Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

Nicholas Gilman es un renombrado periodista gastronómico radicado en la Ciudad de México.

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Colonia Roma's Best Mexican Restaurants

Colonia Roma's Best Mexican Restaurants


There are so many eating establishments in the Colonia Roma, and very good ones, that a simple 10 best list is impossible so we have divided it into two, Mexican and non. Here’s our Mexican list.

Fonda Fina’s publicity tells us that “…we are an homage and a throwback to the origins of our home cooking.” This smartly appointed wood and tile spot, done in the obligatory retro style, nods knowingly at its down home neighbors, but the emphasis lies more on the fina than the fonda. Food is sophisticated yet earthy; it's well executed by talented and personable chef Juan Cabrera. There’s heart in this food, and creative indulgence stays safely at a distance, opening the door to a smart, accessible repast. The smartly appointed wood and tile dining room is done in the fashionable retro style and is relaxed and cozy. It’s honest and Mexican and very good. See: Fine Dining @ Fonda Fina

Medellin 79, tel. 5208-3925, open Monday – Saturday 1- 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. View map Average pp: $300

La Docena is the D.F. branch of the Guadalajara hotspot which is now included on S. Pellegrino's Latin 50 Best list. Young chef Tomás Bermudez is at the helm. The raw bar is one of the best in the city: ‘docena’ refers to oysters, flown in daily from the Pacific coast. The kitchen, whose concept is somewhere between New Orleans and Baja California offers simple grilled fare – the oysters a las brasas are augmented with shallot butter, Rockefeller, with the usual heap of ingredients. Burgers and po’ boys are artfully prepared. Artisan beers are offered. Ambience is cool and relaxed. It’s a party and you’re invited.

Álvaro Obregón 31, at Frontera, tel. 5208-0748, open daily 1:30 p.m. - 1 a.m. View Map Average pp $400

Barbacoa, the method of cooking wrapped meat over coals in buried ovens, is a technique that has existed in many places and cultures, including pre-conquest Mexico. Nowadays, barbacoa refers to a specific style of cooking from the center of the country, that is, Puebla, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Guanajuato, the State of Mexico, Michoacán and Morelos. These are the states that happen to produce pulque, therefore, the leaves of the maguey are used to wrap the meat, principally goat or mutton, before it is roasted. Most barbacoa restaurants are only open weekends, as the meat is prepared outside the city and shipped into town. El Hidalguense family-style uber-Mexican restaurant sports typical folkloric decor and friendly service. It’s the best bet for classic barbacoa in the Roma/Condesa area, and also offers a full menu of breakfast items such as eggs and antojtos as well.

Campeche 155, tel. 5564 0538, open Friday - Sunday only, from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. See map Average pp $250

The verb “guisar” means “to prepare food” implying more elaboration than the literal “cocinar”. Guisados are stews i.e. meats or vegetables in sauce. They can consist of anything at all, from chicharrón (pork skin) to eggs, to picadillo to pure vegetables. Any prepared or stewed dish heaped onto a taco is a ‘guisado’. While guisados venues traditionally offer their wares from clay cazuelas, modern stainless steel is becoming more common. In business since 1948, El Jarocho restaurant offers a large range of classic tacos de guisados such as carne de cerdo en salsa verde con verdolagas, pollo pibil, and moles verde and rojo. While seemingly expensive at 41 pesos each, the tacos are large and come with two tortillas so it’s really a 2-for-1 deal.

Manzanillo 49 (corner of Tapachula, behind the Sears, 1 block from Insurgentes), tel: 5574-7148, open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. See map Average pp $150

El Habanerito is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that offers some of the best Yucatecan food in town. It is run by the affable young Joselin Dzul.  Although she grew up in the capital, her grandmother was Yucatecan and her recipes have been passed on to Joselin who felt that it was time to show the world how her grandmother’s cochinita was really supposed to be done. She opened her tiny locale in 2013, later moving to the other side of La Roma. The menu includes such classic Yucatecan dishes as relleno negro, papadzules, sopa de lima and empanadas de chaya. She explains that while due to the urban setting she has no ‘pib’ or traditional clay oven, the marinated meat is baked wrapped in banana leaves to give it more depth of flavor. Six traditional fiery salsas are offered. This is the best option for Yucatecan food in the area.

Frontera 177 (at Chihuahua), Colonia Roma, tel. 55 2742 3699, Open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 10 – 7:30, Sunday, 11-6 - See map Average pp $150

Oaxacan cooking is perhaps the most talked about in and out of the country, but a highly skilled and artisanal interpretation of it has eluded us – until now. Chef Fernando Martínez, who also runs Senerí, artfully reproduces traditional recipes with a contemporary vision that respects integrity and quality. Many varieties of moles are offered, a dark, smoky chichilo is the chef’s favorite. It’s of pre-hispanic origin, the grandfather of the more elaborate and European influenced moles negros and rojos. Here, it’s served turkey and features the burnt – not toasted but burnt- seeds of the chilhuacle, that hard-to-get dry chili from the south. Most ingredients, even criollo (native) corn for tortillas is brought in from local Oaxacan sources, while fresh ingredients are local and organic, many from the nearby chinampas of Xochimilco.

Colima 268, tel. 6387-0358 Open Monday - Friday 6 p.m. – Midnight, Saturday 2 – 11 p.m., Sunday, 2-6 p.m. See map Average pp $500

One of my favorite places to eat seafood is Contramar. Young owners Gabriela Cámara and Pablo Bueno opened their hangar-size space, decorated like a beach palapa, in 1998 with a simple vision: “to serve good food in a comfortable environment”. The menu has evolved over the years, and while it has become a fashionable, some might say trendy venue, the quality of the food has only improved. Simple west-coast fare with an occasional European or Asian touch is offered: tostadas, ceviches, tacos, sashimis are where it's at. Start with an order of sashimi de atún, a signature dish, the fresh, thinly sliced tuna served on a crispy tostada or a coctél de callo de hacha (scallops). The classic Spanish pulpos a la Gallega, tender morsels of octopus sautéed with garlic, olive oil and paprika is done to buttery perfection. Reservations, are a must – it is always packed.

Calle Durango 200, near Plaza Cibeles, tel. 5514-3169, Open Monday-Saturday 1 – 6:30 p.m., Sunday 1:30-6:30 p.m. See Map Average pp - $500

This friendly place specialises in the cuisine of Chihuahua, the northern state from which owner Raul Vargas hails – his wife is from Jalisco, which explains the incongruous use of “Tequila” in the name. Set in the second floor of an old house, the cheerful red and blue tablecloths, yellow walls, old wood floors and Northern-themed prints are warm and comforting. The menu features specialties of the region such as asados, meats prepared in a red “colorado” or green “pasado” sauce and served with large, fresh wheat tortillas. The sopa de tortilla is fragrant with cumin and served with chicharrón, avocado and roast chiles as a garnish, and the frijoles norteñas are garnished with queso Chihuahua, pungent fresh cheese and different chiles. The lemonade is rich and not too sweet, and deserts, such as Tequila flan are exceptional. Ask to sample their special house mezcal. No credit cards are accepted.

Toluca 28-C at Baja California Metro Centro Médico (at the “Toluca” exit) (not on map) Tel. 5584 5250 Open daily 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. (see map) Average pp $300

I used to live upstairs from this place, so I ate here a lot, always happily. They specialize in hearty and delicious pozole verde, a thick green soup from the state of Guerrero. It is similar to the red kind, but instead of tomatoes, ground pumpkin seeds thicken the soup base. Their tostadas are especially crisp, thick and redolent of corn. There is often live guitar music.

Calle Zacatecas 59, between Córdoba and Mérida, See map Open daily Noon-10 p.m. Average pp $150

Grazing in Ensenada or "Don’t Bother Me I’m In Fish Heaven"

Grazing in Ensenada or "Don’t Bother Me I’m In Fish Heaven"

The 12 Best World Cuisine Restaurants in La Roma

The 12 Best World Cuisine Restaurants in La Roma