This is why I like cantinas

If you know my work, you’re probably aware that I have written frequently about cantinas. There is a whole chapter about them in my book First Stop in the New World, and on the journalism page of this website there is an article about them. However, I don’t go to them as often as I did in the bloom of youth — or even five years ago. They are mostly an afternoon affair, and the older I get the harder it is to get through the night after an afternoon of drinking. If I drink too much too early I feel hungover by eight in the evening, and that’s pathetic.

Still, once in a while I can’t resist them. My friend J.M. Servín recently told me about a cantina in the centro histórico called La Número Siete, on Calle Ayuntamiento #21, between López and Dolores. It has recently undergone a renovation, and I had a great afternoon there.

Most cantinas in Mexico City serve botanas — free food that accompanies the drinks that you pay for. At La Número Siete they are abundant and delicious. The day I went there they included, among other things, tostadas with shredded beef, meatballs in chipotle sauce and liver and onions.

You can also order from an a la carte menu, and if that isn’t enough, La Número Siete is next door to El Huequito, a hole in the wall that has what many think are the best tacos al pastor in the city. (They have a lot of competition.) You can order them from El Huequito and the waiters from La Número Siete will run and get them for you.

Unlike many cantinas there are women personnel at La Número Siete, including this subject, who referred to herself as la jefa (the boss).

Or this one, who waited on our table.

Because of the botana, I’ve always thought that cantinas in Mexico City are more civilized than bars in the United States and most of Europe, where you can count yourself lucky if there is so much as a bowl of peanuts to accompany your drink. Drinking always goes down better if good food accompanies it.




12 thoughts on “This is why I like cantinas

  1. Don Cuevas - September 17, 2013

    I know that area of your city and I’ll make a point of looking into La Númro Siete on our next visit.

    Don Cuevas

  2. Don Cuevas - September 17, 2013

    I forgot to ask you if the prices are inflated to cover the cost of the “free” food.

    Don Cuevas

  3. Andrew Paxman - September 17, 2013

    Viva la jefa!

  4. Genevieve Signoret - September 17, 2013

    So many are unfriendly places for women.

  5. Randy Bolander - September 17, 2013

    I know that place because of El Huequito. You had to mention El Huequito, now my brain is going to explode…I love that place.

  6. Judy - September 18, 2013

    David: please no comas pan enfrente de los pobres. Not fair!
    I’m making a pit stop at No. 7 next time I’m in town.

  7. Eira - September 18, 2013

    David: you forgot to visit El Cordobes just in front the Cantina, very good coffee!

  8. admin - September 18, 2013

    Don: Drink prices at cantinas are definitely high — but when you factor in an entire free meal I think they are still a bargain.

    And Genevieve: I don’t know which cantinas you’ve visited but there are plenty here in Mexico City where the service is friendly, cordial and accommodating to women. I just wouldn’t recommend that a woman go alone; unfortunately drunken customers will think that means she’s available to them. (You can always ask the waiter to tell the guy to buzz off.) Two women together, for example, is standard in many Mexico City cantinas.

  9. Linda - September 19, 2013

    Very nice, David, as always.

    Just call me la jefa from now on.

  10. Kim G - September 22, 2013

    You can order them from El Huequito and the waiters from La Número Siete will run and get them for you.

    Only in Mexico! I’m sure they expect a good tip for that, but sheesh, where else in the world would a waiter run to a restaurant next door to pick up something for you?

    I’ve been dying to try some of the cantinas you’ve mentioned over the years. Unfortunately F has never wanted to go. But now that I’m on my own, I’ll have to try them.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where there are pubs, but no botanas.

  11. Catherine - October 6, 2013

    What a great feast as well as the drinking – my favourite is still that weird one with the bullfighters….

  12. Juan Jose Cervantes - January 28, 2014


    I am looking for some investors to bring a botanas theme restaurant, franchise here in the U.S.

    A feasible idea, I cannot go into details, but anyone interested please let me know.

    Peace and love to you all!

    Juan Jose Cervantes,
    BA Architecture, UC Berkeley
    CEO Xolargy

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