I’ve been in Mexico City for a month now and I’ve had the chance to check out lots of great places. At night the city comes alive and Chilangos (residents of Mexico City) and travelers alike casually stroll around for a bite, a drink and a genial evening out with friends. The weather here is perfect for that – once the sun goes down the temperatures are just perfect for long pants and a light jacket. It’s really a nice lifestyle.
Of course being alone here most weekends I’m left to my own devices. Which suits me fine! I like nothing better than discovering a city by night. Strolling around, getting recommendations from people and the Internet and just going based on instinct. While I’ve marked most of the places below as bars, they all sell food as well so can make for a great stop after work or a dinner spot.
Crime in Mexico City
Mexico City has an undeserved reputation of being violent and unsafe at night. But I’ve never felt in danger here, day or night. While it’s not the safest place in the world, it’s a far cry from its reputation. As long as you take some basic travel safety precautions you’ll be just fine. The level of security and surveillance here (1 police officer per 100 people; 11,000 cameras) means the chances of committing a crime without anyone seeing it is low. The murder rate is lower than in Atlanta. (Crime statistics provided by Wikipedia.)
They say that with the first kiss of Mezcal you are introduced to it; with the third sip you fall in love. That’s true for me. Having never tried any type other than Tequila before arriving I both got to know and fell in love with the specialty drink. If you haven’t already, check out my short primer on Mezcal to find out why I like it so much.
Okupa 205 – This bar is located along a quiet street in the Colonia Roma area. It’s not well marked and inside it looks like somebody opened a bar in their studio apartment for their friends and forgot to close the door. Small and intimate, with a jukebox to hold in high regard, packed with surf, old hip hop, early punk, etc.
They have a variety of Mezcals and beers, as well as cocktails. This includes standards like mojitos and others, plus some Mezcal cocktails. It’s the only place I’ve seen a lassi cocktail, and it’s fantastic!
Phil is the guy to talk to here. He’s got a passion for Mezcal, music and movies. He learned to speak English by watching old VHS tapes and listening to the Beatles.
Thursday they have 3 for 2 Mezcal. Wednesday is 50 pesos for any drink. Tuesday 2 beers for 50 pesos.
La Clandestina – This may be one of the best bars in the world! It’s incredibly popular with hipsters and the well-dressed Chilango set both. The wall behind the bar is filled with glass jars of Mezcal, from which portions of various sizes are sold. You can also buy the ones that are bottled for retail sale. Unfortunately my favorite, the Mezcagnac, isn’t among those for sale. In fact, about half of the varieties here aren’t for sale – they’re simply not made in quantities large enough to bottle and sell.
I’d say more about this place, but you need to experience it for yourself. Look for the place with no sign that’s too busy to get into with patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk enjoying craft brews and sipping Mezcal and you’ve found it.
Mexico loves beer. That’s the conclusion I’ve drawn from the explosion over the last few years of craft breweries – up to 20+ now. And they turn out good beer with influence from around the world. This is increasingly replacing the giants like Corona and Modelo in bars and fridges around the country.
The Beer Box – “We wanted a place that doesn’t serve Corona,” the owner of the latest of the franchise store/bar told me. It has been very successful. Serving dozens of Mexican craft beers as well as about a hundred other beers from around the world, this place is a clean, modern spot to pick up some fine beers.
El Trappist – A beer bar for connoisseurs of Belgian style beers, as well as other fantastic brews from around the world. They also serve great meat and cheese platters.
More than just coffee shops, cafes in Mexico City are as likely to be open at 1AM as 8AM. Many sell beer and wine alongside pastries and java. They’re a nice, quiet place to be at the end of the night with friends talking and enjoying the cool night air. This lends the city an European feel. Mexico City has quite a few local chains, as well as many independent coffee shops.
Cielito Querido – A Mexican chain that’s quickly become my favorite place to go for a caffeine fix, these are springing up in quite a few places. They make excellent coffees, as well as horchata – a cold Mexican drink made from sweetened rice, milk and nuts that has a slight melon flavor.
Cafebria El Pendulo – A combination coffee shop and bookstore with a few locations. On weekends local musicians play soothing tunes for brunch. Very classy places that make Barnes and Noble feel like Walmart.
La Cervecería de Barrio – More restaurant than bar, this chain has decent Mexican food and is always popular at night.
La Casa de Toño – Cheap, tasty eats.
Cueva de Lobos – Cave of Wolves. It’s a loud rock and roll bar with live music upstairs and cheap beer buckets for sharing with friends.
Expendio de Pulques Finos – The jugs at the bar are some kind of fermented fruit drink. Don’t want to drink a lot of them but interesting nonetheless. 3 floors. Kinda reminds me of the places in Budapest that just take over an abandoned apartment and turn it into a bar.
Take a walk through the parks – Mexico city has many public parks. Why not have a nice stroll? Have a seat and watch others walking by, enjoy the cool breezes and chat with friends.
Out of India and don’t have time (yet) to fill you in on all the details, but here are the high points.
- Attended an Indian wedding (reception) with a Bollywood starlet and the son of a prime minister.
- Toured a wildlife sanctuary. Watched an elephant charge a motorbike. Spotted deer, sambhar, monkeys, bison, lots of birds.
- Was the guest of the house at a resort on a working coffee, vanilla and pepper plantation.
- Had to change plans because of a general strike called by the government of one of the states.
- Had several issues with travel and logistics but wound up where I needed to be without serious incident.
- Ate a hamburger, Chinese and Indian sweets in the same meal.
- Experienced life through the eyes of an Indian family as they live it every day with drivers, family time,
- Learned much more about the politics, languages, cultures and peoples than anyone could be expected to in the short time here.
- Found out the contrast of meanings between TII (this is India) and true Indian Hospitality.
Update: Now posting my experiences.
While in India I visited a great place called Tranquil Resort. It’s set on a 400 acre working coffee, vanilla and pepper plantation, tucked into the hills above a small but busy village of Sultan Bathery. Treehouse huts and more traditional rooms await you, but it’s doubtful you’ll spend much time indoors. 5 hours drive from Bangalore and 2 hours from Mysore.
I found myself hiking up the “Braveheart” trail to the peak of the mountain behind the resort. I was followed by a boxer named Shadow – one of the house dogs. He encourages me along in a friendly way; much less friendly are the winged insects buzzing around, though they do encourage you to move. Local monkeys sat and watched me curiously from a distance in the trees and on the rocks as I awkwardly bent to get a good line of sight through the leaves to take photos. The sun faded in and out behind the clouds. I was certainly happy for the shade; the jungle was hot and wet enough without the sun’s contribution.
Unfortunately I overdid it on the walk. It’s only about 5km but rugged. Someone who’s actually in shape would have been just fine at the pace I was going, but I wasn’t smart enough to slow down to my speed. I moved from “Braveheart” to “Terminator” to “Indiana Jones”. I skipped a route called “Cliffhanger” not because it was harder, but because it was a bad movie. And also because it was hard.
I got back down after about 5 hours walking. It was made harder since I had a touch of “Delhi Belly” and not enough water. I went to my room and changed, then hopped in the pool. Cool and refreshing. Ahhhh. Then to a nice hot shower. Towel off, change clothes and get to lunch. Wonderful morning.
After lunch I went off property to a nature preserve. The resort is only about a half hour from the preserve. I took the trip with a driver in an open jeep. We stopped at the gate long enough to get a guide – required for entry – and continued. We went around inside and almost immediately saw an elephant. But it was a work elephant. The day before on the way to the resort I’d seen another one. This one was not tame and was in fact charging a motorcyclist who’d been taunting it. Good for the elephant! But we hadn’t paused long enough to grab a photo of the beast. In the park I had the opportunity to see lots of spotted deer, sambhar and monkeys, but no tigers. The driver and guide were happy with that but I was a bit disappointed. Se la vie.