The Best Cheap Eats in Mexico City

Tuck into some first-class tacos in the Mexican capital
Tuck into some first-class tacos in the Mexican capital | © MStudioImages / Getty Images
Daniela Castillo Gómez

Despite being home to some of the world’s best chefs, Mexico City is a place that has enough culinary options to accommodate every budget. From traditional restaurants to street stalls, these are the best places to eat in the Mexican capital that won’t hurt your wallet.

1. La Casa del Pan Papalotl

Cafe, Restaurant, Mexican

© La Casa del Pan Papalotl

Mexican bread is severely underrated. Though not quite as established as its European counterparts, it’s just as delicious, with La Casa del Pan Papalotl leading the way. This Coyoacán hole in the wall offers all the local favorites alongside some very reasonably priced vegetarian dishes. You can’t leave without trying the conchas (sweet buns shaped like seashells) and the lunitas de nuez (pecan cookies). If you’re here in November, order the pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread) with a cup of hot chocolate, or plump for the rosca de reyes (King’s Day pastry) if you are in town around January.

2. La Esquina del Chilaquil

Restaurant, Mexican

© La Esquina del Chilaquil

Mexicans love mixing carbs with more carbs, especially during breakfast, and it was thanks to this love that La Esquina del Chilaquil was born. This place combines two popular Mexican dishes: tortas and chilaquiles. Tortas are traditional sandwiches made with fluffy buns, while chilaquiles are crispy tortilla chips covered in salsa. These two meals are usually eaten separately, but the restaurant owners, in a stroke of genius, decided to put them together to create a filling yet affordable snack. La Esquina del Chilaquil doesn’t even have seats or tables. Like in most local street stalls, you need to eat standing up or ask for your food to go. But customers couldn’t care less. Sometimes they wait in line for up to one hour before they can get a bite of that glorious caloric combo and, on many occasions, food runs out before they can order. However, since each torta costs around 40 pesos ($2) and it keeps you full for most of the day, it is worth the trouble.

3. Mercado Escandón

Market, Mexican

Mercado Escandón is not just one place but a group of eateries under one roof. This typical Mexican indoor market offers plenty of breakfast and lunch options, as well as fruit, veggies and meat from local vendors. Just stroll around its hallways and let one of the cooks convince you to sit down and enjoy their dishes. A typical meal doesn’t cost more than 100 pesos ($4), so you can save some extra money for a sweet pastry or a tropical fruit for dessert.

4. La Tappería de Comonfort

Restaurant, Mexican

© La Tappería de Comonfort

La Tappería Comonfort doesn’t serve Mexican food, but it’s still great nonetheless. This place sells budget-friendly Spanish tapas with toppings such as octopus, cold cuts and foie gras. Yes, it sounds very fancy, but the surprising thing is that this eatery is inside the affordable La Lagunilla Market, rather than a posh neighborhood. A large tapa with meat costs around 150 pesos ($6), while a glass of sangria will you set back just 50 pesos ($2). La Tappería de Comonfort is perfect if you want a sophisticated meal without breaking the bank.

5. Taquería El Califa

Restaurant, Mexican

© Marcos Castillo / Alamy

Mexico City is known for its tacos al pastor, and there is no better place to sample them than El Califa. Consisting of spit-roasted meat marinated with spices and chili peppers wrapped in a tortilla, the snack gives you all the flavor of the capital in just one bite. At El Califa, you can find the traditional tacos prepared with pork, pineapple, onion and coriander, but you can also exchange the beef for chicken, add cheese or even replace the tortilla with lettuce. One taco costs around 20 pesos (less than $1), so you can indulge yourself with this flavorful delicacy without worrying about your finances.

6. Churrería El Moro

Cafe, Mexican, Dessert

© Churrería El Moro

Even though Churrería El Moro has made its way to most of the high-class neighborhoods of Mexico City, the original one, located in the buzzing Centro Histórico, still maintains its traditional flair and low prices. El Moro was founded in 1935 and its specialty dish is churros (fried dough pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar) and hot chocolate. It’s open 24 hours, which makes this place a paradise for night owls and sugar lovers on a budget. A single churro costs only six pesos (30 cents), while a cup of chocolate is around 65 pesos ($3). So, if you have a sweet tooth, but you don’t want to splurge, head straight to El Moro.

7. Los Cocuyos

Food Stall, Mexican

© Matthew Suarez / iStock

There is nothing better than good old-fashioned street tacos. Technically, Los Cocuyos is a proper establishment, but since there isn’t any space for tables, diners need to eat these delicacies standing on the sidewalk. However, that only makes the experience even more authentic. There are many taco vendors in Mexico City, but none quite like Los Cocuyos. With more than 45 years selling its famous suadero tacos (smooth beef cut wrapped in corn tortilla) in the Centro Histórico, this place serves customers almost 24/7. Adventurous eaters are in heaven here, with eye, tongue and even brain tacos also on the menu. And the best part? Most cost just 17 pesos (70 cents) – what a bargain!

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