By Carole Reedy
The streets of Mexico City overflow not just with people and cars but also with culture, art, science, and nature. There seem to be no limits. Growth is a near-constant, but the citizenry knows how to adapt to the colorful chaos, making this one of the most beloved cites in the world.
In this megalopolis, the choices for food, drink, restaurants, markets, street snacks, taco stands, and cafes, as well as their diversity of style, are staggering. And amidst this richness, numerous women chefs have made their mark, creating cuisines and venues worthy of their big-city status.
The food scene here supports so many women who shine brightly that it’s impossible to name them all. The choices here are subjective, based purely on my experiences and those of my visitors.
One positive result of the Covid pandemic is the presence of more street dining in our cities. The Mexican government has allowed restaurants to build fashionable wooden structures on streets, sidewalks, curbs, and parking areas, making dining a more social experience, and certainly a better ventilated one. Add the near-perfect climate of Mexico City and you can dine al fresco most days and evenings.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of our top women chefs:
ELENA REYGADAS is the award-winning chef (Veuve Clicquot named her the Best Latin American Female Chef in 2014) at Rosetta, a delectable eatery on Colima street in the heart of trendy Roma Norte. New and repeat customers appreciate not only the high quality of the food and Mexican ingredients, but also her innovative presentation, which sidesteps unnecessary cleverness. This is the first stop for many of my visitors, a favorite dish being the sea bass, though any selection is delicately prepared with just the perfect balance of flavors.
Rosetta is open Monday-Saturday, 1 to 5:30 pm and 6:30 to 11:15pm. Reservations strongly suggested, especially in the evening hours.
Just across the street is Reygadas’ casual Panadería Rosetta, known for its exceptional bread and pastries, as well as sandwiches. The traditional pan de muerto and rosca de reyes are to die for, although only offered during their respective Mexican holiday celebrations. You can eat on site or take out. The outdoor area is perfect for people watching.
Panadería Rosetta is open Monday-Saturday 7 am to 8 pm, Sunday 7:30 am to 6 pm.
Ten years after the she opened Rosetta in 2010, Reygadas opened yet another successful eatery in neighboring Condesa, this time with a new European /Mexican/ Mediterranean concept. Lardo is a bit more casual than Rosetta, with a bar encircling the room, but the food still has the finest of flavors. Lardo’s excellent breakfast is a good choice.
An interesting note about Reygadas for readers of The Eye’s regular book review column: she studied English literature at UNAM, where she wrote her thesis on Virgina Woolf’s experimental novel The Waves.
MÓNICA PATIÑO is a recognizable name among all foodies in the city. She’s won numerous awards and, like Reygadas, two of her most famous and best restaurants are the formal Casa Virginia in Roma Norte and a more casual place next door, Delirio.
Casa Virginia has a fine dining atmosphere, with prices to reflect it. With an ample variety of choices, the French cuisine is delicately prepared and deliciously presented. From figs and Gorgonzola cheese to clams, fish, short ribs, and the classic French onion soup, the food encourages repeat visits.
Casa Virginia is open 1:30 to 11 pm Tuesday-Saturday, and only until 6 pm Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Delirio is a delicatessen with a few outdoor tables on busy Calle Alvaro Obregon (indoor seating is also available). Patiño also sells many of her delicacies at this location, both grocery items and freshly prepared foods. Chilaquiles are a particular favorite, as are the juices. I often stop in just for takeout.
Delirio is open Monday-Saturday 8 am to 10 pm, Sunday 9 am to 7pm.
Early in her life Patiño wanted to learn English and French and moved to Europe to do just that. She studied cooking in France, with an emphasis on pastries, ice creams, and pates.
MARTHA ORTIZ. Let’s travel from Condesa and Roma to Polanco, another upscale neighborhood, close to Chapultepec Park. Here Martha Ortiz Chapa runs her famous restaurant Dulce Patria (Sweet Homeland).
When asked what she recommends to tourists who come to her restaurant looking for Mexican flavors, Ortiz replies:
“Everything we have on the menu. Our menu is small but articulates Mexican stories through marinades, moles, corn and beans. I feel proud of everything we have from a nationalist guacamole to María goes to the flower shop, the place’s flagship dessert, and whatever you experience. What they ask for the most is the duck with mole and the coconut flan with pineapple a la vainilla for dessert.”
CARMEN RAMÍREZ DEGOLLADO created El Bajio restaurant with her husband in 1972, and has carried on the tradition since his death in 1988, expanding from one to 19 locations in the city.
This is one of my favorite places to entertain guests, and I usually do so in the venue at 222 Reforma. The restaurant is colorfully decorated in the purest Mexican style, and the food reflects the vast traditions of Mexico.
My favorite and probably the most popular dish is the carnitas, delicate pieces of pork butt served on fresh hot tortillas. You can ask for it maciza, which means with less fat, just solid meat. Mexican breakfasts, such as huevos rancheros, are also a treat. Please don’t miss the hot chocolate!
GABRIELA CÁMERA. In 1988, this restaurant owner and author opened a seafood restaurant called Contramar that has generated buzz on the streets of Roma Norte ever since. This is one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Try the soft-shell crabs or spicy fish tacos in the airy dining room and plant-filled patio.
Cámera published My Mexico City Kitchen in 2019, the same year she and her staff were the subject of the Netflix documentary A Tale of Two Kitchens and Time Magazine listed her as one of its most influential people.
This modest list of women-led restaurants represents just the tip of the iceberg, but a good place to start your Mexico City food frenzy.