It’s easy to eat well in Mexico City, whether your tastes are geared towards high, low or both. CDMX’s fine dining scene is increasingly gaining international recognition, and on the other hand, venturing out on a self-led taco crawl is a tried and true way to experience some of the city’s best bites. But sometimes eliminating the guesswork and gaining access to exclusive or behind-the-scenes opportunities is even better. That’s where the pros come in.
“There’s a cultural exchange that happens when you go on a tour,” says Rocio Vázquez, founder of Mexico City’s Eat Like a Local tour company. “Just getting the food, it’s good of course, but it’s not always enough — you’re not getting the insider knowledge of the person serving it, the history of the dish, why you should be eating in that specific place and everything else that a guide can tell you.”
The tour you take, the people you meet and the stories you hear will shape your experience of any new place or culture. Your tourist dollars can even be put to good use in the community when you’re connected with the right operators. The delicious food is almost ancillary at that point.
“We don’t work with anyone who’s an asshole, which is why we don’t work with a lot of the super popular chefs in Mexico City,” Vázquez says. “We’ve had a lot of hate here, and a lot of people don’t like me, but I don’t give a fuck to be honest. You get to make choices and change the world by giving your money to the right people.”
And you thought you were just going to eat a bunch of tacos, right? When you’re ready to go deeper and come away with insider knowledge in addition to a full belly, book one of these food tours in Mexico City, loosen the belt buckle and get ready to dive in face first.
Eat Like a Local
Eat Like a Local hosts immersive culinary experiences they refer to as “Mexico City food safaris.” With a deep lineup of options, all led by a passionate expert and local advocate, it’s worth highlighting a few of them. “This insider knowledge, it’s impossible to get on your own,” Vázquez says. “But more than that, the personal relationships the tour guides have with the owners of the stalls or the vendors are priceless. That’s what we offer on our tours. You arrive with us and everyone will say hello to you, and you will instantly be welcomed as a family member.”
Vázquez showcases the best of the city while ensuring the vendors and purveyors she works with are well represented and compensated, and she’s particularly dedicated to empowering women. After she was able to escape an abusive relationship, Vázquez realized how central money was for women to protect themselves. “I would never have stayed until my life was in danger — that was eye-opening for me,” she says. She now employs seven women, paying them quality living wages, while also providing women in the marketplace with opportunities and tools for empowerment to become more self-sufficient.
Get started with the Mexican Food 101 tour. This is the comprehensive culinary tour de force you’ve been searching for to boost your knowledge of Mexican food and satiate your every craving. It includes as many as 19 different tastings along the way — there’s coffee and sweets and fresh fruit but also fried corn, quesadillas, carnitas, chorizo, chicharrón and tacos galore. And there’s much more where that came from.
The Badass Mexico Woman Food Adventure focuses exclusively on female vendors, business owners and makers. The five-hour long session includes at least eight food tastings and two alcoholic drinks, and participants will get to hear the stories of the women who are preparing the delicious offerings along the way. The Street Food at Night Offbeat Crash Course is an in-depth tutorial into the fine arts of street food adventuring. Load up on tortas, tamales, tacos and all types of treats as you scour the local scene and criss-cross a number of neighborhoods in search of the evening’s finest fare. It’s a good thing you’ll be walking around, too, as you can expect to sample at least 10 different bites along the way.
How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Mexico CityFive essential taco stands, 11 outstanding cocktail bars, and that’s just for starters…
Intrepid Urban Adventures
Urban Adventures is an offshoot from leading sustainable tour operator Intrepid Travel. The focus is on day tours rather than multi-day or multi-week trips, with jumping off points across many cities around the world. In CDMX, sign up for their Mexico City Market Secrets tour. You’ll dig into tamales, tacos and huaraches, learn how to make salsa from a vendor and get to try specialty beverages such as atole, the traditional corn drink that’s blended and flavored with different spices and seasonings.
If you’re in search of an even fuller belly, consider opting into a nine-day Intrepid Travel Mexico Real Food Adventure. This full itinerary includes stops in Mexico City as well as Puebla, Oaxaca and Huatulco. The CDMX activities include food market tours, plenty of tacos and visits to local churrerias.
Tours by Locals
Tours by Locals connects vetted local experts with travelers and has created a vast worldwide network of thousands of guides across 190 countries. Yes, that means they are locked and loaded in Mexico City and have offer of food-centric private tours. These start at the level you’d expect, with market tours, street eats, tacos and cooking classes, but there are also some unique riffs — such as a Lucha Libre event with mezcal and street corn, one that focuses on Mexican chocolate and coffee and another that marries mezcal and fine dining.
Let’s take a look at two highly-rated options. One is an intensive mezcal and tequila tasting on a gondola in Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The tour includes a market stop and a guided tasting of the spirits, as well as a cocktail session and a tour of the area. Another is a private cooking class where you’ll stock up on spices and ingredients during a market tour before trying your hand making tortillas, salsas and a number of traditional dishes.
Other bookable options include private full or half-day tours where you can give your guide very specific directives such as “don’t stop feeding me tacos until I’m incapable of walking back to my hotel,” or “I want to feel spicy tears of joy running down my cheeks after sampling the hottest salsas and sauces in town.”
Viator is at its best when its tours have been reviewed by hundreds or thousands of fellow travelers. There’s no risk that you’ll have a bad experience when something has been put so extensively through the rigors of internet ratings. That leaves us with a couple of rock solid options. One is a historic center food tour, which has received accolades from the provider and, at last check, has 491 five-star ratings out of 518 total reviews. Visit a handful of top stalls, shops, restaurants and purveyors to sample tostadas, empanadas, enchiladas and more while spending time admiring the city’s old central district.
Next, do a deep dive on one neighborhood with the Polanco Food Tour, another award-winner from the site which has currently garnered 451 five-stars out of 481 reviews. Stop into seven different restaurants and purveyors to try everything from mole and mezcal to chocolate and tlayudas while enjoying the vantage of a different part of town.
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City offers guests more than a luxurious place to rest their heads at night (and you’ll want that comfortable room as you’re working through yet another case of the meat sweats — trust me). The property specializes in putting together memorable local experiences, with one of the current options called An Ancient Culinary Journey. Head to Xochimilco and hop aboard a colorful trajinera, or flat bottomed boat. During the ride, you’ll explore the site and learn about the farming method of the floating garden before indulging in a special picnic lunch crafted by the hotel’s executive chef Carlos Juarez.
La Valise Mexico City is a charming boutique hotel with three suites (soon to be eight, with an expansion that’s also adding more amenities to the property). It’s located in Roma Norte and aims to make its guests feel like they’re living at home and enjoying their own neighborhood. One way to make that happen is with a private walking and tasting tour through its immediate environs in Roma and Condesa, a featured experience that guests can book through the property to savor everything the trendy districts have to offer. The tour includes four taco stops based on the guest’s dining preferences, along with a mezcal tasting featuring five different varieties.
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.