Viva, Viva, Mexico City

While ACL pulses in Zilker Park, Mexico City stages Corona Capital, its own guitar fest that boasts much of the same A-list talent. The festival was a great excuse to check out the city’s infamous nightlife.

A compelling blend of historic and modern, and an ongoing cultural and culinary renaissance, has put Mexico City in the international spotlight for the last several years. With distinctive restaurants, hip cocktail spots, and sleek boutique hotels (overlooking ancient churches and castles), cool neighborhoods like Condesa and Roma (think Soho, 20 years ago) are drawing arts-minded visitors from around the globe. That shows no signs of stopping: of late, Mexico City (or DF in local parlance, short for Distrito Federal) is on everyone’s list. Check out the taco tour with famed Noma chef Rene Redzepi in T Magazine, and the recent fashion shoot in The Wall Street Journal Magazine that used the city’s vivid palette as a dramatic backdrop.

So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to attend Corona Capital, the two-day music festival that featured over 55 major acts (several who had performed at ACL the day before, including Kings of Leon, Jack White, Massive Attack, and Belle & Sebastian). The two-day marathon of electric guitars proved to be the perfect springboard to explore one of the hottest art and culinary scenes on the planet.

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Here, my favorite moments of inspiration.

  • I loved the funky 60’s palette and mod vibe at Camino Real Polanco México. Sip a cocktail and take in the international scene in Blue Bar Lounge (it’s suspended over water). After a particularly enthusiastic night on the town (and there are many here), revive yourself with a cappuccino doble and huevos divorciados at La Huerta, the hotel’s casual restaurant just off the main lobby.
  • Awesome ceramic tile, a rustic setting, chile-infused cocktails, and “comida casera Zapoteca” (pre-Columbian Oaxacan cuisine, including mole Amarillo and truly amazing cricket tacos—trust me on this) made Yuban in Roma one of the most memorable meals of the trip.
  • A friend and I stole away for late lunch at Contramar, a bustling seafood restaurant where a well-heeled crowd kicks off almuerzo with a bottle of albarino (around 2 in the afternoon) and extends the meal well into the evening. Make a meal of small plates like octopus with potatoes and smoked paprika oil, mahi mahi ceviche, and tuna tostadas (their version inspired the same appetizer at Austin’s La Condesa.
  • Start your walking tour of Roma, one of the hottest hoods, with a lazy brunch (think Huevos baked in a ceramic cazuela, with nopalitos, chiles, and Chihuahua cheese), at Belmondo a casual restaurant that’s become a mecca for musicians.
  • Spend an afternoon at the gorgeous Diego Rivera Studio Museum, the landscaping will remind you of our own Hotel San Jose, and then indulge in the most elegant margarita presentation around at Restaurante San Angel Inn.
  • The best meal of the trip was the tasting menu at Maximo Bistrot Local a small, spare space where Chef Eduardo García’s refined seasonal fare (Octopus ceviche, cured ham with tomato toasts, burrata with young vegetables and balsamic syrup) has made him one of the stars of the Mexico City dining scene.
  • Stop for a mezcal (or two) on the rooftop terrace (overlooking the castle of Chapultepec and Espana Park) at the sexy Condesa DF Hotel, the property from the creative forces at Grupo Habita that helped fuel the DF buzz.

Other upcoming events to inspire a trip to DF

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