eat - reviews, travel - places

My 10 favorite things to do in Roma, Mexico City

  1. Stroll through the early 20th century art deco architecture
Art Deco Balustrade, Roma, Mexico City

Roma is one of my favorite spots in Mexico City, a washed up art deco neighbourhood, once covered in graffiti, twice rocked by earthquakes, and now half-gentrified and made famous by a Hollywood movie that portrayed the colourful streets in monotone. Though Alfonso Cuaron’s historical/personal narrative of eponymous name was a great Mexico City movie, it speaks to a place (his Roma) that no longer exists in 2019. Today’s Roma is chill, flooded with ex-pats and rich kids, those privileged enough to live a laid back lifestyle in Mexico’s Capital.

2. Have an espresso at one of the cafes in Roma, CDMX

Cardinal, Roma, Mexico City
Cafe Toscana, Roma, Mexico City

3. Check out the street art, murals and graffiti

Mural across from Forever Vegano, Roma, Mexico City

I’m pretty sure there are outfits that give street art tours, which you could search up if organized tour are your kind of thing. There’s also dedicated instagram accounts for CDMX street artists, that will tell you where to find murals in Roma, Mexico City.

4. Lunch, Brunch, Lounge on a sidewalk patio

Molletes, an open-faced breakfast sandwich

There are a bunch of beautiful little spots to eat in Roma. The more tourists and ex-pats and money that arrive, the more cafes and restaurants open. I like to imagine it has that run of the century Paris feel, when everyone was an artist living in the eye of the storm between the two world wars.

And lest you forget, for most of the years I was living in Mexico during the 00s and early 10s, it was the most violent country in the world. More people were getting killed every year here, than in Iraq. And if you’re under the impression that it’s gotten less violent, you are mistaken. It’s just fairly safe if you’re a foreigner, or a tourist, only staying for a while and hanging out in a posh part of town.

5. Maxim Bistrot

Agua Mineral & Cocktail, Maxim Bistrot, Mexico City

Maxim Bistrot in Roma, Mexico City is one of my favorite restaurants. Chef Lalo, also, has a brunch spot across the street, aptly named Lalo. Eat at both. Go back for seconds.

6. Visit one of the galleries spattered around Roma

Mosaic of Aztec Gods

There are a ton of little galleries around Roma, niche places selling art to the uber wealthy socialites and consignment places, where artists are trying to make a buck shelling the work from their studios.

7. Mercado Roma

Rooftop Patio, Beerhall at Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma is both everything that is ridiculous and wrong with a gentrifying neighbourhood, if gentrification is the kind of thing that bugs you, or you’re into resisting, and yet surprisingly lovely. A wonderful spot to tuck into an overpriced afternoon beer or salt-rimmed cocktail.

8. Street food: puestas, taquerias, pan, enchiladas, quesadillas

Guacamole con chapulines y tostados
Panederia, Roma, Mexico City

As in the rest of the city, the street food in Roma is often better than the food in the restaurants. People setup stalls for a specific number of hours or days of the week, so you might not find your favourite taco from Saturday when you go back Monday, but the food is hot, fresh and delicious when it’s being cranked out. Your best bet is to walk down Avenida Alvaro Obregon, then turn off one of the side streets, Calle Frontera, or Calle Merida or on the weekend head to Jardin Pushkin and Calle Morelia, where there is actually an amazing Hamburger stand. There are also some good stands farther north, near Glorieta de los Insurgentes, by the corner of calles Puebla and Orizaba.

9. Get out your camera, your sketchbook, or just open your eyes

Volskwagen Camper Vans, Roma, Mexico City

The Roma that I love and lived in for a while, when I had nothing to do, no distractions and no bills to pay, had just graduated from school and was wandering around looking for love, is not going to last forever. Nothing ever does. So you better just go down there and take it all in before it gets swallowed up by earthquake-proofed condos, or a terremoto swallows the whole city.

10. La Bodeguito del Medio, Mojitos & Salsa (the dancing kind)

Selfies at La Bodeguito del Medio, El Mejor Mojito del Mundo

This Cuban spot, a spin off of the place made famous in Havana, has been visited by anyone and everyone, and lasted through several reincarnations of Roma and Condesa and the whole surrounding area. It’s walls are covered in vintage photos and handwritten love notes, and I was heres… it’s the right kind of sentimental, and I used to live in the alleyway behind the restaurant, so I could hear the sound of salsa music and cocineros smoking cigarettes drifting up and into my bedroom window. Don’t blink.

As always, contact me to purchase a print of any of my artwork.

Ricas Tortas Calientes, ‘Tasty Hot Sanwiches” at the corner of Puebla & Orizaba, Roma Norte
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travel - places

A Perfect Day in Mexico City – CDMX dream itinerary

On the February days when winter feels the longest at home in Toronto, I often find myself reminiscing for the years when I lived in D.F., the city of eternal spring, Mexico City, the capital, El Monstruo, the largest city in North America, and for many of us, the most beautiful. Then I imagine my perfect day in Mexico City. At sunrise, I’d walk from my flat off of Alvaro Obregon to Plaza Rio de Janiero in Roma Norte and have a cappuccino at the Cafe Toscano.

Cafe Toscano at Plaza Rio de Janiero

After the first coffee of the day, I’d walk around Roma for an hour or two, strolling back toward Alvaro Obregon and then on to the Plaza Luis Cabrera to see Javier Marin’s statue and linger around the fountains. I’d eat a pan and maybe grab a second coffee at Cardinal, then read or sketch, relaxing for an hour or two and enjoying the screen time out.

Fountain at Plaza Luis Cabrera

Lunch absolutely has to be at Maximo Bistrot. It’s beautiful, delicious and unmatched anywhere in the city, serving a completely unique take on Mexican inspired French classics by Chef Lalo. It is hands down my favourite restaurant, especially in the day when it’s quieter and the sun is out on the patio. A great place to drink a bottle of dry white, like an Albarino, or to pop a frizzante at noon.

Dessert at Maximo Bistrot

Siesta. Then we take an Uber south to the super wealthy enclave of San Angel for a visit to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s compound. They built separate studio houses, with a tryst inspiring Romeo and Juliet walkway bridge spanning the gap between them, and distinct his and hers red and blue colours. It’s a much quieter and more personal museum than the more famous Casa Azul, where Frida was raised in Coyoacan and her whole family lived (you should visit there as well, but this is what I would do in a day).

Diego’s studio with cactus fence

Afterward, I’d head back to Roma for a siesta and pick up a few cervezas for a sundown on the rooftop. Because of the earthquakes, there isn’t much of a skyline in Mexico City, but the lack of showy architecture means almost any 3 or 4 story walk up in the city will give you a panoramic view. There’s usually access to rooftops of most residential buildings because everyone air dries their laundry. So if you can find a way up, you will be rewarded for that one fleeting yet magical moment when the sun slips below the haze and sits perched above the hilltops on the horizon.

Sunset over Mexico City

After you finish your beers, and the light disappears, have a few cocktails at one of the many bars along Alvaro Obregon, and then take the train or an Uber to the Centro Historico. The central part of the city used to be a bit janky, kind of sketchy and barren after dark, but it’s slowly making a comeback since Billionaire Carlos Slim started gobbling up real estate. There’s a ton of good taco spots, but I’d go to my favourite hipster spot, pizza del perro negro, which is the perfect juxtaposition of fresh, uninhibited cooking and stunning, classical architecture in the courtyard of a historic 16th century building at 66 Donceles with a gallery upstairs. There are going to be a lot of mezcals and cervezas throughout the night, and the tacos will inevitably arrive on plastic plates sheathed in cellophane, eaten standing at the corner like the street meat they are, but before a heavy night out, I want something starchy and what better than a pizza pie.

Hipsters making video of making pizza. My kind of place.

I’m not going to list a bunch of cantinas and bars in Centro, that’s a post of its own. My only advice would be to keep eating all the free food they offer you while ordering drinks, and don’t be afraid to Uber from bar to bar, it’s easy to trip on the five hundred year old cobblestone streets.

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