Tuesday, March 26, 2024

36 Hours in Mexico City

Trip date: October 2023

This trip was all about finally getting to Oaxaca with my friend Aaron, but as I had to fly through Mexico City to do that I decided to spend a quick 2 nights there. The first night I'd be on my own, and then Aaron would meet me the next. It had been 8 years since I had been last!

Currently there is only one direct flight a day from Seattle, available thru the Delta website and on Aeromexico metal. The direct flight was not offered on points so I just bought an Economy Comfort seat. 

I got lucky and no one was in the middle seat. I hadn't flown Aeromexico before and was impressed with the hot breakfast served. But what I was very surprised by was when I asked for a glass of wine and they let me know that there wasn't any beer or wine, just tequila, vodka, & rum served from large liter bottles on the 5 ½ hr flight! 

It was late afternoon when I landed and it was very easy to request an Uber to pick me up and take me to my hotel. I was staying at The Red Tree House in the Condesa neighborhood. This 21-room boutique hotel had been recommended to me by multiple people. It books up extremely quickly as almost everyone I met there was a repeat customer. 

I absolutely loved this hotel! My room was good, I was in the Frida room, but it's more about the interior courtyard garden where Happy Hour is served from 6-8pm nightly and breakfasts are served in the morning, the multiple communal spaces in the main house, and the incredibly nice employees. I highly recommend, but book far in advance. 

The Condesa neighborhood is very safe, but being solo for my first night I took Ubers to my destinations. Almost all my rides were about $5! Amazing!

My first stop that night was in the nearby Colonia Juarez neighborhood at Handshake Speakeasy, currently #3 on the 50 World's Best Bars list. It's important to make a reservation here as it's small and you will only be given a 90 minute time slot. I don't want to give anything away about the speakeasy, so I'll just say that I loved it, loved my cocktails, and would absolutely recommend it.

For dinner I headed to #49 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants, Rosetta. It's a beautiful space with tables set up in an open courtyard and soft lighting. And the menu reads deliciously. 

I was very excited for my elote tamales, but when they arrived (about 3 minutes after I ordered) they were barely lukewarm. My fresh fish baked in a salt crust arrived right as my partially eaten tamales were taken away. This was cooked well but the fish was very plain and only served on a bed of watercress. I had 1 glass of wine and a bottle of water and was presented with the check having been there for just 55 minutes. To say I felt rushed is an understatement. 

Recently a friend of mine also ate solo and had a horrible experience, while others in a party of 2 had a wonderful meal. Personally I think you can do much better in this culinary city and I'm not sure how the restaurant scored a coveted spot on the 50 Best list. YMMV

I left to have a nightcap at Fifty Mils, in the Four Seasons Hotel. This property is absolutely gorgeous!! As is the bar. 

The team behind the bar was just ok, they didn't know much about the brands on their shelves when I inquired. They were definitely more interested in chatting with each other than in the customers. I'd say it's a fine place if you are in the area and have a thing for hotel bars, like I do, but otherwise it's an expensive place for just an ok experience. 

The next morning I had a delicious breakfast in the garden area of my hotel. I helped myself to a buffet set in the dining room with fresh fruit, breads, yogurt, juice, and coffee while the women in the kitchen made me the morning's dish of chicken "enchilada". The manager Victor delivered it to me with a bowl of salsa and instructed me to eat it like a taco, with my hands.

It and the setting were excellent! 

Aaron would be arriving later in the morning so I went on a little stroll around Condesa to see more of the area in the daylight. The streets here are lined with trees and sidewalks cut through a series of small parks. It was cool and quiet and I could hardly believe I was in a city of over 22 million people! Mexico City is the 6th largest in the world!

On the main street, I passed by lots of street vendors selling all sorts of food and drinks. It was almost lunch time and the neighborhood was starting to smell delicious!

I headed back to the hotel and met up with Aaron and then we walked the short distance to our own lunch destination, the very busy Contramar. Reservations are absolutely essential here unless you are ok with an hour + wait. 

This is one of Mexico City's most famous restaurants to lunch at. The entire menu consists of seafood that has been caught and flown in the same day. Everything on the menu sounded so good! We started with ceviche of sole, celery & chile manzano and an order of their well-known tuna tostadas with chipotle mayonnaise, crispy leeks & avocado. Outstanding!

Our main was their famous pescado a la talla, a whole grilled fish, half with red adobo rub & half with parsley rub. It comes with tortillas so you can make a fish taco or just enjoy it on its own. It was absolutely fantastic, even though we couldn't finish it all!

Somehow we managed to share a piece of gorgeous meringue pie with fresh strawberries after! We also asked our waiter about assorted mini brandy glasses we saw on a lot of nearby tables. He explained it was a "Mexican Flag". One glass has fresh-squeezed lime juice (green), one has tequila (white), and the 3rd has Sangrita (red). You take sips from each of the glasses, combining the flavors in your mouth. It was a very fun and boozy way to end our 2 1/2 hour lunch. This place is fantastic, I highly recommend! 

Back at the hotel we joined the other guests for glasses of happy hour wine, everyone comparing their days/trips/etc. It was a really nice group of people. Then we were off to check out another cocktail bar!

Hanky Panky Speakeasy, currently #22 on the World's 50 Best Bars list, is not easy to find! Luckily a passerby on the street pointed us in the right direction after we exited our Uber and started looking on the wrong side of the street. Again, I don't want to spoil anything so I will not comment on how to enter. 

We had a great time here, and really good drinks! Another one I'd recommend!

It seemed impossible but after a couple of rounds we both were feeling a bit hungry. So we headed to El Califa where you can order your tacos costras, cheese that has been griddled and is crispy. YUM!
The salsas here are also particularly good! This is a big, bright restaurant that stays open until 4am. But the food is really good and I'm a sucker for crispy cheese. I ate here the last time I was in town also!

The next morning we were up early for our flight to Oaxaca after a quick breakfast of fresh fruit and churros at the hotel. It was very quiet at the airport so we had an hour to hang out in the Priority Pass Lounge where I had some chilaquiles and a mimosa. 

Unbeknownst to me, I would be back in CDMX 5 days later for an extra night, thanks to Aeromexico delaying my flight out of Oaxaca causing me to miss my connection in MEX. They put me up in a really not-so-great hotel BUT it was right across the street from Handshake Speakeasy! 

I quickly made a reservation on OpenTable and spent the evening enjoying a few more of their lovely cocktails!

When I did fly home the next day, I checked out the Amex Centurion Lounge at MEX. There was a line to get in and it was very busy inside. I sat at the bar and had some really bad food. If you are in MEX I'd choose the Priority Pass Lounge over the Centurion!

I had purchased my return flight home by transferring Amex points to Aeromexico for a First Class seat. Even though they were able to put me on a flight the next day, it was only in Economy which was frustrating since I burned those miles. I reached out to Aeromexico when I was home, asking for reimbursement of the miles I spent and also compensation for the loss of a work day. They ended up giving me $300 but no miles. I will not willingly choose to fly with them again. I mean the fact that they don't offer wine on a flight alone is enough for me to feel that way!

All photos of Mexico City here

Other post from this trip:


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