Eating in Mexico City is not a difficult thing. In addition to the numerous fine dining establishments (none of which we visited), there is at least one taquería (taco shop) on every block, and countless “unofficial” restaurants and food vendors lining the sidewalks around the city, especially at every metro station entrance.
In the morning, these vendors offer steaming hot cups of atole (a deliciously sweet corn-based drink similar to runny porridge), and tamales of every kind. Neither Matt, nor I have much of an appetite in the mornings, so we skipped the tamales (they looked delicious, but were just SO much food), and stuck with large cups of atole. Ordering the drinks was a little intimidating because we had to brave the crowds surrounding the vendors while we were still half-asleep, and not speaking much Spanish, we weren’t sure exactly how to order the drinks. We found success by simply asking “atole?” to confirm that’s indeed what they were selling, then saying “dos” to indicate we wanted 2 cups. Once we had our cups of atole, however, we were glad we made the effort!
Our next foray into street food came in the form of ordering lunch at a food stall at one of the informal, open-air markets that surround the metro station entrances. At the time of ordering, we had no idea what the food being sold actually was… all we knew was the place was busy, we were hungry, and the taco-type concoction looked and smelled delicious. It can be a challenge to order something when you don’t actually know what to call it. We typically just say the quantity we want, and when the vendor responds, we try to catch any word we can. In most scenarios, they’ll list the different flavours they have. When we’d catch a familiar word, we’d repeat it back. After stumbling through the ordering process (I’m sure the vendor thought we were crazy), and received our food. We learned later that we had been eating traditional Mexican quesadillas (with chorizo filling), which bare no resemblance what so ever to the Tex-Mex version we are used to here in Canada. In Mexico, a quesadilla is essentially a folded corn tortilla (sometimes flour) filled with a vegetable and/or meat and cheese stuffing. Once we got our quesadillas, which came on a little plastic plate, we topped them with one of the salsas that were laid out along the front of the portable table. You are expected to eat in the area of the food stall and leave the plate behind. A typical meal will usually cost about $15-$20 pesos per person (less than $2 CAD).
It is impossible to convey just how many there are of these food stalls in Mexico City! While they can sometimes be intimidating, the food is delicious and worth all the effort.