Mexico’s northern metropolis is full of fast talking Regios with a head for business, an eye for good food, and a zest for life. This city, too often seen as only a business layover, is finally getting some props in the food department as excellent food and craft beer abound in this hot and humid mix of diverse influences and flavors. Here are a list of our favorites for you to taste.
Restaurant, Mexican, French, $$$
Courtesy of Pangea
Pangea is tackling traditional Mexican cuisine (with a twist) head on. Led by Chef Guillermo González Beristain, Pangea has been serving up traditional regio (Monterrey) dishes since 1998, and from as far back as 2003, it’s been a recipient of many awards, making it one of the best restaurants in Mexico. Beristáin combines his French culinary background with Monterrey’s phenomenal fresh produce to create a wonderful seven-course tasting menu. There are also some excellent items on the a la carte menu like octopus served with chorizo, chickpea stew, piquillo peppers, and lemon coulis. Another thing worth trying is Beristáin’s braised goat cooked in a craft ale that he brews himself. We recommend eating your meal on the terrace surrounded by palms.
Named as one of 2017’s best new restaurants by the readers of Travel + Leisure Mexico, Koli is turning heads with its fine dining versions of Monterrey classics. They are located just outside of central Monterrey in Santa Catarina and offer a seasonal 13-course tasting menu that changes every five or six months. The restaurant was started by three brothers and dedicated to their grandfather (Koli is grandfather in the Maya langauge Nauhtl), in order to show the world that Monterrey was more than just cabrito and machaca. Their menu offers options like grilled steak with bone marrow butter, cauliflower celery and grilled onion, or guacamole with cacao, peas and mezquite flavoring.
Chef Marco Aceves is a Mexican-American transplant in Monterrey who takes his ingridients seriously, but his limelight with an easy smile. Trust, his flaghship restaurant is a mishmash of Monterrey classics, U.S. favorites, and a little splash of the chef’s delightful personality. There are lots of fresh, healthy items on this menu for every meal of the day, but we reccommend the poached eggs with barbacoa for breakfast, the poke bowl for lunch, and the crab tacos for dinner.
Chef Aceves gets two mentions in this list, because his Goose Pub is another location that defines that Northern Mexican combo of U.S. and Mexican cuisine influences. With Goose Island beers on tap (Aceves and the beer are both from Chicago), the menu is Chicago bar food — think shaved roast beef sandwiches, fried cheese curds, and Chicago-style pizza dip. There’s also a massive smoker out front that serves up the delicious cuts you have come to expect in this northern Mexican food mecca.
And now, for something completely different… Monterrey is known for its meat-heavy diet — locals eat almost double the national average — but the Taller Veganico (the Vegan Workshop) is one of the town’s most popular spots. They have classic Monterrey dishes, like barbacoa and machaca, made with vegan alternatives as well as portobello tacos al pastor, quinoa salad, veggie burgers and more, all housed in an old mechanic shop right in the heart of Monterrey’s historico center.
There is no way you can visit Monterrey and not try cabrito at least once while you’re there. While the best roasted baby goat is grilled on the patio of a local’s backyard, there are also endless options for eating it in a more formal setting. El Rey del Cabrito is one of those places, where cabrito takes center stage and everything else is just an accompaniment. Bring your friends as the portions are big and the tortillas never-ending.
An homage to one of Mexico’s most distinctive regional cuisines, Madre Oaxaca brings the flavors of southern Mexico to its northern metropolis. The restaurant has an exhaustive menu of Oaxaca treats as well as both commercial and craft beer, wine and a full bar. The ambiance of the place is really more than enough reason to visit, with colorful Mexican crafts on display in each of the separate rooms of this once-upon-a-time private home. The botana zapoteca will give you a little taste of everything, but the cecina in red mole can’t be beat.
While the sheer quantity of live animals for sale may hinder some eaters from wandering into this weekend market, we guarantee that you won’t find a better and cheaper place to try some of the area’s most classic cuisine AND purchase the ingredients needed to make them at home. Be sure to try some of the infamous flour tortillas of the region, machaca, semitas turcos and the wide range of salsas for sale, as well as local fruits, vegetables and chiles (both dry and fresh). Dozens of food stands set up in the middle of this market to give you a taste of it all.
Monterrey is not know for its sprawling markets, in fact, Mercado Juarez might just be the last of its kind. This neighborhood market sells just about anything you could ever want for hearth and home in addition to lots of great regional cuisine at its stands and lunch counters. You can get fresh cabrito right off the spit, tacos, tortas, and all kinds of stews and meats here. It’s a great place to shop but an even better place to eat… cheap.