Before my mother-in-law visited for a month, I was busy researching activities that she would enjoy. My MIL is an amazing cook herself and has impeccable taste, so I knew I’d found a winner when I stumbled across Mexican Food Tour’s Polanco Food and Cultural Tour.
Hosted in my home neighborhood of Polanco, the tour promised to be different than the hordes of walking street food tours hosted in Mexico City.
Mexican Food Tour’s Polanco Food and Cultural Tour features stops in actual (sometimes fancy) restaurants, rather than street food stalls… and the price is even somehow lower than most street food tours!
First Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Oaxacan Tastes and Sauce, Sauce, Sauce!
While I knew this wouldn’t be a typical (street) food tour, I was positively shocked by the first stop of the day, a Oaxacan restaurant. Greeted at the door by a suited up, smiling waiter and welcomed into the gorgeous interior, I wondered whether we were in the wrong restaurant. There’s no way that I’d be getting this kind of service in this fancy restaurant for that crazy low price of the tour, right?
My worries were immediately put to rest when Luis, our tour guide to be, introduced himself and ushered us to a cozy table in the back of the restaurant. Completely empty, we’d have the entire place to ourselves: just Luis, me, my MIL, the two Americans, and the super helpful waitstaff.
The tour commenced with an explanation of mole sauce, that uniquely Mexican delight able to enrich even the simplest dish. But mole sauce itself is no simple thing, most consist of over 30 unique ingredients (especially Oaxacan moles)!
After checking out some of the ingredients, we sampled several different moles and a salsa ourselves, and then tried a traditional sope. Luis pointed out that sopes usually contain pork lard for flavor, and kindly provided lard-free for my MIL (who doesn’t eat pork) and myself (a vegetarian). It was my first time trying a sope, and it was delicious!
I now know that I need to request lard free sopes in the future (thanks Luis!)…
salsa ingredients, to be hand-smashed and served
a vegetarian sope
Second Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Tamales (And Vegetarian: Possible!)
When Luis told us our second stop would be for tamales, I prepared myself to skip this stop (and my MIL as well), as I knew the VAST majority of tamales are prepared with pork lard…. but Luis was two steps ahead of me.
Upon arriving in the cute, almost fast-food style shop, Luis informed us of the many tamale options – including several vegetarian and vegan choices (no pork lard allowed there)!
I was super psyched to try tamales, something I’ve had to pass on in all the months I’ve been living in Mexico City, as I could never find ones not prepared with pork lard.
They were as delicious (and filling) as I’d imagined, and we washed them down with the traditionally paired atole, a drink best described as the love child of hot chocolate and oatmeal. You’ll have to try it to understand.
Third Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Cantina Cuisine and a Celebratory Shot
Not all cantinas are poorly lit and a bit back-alley. For our third stop, we visited a vibrant, bright, and totally awesome traditional cantina.
After a shot of the local specialty (because you can’t visit a cantina without at least one drink), we sampled tacos. While the other members of the group opted for more traditional meat-based fare, I got lucky with a flor de calabaza taco (zucchini flower taco). It was totally unique and totally delicious!
Typical of cantinas, we were provided with a little stand of Mexican condiments to personalize our food.
In the old days, cantinas used to provide free food, and that’s how they competed with each other for popularity despited the controlled prices of drinks.
Now, the food definitely isn’t free, but it’s still ridiculously delicious and quite cheap!
Fourth Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: The Best Drink of My Life and Traditional Tostadas
For the fourth stop we’d be visiting a famous fish and seafood “cebicheria”, so I again had my doubts whether I’d be able to have a vegetarian option. Fortunately, I learned not to ever doubt the ever-prepared Luis.
more delicious than it looks – I couldn’t resist snagging a bit before the photo!
I have to say, while I missed out on the key ingredient (seafood), this stop was my absolute favorite, as well as my MIL’s. The restaurant was beautiful with perfect details, and the tostada was delicious.
Maybe my favorite part, however, wasn’t the food or the environment. It was the exquisite drink! The ridiculously refreshing, gingery and mildly fruity beverage was a major highlight of the trip (and I’m not usually fond of any drinks other than water or an alcoholic cocktail). More than a week after the tour, we were STILL talking about how delicious and thirst-satisfying the drink was!
the unassuming yet magically tasty beverage
Fifth Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Tasty Soup on an Outdoor Patio
Another one of my most favorite stops (though it is SO hard to pick favorites in such a stellar tour), our group meandered to an outdoor patio for some lighter fare: a refreshing agua fresca and a traditional soup.
I’d started avoiding tortilla soup a few years ago, once a major Mexican food favorite of mine, after I heard it was usually made with chicken.
Luis explained before I chowed down that traditional tortilla soup is actually vegetarian, as it is supposed to be made with a tomato-based broth. The garnish of avocado, cheese, tortilla strips, and chicharron is where the non-veg factor comes in, but leaving out the chicharrones is easily requested and easily vegetarianized (vegans: leave out the cheese).
My tortilla soup (sans chicharrones) was delicious, and I secretly celebrated being able to order my beloved soup again in the future (thanks for the info – Luis!).
Sixth Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Fancy Chocolates and a Mezcal Pairing
After our previous stop for soup, our “main” courses were done for the day, and it was onto the sweets!
Our sixth stop was at a trendy and chic chocolate shop for a chocolate pairing.
For this stop, one of the owners of the Mexican Food Tours company, Connie, joined us. She led the chocolate tasting, describing each of the flavors and the history of the shop in detail.
Four delicious chocolate flavors were tasted and each followed by a sip of mezcal, a smoky Mexican liquor somewhat similar to tequila.
Connie explained that chocolate is an important part of Mexican culture and heritage, as the cultivation of cacao actually originated in Mexico. Therefore, chocolate is Mexico’s gift to the world.
And speaking of gifts, these chocolates make for GREAT GIFTS. Far more affordable than I would have imagined, you can get a set of these gorgeous bonbons and truffles for cheaper than you’d buy a box of decent store-bought, mass produced chocolates back in the US.
Can you tell what shape they’re modeled after below?
(Hint: Ladies, you might have one in your makeup bag)
Seventh Stop on the Mexican Food Tour: Finishing Up with a Sweet Surprise
Our seventh and final stop at an ice cream parlor could have been straight out of the American 1950s, if it wasn’t for the Spanish signs and Mexican flavors.
This cute and quaint little ice cream shop has been operating for decades, but the commitment to quality has remained. My sample was delicious and creamy.
Unfortunately, I was commanded by one of the workers not to take photos (maybe there was a VIP present that I didn’t notice?) so these two pics are the only photos I’d snapped before having to put my camera away. I’m not a rule breaker and didn’t try for any sneaky shots… You’ll just have to imagine the delish ice cream yourself, or sign up for the tour to see firsthand!
Pin it for Later
(The names of the restaurants we stopped in are NOT listed, to protect the special proprietary knowledge of the food tour. If you’d like to check out the restaurants we visited, sign up for the food tour to get the full scoop!)
Necessary Details for the Mexican Food Tour in Polanco
The tours leave almost daily at 11am and cost 59USD (you can book here). This price is SUCH a deal, considering you’re tasting full size small plates at 7 different and mostly upscale restaurants. Mexican Food Tours also has other tours on offer, check those out as well by clicking here.
Consider skipping breakfast before the food tour. The portion sizes at each of the stops are very generous. While you totally aren’t obligated or obliged to eat every last bite of each stop – you’ll definitely want to!
Wear comfortable, layered clothing and shoes for walking. Depending on the season of your visit, the temperature outdoors might be quite hot, but most of the stops are air-conditioned – you’ll want to be able to grab a sweater or wrap when going from outside to inside.
When you book the tour, be sure to inform the company of any dietary restrictions, and remind your guide when you meet him/her as well.
**While I received a discounted rate to attend the food tour with my mother-in-law, I was not paid to write this post, nor obligated to provide a positive opinion. I loved my experience so much that I plan to go on future food tours with Mexican Food Tours, and my opinions and recommendations remain my own and unbiased.**