Mexico City - Food Glossary

Even armed with number of guides, I was at a loss to read most menus or street vendor food signs in Mexico City. So, here's a list of the words that you may encounter in the city - feel free to do a web or dictionary search, my explanations (where available) are only approximate!

al mojo de ajo - fish with garlic?

alambre - meat, onions, peppers, bacon, all grilled, on a tortilla, optionally with hot layer of cheese on top

arranchera - thin sliced grilled steak, with spices and cilantro

cafe de olla - black coffe, with sugar, and maybe sweet spices

cecina - beef, thin sliced, salted, dried in the sun

chicharron - pork rinds - boil pork skin then bake it and/or fry

chicharron de queso - at Charco de las Ranas, crepe-like cheese dish

chuleta - pork chop

churros rellenos - con chocolate, cajeta o lechera - filled churros, with chocolate, or milk-caramel, or sweetened condensed milk

costilla - T-bone steak (?)

cuerno de jamon

enfrijoladas - tortillas dipped in mashed black beans, served with chile de arbol hot sauce

estilo español - spanish style, for example, chocolates estilo español

frijoles - beans
- charros - "cowboy" beans - long cooked, with bacon, chorizo, onions, cumin, oregano, chillies, etc
- de la olla con totopos - pinto beans, with fried tortillas (?)
- refritos - refried beans

machitos de carnero - sheep intestine, boiled, braided, and then fried

maciza - boneless pork meat

milanesa - sandwich, with thin slice of meat, and possibly avocado, onion, chillies, etc

nopal - fleshy part of cactus

pasta seca, pasta seca surtida - cookies?

picante normal, or mas picante - normal hot spice, or more hot spice

pizza - rebanada, personal, familiar - pizza - slice, small, or regular

quesadilla comalera - antojitos? at cafe tacuba


Fried dough by any other name, but churros are at the top of the heap.

A fresh, warm (not hot) churro is a great for breakfast, great for dessert.
Nice crispy exterior, crunches when you eat it, and then nice chewy interior.

Churreria "El Moro", right across the San Juan de Letran metro station. It is a bit grungy, and the street it is on, Lazaro Cardenas 42, can be quite a shock to the uninitiated tourist - totally crammed sidewalks, three rows of vendors, you can walk one file only.

Food Rating: 4 stars/4 Value Rating: 4 stars/4

Churreria El Moro can also get very crowded in the evening, but it is open 24 hours.

Most people order the churros with chocolate - Mexican, French, Spanish, or Special, but you can also get it with milk or coffee and whipped cream.
Take out is also available, at N$2.50 per churro, this is an incredible deal.

Of course, I ate churros every day, usually on the way back to my hotel, I would be on the lookout for a street vendor selling churros, amazingly, these are not that easy to find, I was hoping churros would be as widely available as tacos, but that was not to be.

Another great variation is the Churro Relleno - churros stuffed with chocolate, or cajeta (milk-caramel), or leche (condensed milk).
This was N$6, and I found only one vendor in all of the Zocalo.

2007: Another page on churros at this site: Café Tortoni in Buenos Aires.


On the lookout for a good taqueria, I ate a lot of food that I would not have ordered had I known what the spanish word really meant :-)

My simple criteria for a good taqueria is that it should look clean and no open racks of unappetizing raw meats, and it should have a good selection of stuff on the side - fresh salsa, guacamole, red or green sauces, and more is always better. Surprisingly, not all places had these - for example, El Charco de las Ranas, a nice looking place, mid-range costs, did not have salsa or guacamole - I got just a tortilla with chorizo and lime - so that counts as a mediocre taqueria.

Stumbled across a fantastic place - Taqueria Los Parados, at a street corner, Baja California 110, a ten minute walk from Centro Médico metro, opens late, probably 11AM or noon. Definitely off the tourist track! This place has been running since 1965.

Taqueria Los Parados Taqueria Los Parados: Food Rating: 4 stars/4 Value Rating: 4 stars/4
It is standing-room only dining, there is a cook over a large grill, and another one next to the al pastor column of meat.

The alambre is a good choice - grilled meat, onions, pepper, and optionally a thin layer of cheese on top. They heat the cheese in small earthern pots on the grill!

This place was amazingly crowded - not sure where all the people came from in this locality! People also ordered straight to the cook, walking from one end to another, and then when full, went to cashier to pay - how can anyone keep track of what they ate???! This is normal in Mexico - some people will say you should keep track of the paper the taco is served in to add it all up at the end! No one I saw did that. So I guess it is all on the honor system here, you go around order what you need, and then tell the cashier what you ate.

Airport, Metro, and Money

The Mexico City metro is by far the most efficient metro of any city I've visited - better than ones in New York and London.
I was quite surprised to see the trains go by nearly every minute at the downtown metro stations, and even in the rush hour, I did not find it too crowded for a non-local to navigate. There is major crowd control, and one-way sections on the platform, as well as reserved carriages for women and children, which can sometimes get confusing because the signs are not always clear, but there will be a policeman to set you straight :-)

The metro is marked with the logo that looks like "m". From the Airport, if you want to take the Metro, walk to the other end of the long terminal, towards Hall A. Get out to the street, and keep walking the same direction, and you will soon come to a Metro sign, the station is Terminal Aerea. Note that there is another station called Aeropuerto, don't alight there when coming back! It will take around 15--20 minutes to walk from Hall F (international arrivals) to the metro station.

The tickets are extremely cheap - N$2 per ride. Buy a bunch, I usually budget 3 per day of stay.
Most people stay at the Zona Rosa or Zocalo, to go there, take the line 5 towards Pantitlan, and then Line 1, which goes to the Zona Rosa. You have to change to Line 2 from Line 1 to get to the Zocalo. There is a lot of information on the metro on the web.

Note that during rush hour, it will be impossible to take any luggage on the metro. Even off rush hours, it is best to use the metro only if you have small or carry-on baggage only.

Mexico City

When visiting Mexico City, bring a good pair of walking shoes. Very easy to spend hours each day exploring the streets in Mexico City.

It was ten years between my two trips here, and even now, this city continues to keep its reputation as a somewhat unsafe place for the tourist - all guidebooks warn about taxis and robbery.
My impression is that if you keep alert, take good precautions against pickpockets, nothing too extra-ordinary, everything will be just fine. The small amount of carefulness is not a high price to pay for all the things this city offers the tourist.

Food - ordinary, everyday food, including street food, is what I find most fun to explore in this city. But consult any guidebook, and there is no shortage of world-class sight-seeing activities - parks, museums, monuments.

In this section, I'll add my list of tips for the tourist in Mexico City - things that I found were not mentioned either in the tourist guide books or the web sites for Mexico City.

Zocalo I prefer the Zócalo area - Centro Histórico - to stay in Mexico City, but Zona Rosa is considered the main tourist area.
Zocalo is a great big public square, with a huge Mexican flag in the center, and number of historical buildings all around. It is easy to spend hours just exploring, one by one, each street in the area. Some are nice, clean streets, like 5 de Mayo, others are crowded, and grungy, but everything is worth seeing. It would take multiple days to cover every street just in this part of Mexico City.