Under new management

November 19th, 2015


photo 2

Photo by Hamish Anderson

The French café Padam, on Avenida Veracruz between Calle Durango and Calle Sinaloa in the Colonia Roma Norte, was recently acquired by the guys who have run the pizzeria Zazá around the corner for a decade. One of them, Lalo, actually did time in the kitchen of a Parisian restaurant, so he knows the territoire. I’ve eaten there a few times since the place changed hands and have had excellent versions of traditional French cafe fare, like the croque monsieur, the salade Nicoise or (pictured above) the salade Lyonnaise. They also do a standout chicken in rosemary sauce, and have one of the best 100-peso comida corridas in town (yesterday I ate a cream of shrimp soup, a salad with fresh lettuces and roasted vegetables, and a piece of grilled fish). For the moment, they open for breakfast and lunch and close their doors around sundown. If only we could convince them to stay open for dinner.

Labels: Mexico City



Chucky and his sister Catrina

November 9th, 2015


Photo by Juvenal Acosta

The night of the Day of the Dead at cantina Ardalio, Avenida Revolución and Calle José María Vigil, these two figures appeared. Most of the patrons, lubricated by alcohol (and perhaps secretly frightened by the visitors’ spooky outfits),  unstintingly handed over cash gifts for their trick-or-treat efforts.


Labels: Mexico City

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Blue Monday

October 26th, 2015


Monday morning last week, on October 19, a dead body was found hanging from a bridge in Iztapalapa, the most populous and the most dangerous of the Federal District’s 16 delegaciones (boroughs). His body wrapped in bandages and a black mask on his face, the dead man had been tortured and shot through the head twice. The next day another corpse was found in the same district — blindfolded, hands tied, upside down in a barrel and burnt to death. A third cadaver was found in Iztapalapa the following day, with a threatening message directed at Miguel Angel Mancera, the mayor of Mexico City.

On the afternoon of that same Monday the 19th, in the Colonia Roma, at a restaurant called Belmondo (one of many that have signaled that neighborhood’s ascendance as the D.F.’s Hipster Central), five armed robbers disposed some 25 diners of their cell phones and wallets, while they were eating, or waiting to be served, the fancy soups and sandwiches that are the hallmarks of Belmondo’s menu. According to Israel Colón, manager at Belmondo, the previous week a motorcycle had been stolen from one of the restaurant’s neighbors. Here’s a link to a report from El País by David Marcial Pérez about the crimes of October 19, and the increasing crime rate in Mexico City, particularly in Iztapalapa and in the Cuauhtémoc delegation, where Colonia Roma is located.

Throughout his administration, Mancera has bent over backwards to assure the world that there is no organized crime in Mexico City; perversely, he continues to insist that the Iztapalapa murders are isolated incidents with no links to greater Mafias. Nonetheless, other reports suggest that various drug cartels, including La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas and La Union are in a struggle for power in here in the capital. In his book The Interior Circuit, published last year, my friend Francisco Goldman insisted that the cartels had invaded the city.

The most difficult chapter to research in my book First Stop in the New World was the one about danger and crime in Mexico City. With so much information and misinformation out there, it was complicated to distinguish the reality from the perception about how perilous it is here. I came to the conclusion — and still believe — that the collective imagination is worse than the truth. Mexico City didn’t even make the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world this year (although ten other places in Mexico did), and there are many cities in the U.S. — among them St. Louis, Baltimore and New Orleans — where you are far more likely to be murdered than here.

Still, it’s irresponsible of Mancera and other politicians (and some bloggers) to pretend that we’re one big happy family and there’s no danger to living here. There is plenty of armed robbery, car theft, homicide and — perhaps most alarmingly — increasingly more extortion in Mexico City. We don’t live in a bubble. Watch your back.



Labels: Mexico City



Believe it or not

October 19th, 2015

Cheddar 002

There are so many good things to eat in Mexico City that it seems churlish to complain about what’s missing. But for the longest time one of the things I’ve longed for here is a decent piece of cheddar cheese. When I saw this at La Naval, at the corner of Michoacán and Insurgentes — straight from los altos de Jalisco — I was skeptical. What do they know about cheddar over there? But I thought, for 50 pesos, even if it’s awful, I won’t have lost much. And you know what? It’s pretty good. It may not be some sublime English farmhouse concoction — and it may not be precisely what you’re thinking of when you think of cheddar — but given that it comes from some mountain up in cowboy country, it will do okay.

Labels: Mexico City



It’s that time of year again

October 9th, 2015

baby reading

Photo by motivationalmemo.org

For the stubborn who insist on continuing to read, smack downtown, from today through the 18th of October, it’s time for the International Book Fair in the Zócalo. This year, the guests of honor are books from the United Kingdom and the state of Morelos (the latter known more for lawlessness than literacy in recent years). On Friday, October 16, at 4 pm, at the “Foro Multidisciplinario Gerardo Deniz” (in Spanish it sort of sounds like a place where people might go to get punished), I will be reading a passage from my book Las llaves de la ciudad and talking with Nadia Islas Navarro about being literate in Mexico City. 

Labels: Mexico City