Mexico City’s Best Brunch
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I have flown into countless destinations but nothing tops the colossal expanse that is Mexico City. Once you break through the clouds, buildings, skyscrapers, houses, the spiked copper dome from the 1968 Summer Olympics, and more sweep as far as the eye can see. Climbing up the sides of sleeping volcanos and dipping deep into ravines, life is constantly on the move here. Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport is a daily stop for passengers traveling to Mexico’s breathtaking beaches or south to Central or South America. If you happen to be stuck with a long layover lasting anywhere from 4 a.m. to noon there is surely one thing on your mind, breakfast. What luck! Mexico’s native breakfast dishes are so sensational they will have you singing along with the mariachis with every bite.
As a Mexico City native, I was thrilled to see the culinary world had turned an ear south of the border and was suddenly talking about the deeply flavored dishes of what I call, “the motherland.” Here in Mexico, lunch is not eaten until 3 p.m., so a large percentage of the 8 million plus living in Mexico City proper begin their day with a bountiful meal brimming with sweet and savory delights. Some traditional offerings include eggs, frijoles, salsas, tortillas, chicharrones (pork cracklings) a hundred different ways, fruit, yogurt, local honey, sweet breads, nata (sweet cream), freshly squeezed juices, and more. With countless options it may be overwhelming to navigate where to go and what to order. An easy taxi ride from the airport will take you to El Parque Hundido nestled on Insurgentes in the large, and centrally located, neighborhood of Colonia del Valle. A brisk walk through the dog filled park will get you acclimated to the 2,421 meters of elevation (7,350 feet) while you can sip on (surprisingly cheap) freshly squeezed orange juice from a cart.
Situated just a few blocks down across the street from the park Jardin del Arte, is an inconspicuous restaurant made of native clay with a sliding white door and a red tiled roof. The line begins to form at the infamous Fonda Margarita, aka “El Club de Banqueros,” around 5 a.m., and by 5:30 a.m., in pour late night partiers and salary men on their way to work. By 7 a.m. local artists, celebrities, news anchors, and everyone in between, filter in to gobble up the daily offerings until doors close at 11:30 a.m. When you arrive, a man opens the sliding glass door with a smile and a “bienvenidos” and directs you to where you can take a seat. The nickname, “El Club de Banqueros,” refers to the restaurants bench style seating while also humorously suggesting that it is a very fancy establishment as the name literally means, ‘the bankers club.’ Once you are situated amongst your fellow diners the man resumes playing his maraca and singing songs of romance along with his compañero on the guitar. Breakfast and a show? Claro! This is Mexico.
Each day of the week the menu offers four to six delectable dishes combined with their regular menu items of varying frijoles (beans), huevos (eggs), costillas de res (beef ribs), and pechuga asada (grilled chicken breast). Dishes are cooked in large traditional cazeulas (earthenware cooking vessel) occupying the back of the restaurant in sight of the morning diners. I like to arrive around 9 a.m. on a Thursday specifically for the chicharrón en verde, or large pieces of fried pork skin floating in a warm bath of succulently spicy green salsa. You’d be hard pressed to find a better breakfast in el D.F. than these tomatillo and serrano soaked chicharrones piled high onto a warm corn tortilla with Fonda Margarita’s infamous refried back beans with scrambled eggs. Outstanding! Other offerings on Thursday’s include: tortas de carne, carnero en verde (lamb in green sauce), manitas de cerdo (pigs’ feet), cerdo en verde (pork in green sauce), and bistec en pasilla (steak in pasilla chile sauce). Each dish just as heavenly in flavor as the chicharrones.
“Have you tried the albóndigas (meatballs) they make on Mondays?” asks the businessman sitting next to us downing his Coca Cola as if it were a Cuba Libre. “They are my absolute favorite, my friends and I come once a week just for that.” Whether you come for the albóndigas like these men, chicharrón en salsa verde like we do, or the refried black beans like the rest of the city, a trip to Mexico City would not be complete without cramming into a communal table at El Club de Banqueros. You might even be directed to the neighborhood’s most notorious quesadilla lady for a quick snack before your next flight.
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