Few cities are as compulsively photographable as Mexico's capital. In this sprawling metropolis of 21 million souls, a hodgepodge of architectural styles, bustling street scenes, and the riotous colors of everything from fruit vendors' displays to the city's impressive assortment of old-school vans all call out for a moment in front of the lens.
But Mexico City's most photo-friendly feature is undoubtedly its food. From loaded street tacos to multi-hued aguas frescas, the city's impressively sophisticated — yet equally accessible — cuisine is almost as fun to document as it is to eat. Just ask Juan de Dios Garza Vela, who chronicles Mexico City's street food and fine restaurant cuisine under the handle @mexicanfoodporn.
We chatted with Vela about his drool-inducing Instagram account and, importantly, got his best picks in Mexico City.
What's the story behind your Instagram name?
The true beginning of the name might not be too glamorous, but I was on my couch watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" episode on food porn. I think that for any Mexicans who leaves their country, the first thing they miss is the food. So the blog started on a nostalgic note — what I missed about Mexico.
To explain Mexico, or Mexicans, without mentioning food is impossible. In Mexico, you can ask anyone — the taxi driver, the hairdresser, the policeman — and they will direct you to some good fonda or market. It's like it's in our blood. We love food. I think Mexicans, and the world, are starting to realize how much potential we have as a country. Mexico is one of the most exciting places to eat in the world.
What makes it so exciting?
Mercados, dodgy street hot dogs, amazing and juicy al pastor tacos, confit carnitas to die for, priceless tlacoyos, exciting upscale restaurants — I could go on. I love it all, from the most modest and exquisite esquites in the dirty street to the best meal in Maximo Bistrot.
Sometimes you just want a perfect espresso with a pan dulce. Or to indulge in an amazing plate of chilaquiles. Or go for some tacos, or have an entire five-course dinner. You can do it all here.
With so much to choose from, how do you decide where to eat?
I'm a big fan of walking by taco or torta stands several times and just looking at the people and how much they are enjoying it. That's my cue to try a place.
Probably the best eats of my life have been suggested by a friend — those are the best recommendations.
Also, a big guilty pleasure of mine is talking to cab drivers. I think they should have a Michelin street guide. They know the best spots. They are always on the go; they live and breathe the city.
What do you love about Instagram?
The trippiest part about the account is connecting with people I couldn't otherwise connect with physically: Everyone is a click away. I am very honored that I have an audience that digs my photos and content. They are my tribe, in a sense. I love connecting with amazingly talented chefs. I love being able to be document the behind-the-scenes of restaurants. There is no bigger thrill than to document a kitchen at rush hour.
A Food-Lover's Guide to Mexico City with Instagrammer @mexicanfoodporn
Breakfast Carnitas Worth Waking Up Early For
For breakfast, I love Carnitas El Rincón Tarasco. Perfect, perfect carnitas. I was fortunate to know about this place thanks to my late uncle. He loved food. Like, really loved food. I think I could best describe him as a bon vivant. He woke me very early on a Saturday morning and insisted on eating these carnitas. I hated him for a moment there, but as soon as I took the first bite of the taco I knew why he bothered to come early.
The Best Midday Pick-Me-Up
Sometimes, you're so caught up in the rush of the city that you just want a quick pick-me-up. For a snack, I love the street carts that sell cut-up mangoes.
Where to Go for Tacos After a Few Drinks
Hammered, you say? Then you have to go to Los Cocuyos. It's open 24/7, right in the Centro Histórico. I love them, some people don't, but they are my go-to tacos. People talk about their suadero, but the magic happens in the tripe confit. I can't explain why I love them so much: the story, the setting, the confit on the tripe, who knows? Go. Sober or drunk.
P.S. When You're Tired of Tacos...
This photo is from Fat Boy Moves in Condesa. I love what Marifer and Allen are doing there. Bold, simple, and honest. A mix between Korean and perfectly executed comfort food. An unreal soundtrack; amazing plates. A couple of times, friends and I have ordered the entire menu, plus desserts. The owners are sometimes bewildered by how much we can eat. But once you go, you'll understand why.
Another option: I absolutely love Le Tachinomi Desu. Perhaps I'm biased because lately I've been on an all-Japanese kick. But I think this place, commanded by Norman and Sergio and the Rokai team, could just as easily be located in the middle of Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.
Thanks Juan for your suggestions! For even more delicious photos, follow Juan on Instagram @mexicanfoodporn.