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant. In its natural form, it resembles milk and has a viscous consistency and a sour taste.

John explained that pulque has a complicated history in Central Mexico. When beer was first introduced to the country, an aggressive marketing strategy reimagined the pre-Hispanic “drink of the gods” as low-class, rustic, and even unhealthy or dangerous for consumption. Sadly, the effects of this campaign brought pulque to the brink of extinction.

Since pulque is made from one type of agave that is only found nearby Mexico City, and due to the rapid fermentation process, it needs to be enjoyed fresh and it doesn’t travel well, so it’s a must-try if you’re visiting the sixth largest metropolitan area in the world, as you likely won’t find it elsewhere.

Pulquería Las Duelistas, an over 100-year-old pulque bar, was completely full on a Monday afternoon with young and old alike, enjoying various daily flavors (curado) including guava, celery, and oat. With a recent resurgence in popularity, it’s good to know that the tradition and art of making pulque won’t be disappearing from Central Mexico anytime soon.

Sadly, the 6-hour tour was coming to an end so we had to move on to our final stop, and another Mexico City staple, Churrería El Moro. After a whole day of eating like a local, we only had room for half a churro each – a long strip of fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon or sugar and dipped in caramel or chocolate sauce. You best believe I’m coming back later for the churro ice cream sandwich though.

This authentic CDMX street food tour with John from Hungry Nomads felt so laid back, well-thought-out, and most of all balanced. The pacing was perfect and it was like exploring a new city with a friend who just happened to have a wealth of knowledge to share. His passion for sharing the true identity of Mexico City, and telling stories of the culture and history through food, really shone through. He’ll be offering a variety of future tours including a Nocturnal Taco Crawl and Barbacoa & Pulque, so if you’re planning a trip to Mexico City, make sure to check those out as well!

Note: The route and tastings of this experience may differ due to the availability of street stalls and the day the experience takes place.

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