9 So Called Mexican Foods not found in Mexico City

Mexico City has been full of surprises this summer, especially in the culinary area. Mexico is a huge country with a very strong regional food culture and I’m in no way claiming that the below items aren’t part of mexican food in a broad sense. My friend from Sonora (right below Arizona) often doesn’t recognize menu items when we go out here.

Here are some of the biggest surprises that are totally/mostly absent here:

1) Chips

They have potato chips, which are very popular doused with hot sauce, but I have never seen a tortilla chip. Chips and salsa start no meals. One time my landlord bought fried whole tortillas which she broke into pieces to eat with black beans. That’s the closest I’ve seen.

2) Margaritas

In the words of my mexican friend, “It has literally been years since I’ve had a margarita.” They acknowledge they’re good for the beach but they’re rarely seen outside of restaurant menus. Beer and mezcal are drinks of choice.

What I actually drink when I go out...g&t, just like always
What I actually drink when I go out…g&t, just like always

3) Jack Cheese/melted cheese in general

Monterey Jack and Pepper jack are the “mexican cheeses” we discuss in the US. Here it’s about crumbled queso fresco on top. Melted cheese is only on top of “suiza” style dishes. Other popular cheeses are panela, a firm cheese called Oaxaca cheese in the US, that can be grilled in blocks and queso manchego which bears little resemblance to the spanish version.

4) Guacamole

*Gasp* I make this at home all the time here (or more accurately Tomás does) but I don’t think I’ve had it at a restaurant. There’s tons of avocado in salads and sandwiches and in my case, eaten solo, but it’s not a common condiment. US mexican restaurants seem obligated to offer at least 4 variations on the dish. That would be 100 types of salsa.

Guac with a tortilla, not a chip, made at home.
Guac with a tortilla, not a chip, made at home.

5) Rice and beans

We’re not in Nicaragua. This combo doesn’t seem to be a thing. 

Rice with plantains is a-okay though
Rice with plantains is a-okay though

6) Nachos

Again, no chips. An equivalent would be dorilocos or tostilocos, a small bag of chips sliced open and topped with cheese, jalapeños and hot sauces. They sell this in the subway and I plan to never try it. 

7) Burritos

Burritos, as all mexicans will acknowledge, are a food of the north of Mexico, where they have flour tortillas and so much meat. 

8) Seafood

We’re nowhere near the ocean. There are a few places dedicated to selling mariscos (shrimp and clams and stuff) but it’s not a common thing to eat outside of a dedicated restaurant. Fish tacos belong to Baja. 

9) Desserts like flan or tres leches

Desserts are mostly pan dulce (sweet breads), fruit based things (paletas or nieves) or things like ice cream, which is popular everywhere for a reason.

A lime vigilante, a croissant variation that was beyond delicious.
A lime vigilante, a croissant variation that was beyond delicious.

Has the food eaten in a destination every surprised you in a big way? Let me know!


3 thoughts on “9 So Called Mexican Foods not found in Mexico City

  1. I had the inverse experience in France…the host fam made an “american meal” and just got it so wrong (well, as far as how I eat haa)
    there were hot dogs (with baguettes as buns) and chicken nuggets, and cups of whipped cream for dessert.

    mmmm! p.s. please don’t try that subway “snack”

  2. The amazing thing about Mexico is that it has so many different types of food, depending on which region you’re in. While Mexico City might not be overflowing with mariscos or guacamole, coastal cities like Puerto Vallarta are known worldwide for their amazing seafood dishes and guacamole is actually an ancient dish created by Aztecs in various regions in Mexico. I also have friends from the state of Jalisco that make the most incredible refried beans with Spanish style rice. So, while the things listed here might not be “Mexico City foods,” it is a little misleading to call them “So Called Mexican Foods”

    1. Great point and thanks for commenting/reading. As I noted in the point, the culinary diversity of Mexico has blown me away and I know there is so much regional variety! I used so called Mexican foods in the title to refer to the somewhat limited notion we have of the cuisine in (certain parts) of the US, not to label these foods as “un-Mexican”.

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