A Room with a View: El Mayor, Puro Corazón and La Terraza del Zócalo
Why is the combination of a beautiful view and great food so hard to find? Too often I’ve encountered lousy food while enjoying some of the world’s most spectacular vistas, from the rooftops of Paris to the docks of Singapore. A new venue called El Mayor is, unfortunately, no exception. Situated atop a colonial edifice in the heart of Mexico City’s centro histórico, El Mayor overlooks the northeast side of our capital’s Plaza de la Constitución, popularly known as the Zócalo. The view is spectacular, encompassing the ruins of the great Aztec pyramid of Tenochtitlán, the famed Templo Mayor, in its entirety. You enter through the Librería Porrúa and take the elevator to the 2nd floor. Doors open to a broad terrace, a nicely appointed space with white tablecloths and simple, modern furniture —all very appealing The menu looks promising, too. We begin with a classic ceviche, but it’s insipid--no aromatic cilantro, no chile, just lemon juice, and way too much of it. The tostadas de pato are better, the shredded duck nicely complimented by a mildly sweet mole with a hint of chocolate, set atop crunchy tostadas. The standard huachinango a la Veracruzana is hard to ruin, and they don’t, but it has no spark, and nary a caper to be seen. Spaghetti with calamares, however, is barely edible, suspiciously fishy tasting and bland. We leave most of it untouched. “This is the work of a cook, not a chef,” comments my dining partner, Veronica Moctezuma, while surveying the ruined kingdom of her ancestors. Even the service is inadequate. Dirty dishes sit forlornly on the table for 20 minutes, almost unheard of in Mexico, and getting the waiter’s attention is like hailing a taxi during a rush hour rain storm. So my advice to the view hungry: just keep to your right as you exit the elevator. There’s a café in one corner of the terrace where you can order coffee and a sandwich, enjoying the same fabulous view for a fraction of the price. Next time I’ll save my 600 pesos and sit there.
Another top floor restaurant, Puro Corazón, fares much better. Located on a sixth floor terrace at the west side of the Zócalo, it offers a breath-taking panorama of the entire plaza (the largest in the Americas). the food here is decent, if nothing to write home about. The unpretentious menu utilizes typical local ingredients such as pulque, tequila, squash blossom flowers and huitlacoche. You’ll find such interesting sounding dishes as tortas de huazontle (a green vegetable used by the Aztecs, common in the market but unusual in restaurants), tacos de machaca de camarón (made with dried shrimp), and chile en escabeche relleno de tinga de pollo (vinegared chile stuffed with chicken). Bring your out-of-town guests and share a couple of dishes; you won’t be disappointed.
Finally, worth a try is the newly reopened Terraza del Zócalo. Don’t let the entry, in a cluttered jewelry mall put you off. This terrace atop a colonial building on the west side of the Zócalo, affords optimum views of the Plaza and the Cathedral. The menu offers well-done Mexican standards - great for a drink and snack. .And on a clear day you can see forever...well, maybe as far as Popocatéptel.
Restaurante el Mayor
Republica de Argentina 15 (corner of Justo Sierra)
Open daily form 1:30 to 7pm
Puro Corazón (closed 2018)
Monte de piedad 11. 6th floor between Madero and 5 de Mayo, Zócalo.
Tel.: 5518-0300 ext. 121
Open daily for breakfast and lunch
Take the elevator to the 6th floor, but walk down so you won’t miss the excellent crafts shop occupying several floors of the building.
La Terraza del Zócalo
Plaza de la Constitución 13, 6th floor, Centro
Open Monday-Thursday 1-8 PM, Friday, Saturday 1 PM - 12 AM, Sunday 1-6 PM
This article was previously published, in part, in The News Mexico City
Hugo January 19, 2009 I went to the opening of el mayor and they had delicious canapes, but i have not gone back to try the food sitting down in the lovely terrace. Regards, Hugo
Changa Pelona January 19, 2009 El Mayor was a big disappointment for me too, the service was awful, kind of pretentious in a way and not caring at all for the costumer. Let's not talk about the food, it was abominable, and the prices.. BIG NO NO... I share your opinion on the next cafe, better grab a beer and grab the scarce sombrillas they have around. The sun was killing me this past december. Love your Blog!
Anonymous January 22, 2010 sorry.. I love your blog, so really, no offence.. but you might want to tell your friend.. I am a cook, not a chef, and the food I make always tastes good. There is only one chef per kitchen, who often can't taste everything, and many cooks working under him, and if only chefs could cook, you would spend more time waiting for your delicious food than enjoying it!