If you’re like me, you travel to 1) see the world and 2) eat through the world. Food culture is SO IMPORTANT to me that I’ve genuinely traveled around the globe to go have a goat cheese pastry in Greece this one time. Street food tours are your best bet when it comes to understanding real local food culture. Untampered by big tourism (yet), street food vendors are able to make MAGIC with very few resources and you leave with a whole new appreciation for what these vendors have accomplished.
Especially in Mexico City.
With nearly 22 million people in the greater Mexico City Area (or CDMX), everyone is on the move to get in and out of the city in one piece. That’s why street food culture is so popular in Mexico City! Everyone is hustling to get from Point A to Point B in the most cost-effective way possible. For that reason, you can find a taco for less than $0.30 and ALL street food is designed to be eaten on the go.
Whilst we were in Mexico City, we had the absolute pleasure of attending an Eat Like a Local Mx Street Food Tour. Rocio invited Marcus and I to go on their most popular ‘Food Safari’ – The Market Safari – through the west of Mexico City to experience the best bits of the street food scene.
Why Eat Like a Local Mx
After experiencing a wide range of tours, running my own tours, and working Travel Tech, there are simple pillars that I hold near and dear.
Paying Local Street Food Vendors a Fair Wage
On the darker side of tourism, there is DEFINITELY a culture of exploiting local vendors. Whether it’s due to a lack of business education or underestimating the value of what they provide, local vendors often lack key skills to negotiate fair pay and conditions in the face of international travel powerhouses. Further more, the ‘All-Inclusive’ culture has led to the removal of ‘tipping culture’ and fewer people are leaving the resort to ‘get their money’s worth’ so there are naturally fewer ways to makeup a decent salary to bring home. Also – staying at a resort is ?? NOT ?? traveling ??!
With Eat Like a Local Mx, you know that the local vendors are getting not just fair pay, but also, these vendors are receiving additional resources to better their position in the tourism/food industry. The children of vendors have access to English classes, tutoring and are positively exposed to a variety of foreign people and languages. Many of Eat Like a Local Mx‘s street food tours run twice a day, with 4 – 6 people each, so there’s a constant flow of business coming in and out. It warms my heart just writing about it! Eat Like a Local Mx is the change we want to see in the world.
Supporting Women in Tourism
Eat Like a Local Mx also only employs female guides in order to circulate money back to women in the heavily male-dominated tourism industry. Our guide – Astrid – was intelligent, empathetic, and she was EASILY the most popular person in the streets and through the markets. She greeted everyone by name, kissed babies, and shared special moments with the vendors that brought such warmth to my heart. I would joke that she could be a strong contender for Miss CDMX, but she assured me this was just normal in Mexican culture; you greet people as if they were your family.
Value & Range
In just 4.5 hours, you’ll experience four different neighborhoods, brave the subway (lol), and learn so much about present day Mexican culture. There is so much negative press online about Mexico, but my experience in Mexico City was COMPLETELY different to anything I expected. I actually revisited the Jamaica Market on my own because I fell in love with the energy… and this legendary cornbread (lol). Girl’s gotta eat!… cornbread. Over the span of the street food tour, I had to start rejecting food because I just COULDN’T eat any more. After the 6th taco, we suddenly realized that we needed to pace ourselves better so we started splitting portions along the way. We tried over 25 different meals and treats easily. I had at least 8 full tacos to myself (here’s where I went wrong lol) and then started picking at little things along the way.
I also really appreciated the sequence of all the food. We started with heavier things and then slowly started moving toward sweater and smaller treats. We spent a whole 30 minutes sampling at least 16 different types of fruits that were native to Mexico and 4 of them I had never even SEEN before?! When we arrived at Condesa for the start of the tour, we came hungry and without anything in our bodies in anticipation of quite the afternoon. However, when we finally ended the experience with a vegan ice cream in the Juarez neighborhood around 3pm, there was just no way we could fit anything MORE into our bodies (lol) – in a good way, of course. We ended up not eating for the rest of the day so it was excellent value for money!
Each Adult ticket is just under $95.
MEXICAN FOOD 101 – MARKETS SAFARI
Start your day with craft coffee and traditional pan dulce, then hit the streets and taste 3 different tacos.
Ride the subway and explore the beautiful flower market, taste carnitas, fruit, corn, freshly made tortillas, mole, warm chicharrón, and more.
Visit the amazing La Merced Market, cook with the local ladies, learn about cactus pads, taste some insects, quesadillas, tlacoyos and try the best candy.
We arrived in Condesa with empty stomachs and open minds. A street food tour was right up our alley because we love nothing more than to experience what real people eat every day. Fancy restaurants are cool, but I find that they only give a snapshot of what the rich and upper middle-class eat. The absolute BEAUTY of Mexico City is that there is no bad food. Period. You can spend $1 or $100 on a meal and it’s still going to blow you away.
We met the other 4 people on our street food safari and they were from a variety of backgrounds. Most of us were young professionals without children and to my surprise, there were 3 other tech workers in the group and we quickly hit it off. I think the beauty of small group tours is the opportunity to meet people who you might have never crossed paths with otherwise. There was a wonderful woman working in Mexico City on her own from Italy? Germany? She spoke 4 languages perfectly so I still have no idea where this brilliant woman was from. There was a fin-tech couple from the Bay area who were undercover geniuses. And then there was a solo Pakistani developer from NYC.
All of the food in our tour – from the mini-meals to the tiny sweets – was 100% covered by our ticket. I thought this was excellent customer-centricity as many times tours can ‘nickle and dime’ you to death if you don’t read the small print. This was not the case for our street food tour with Eat Like a Local Mx.
As the agenda above implied, we started off by walking through the upper-class neighborhood of Condesa. The streets were lined with gorgeous trees, young couples walking their dogs, and LOADS of trendy eateries. We definitely bookmarked this place to come back to. We stopped by a few taco vendors along the way to sample their most famous options and received a lovely explication from our guide regarding: what the food was, why this food was popular, how to eat it properly, and what salsas to avoid if you weren’t keen on breathing fire lol. Something that was new to my street food tour experience was the wonderful background of the family responsible for the delicious treats. We met several generations of each family, which was a real treat.
[su_note note_color=”#fbddf6″]Side Note: If you’re looking for places to stay and general information about the neighborhoods in Mexico City, you should definitely check out my Mexico City Guide. [/su_note]
Our next destination was the Jamaica Market. Jamaica Market is possibly my favorite place in all of Mexico City. Everyone is SUPER friendly (in a non-pushy way) and all of the prices were displayed so I never felt like I was being ripped off when I returned on my own a few days later. In the Jamaica Market, we sampled different fruits, sweets, and MORE tacos as we strolled along the corridors. I was having a ball moving in and out of each stall, looking at all of the wonderful things that people could purchase; especially the piñatas (or large paper mache characters with candy in them that children beat-up for special occasions lol).
Perhaps the most authentic experience along the way was our time at La Merced Market. We were warned not to have any of our camera equipment out for this one so unfortunately I don’t have any photos. However, we were advised to do so for good reason. The market is bustling with loads of people at all times. It was crazy chaotic in the best way and here, we got to try more ‘alternative’ types of food – like bugs! In La Merced Market, I really felt like I was getting a birds-eye view into the daily life of normal people in Mexico City. People were always in a hurry, but they were kind and not-pushy at all. Multiple people came round to tell Marcus ‘You are very tall’ and then just left. He’s over 2 meters tall or just under 6’8″. I think the average height of the people in the market couldn’t be taller than 5’6″ ? We were able to try a variety of different bugs and delightful treats, but we also sat down for a proper meal and had the chance to meet one of the little boys that Eat Like a Local Mx is sponsoring. He gets additional language and tutoring resources so he can keep-up in school properly.
Finally, we ended our journey in the Juárez neighborhood where we got vegan gelato and had a bit of a sit. It was such a long and delicious day that I almost couldn’t finish my gelato… but my mom didn’t raise a quitter. We didn’t spend as much time in the Juárez neighborhood as we did with the others, but that was because our guide could read the group quite well and knew there just wasn’t anymore space in our bellies for more.
- Starting point: Condesa neighborhood
- Finishing point: Juárez
- Group size: Max 6
- Transportation: Walking and subway
- Walking distance: 4.5 miles
- Number of tastings: More than 25
- Kids friendly: YES they love kids on this tour
- Special diets friendly: Vegetarian and gluten-free friendly
- Alcohol inclusions: juice with vodka and beer
- Fun tip: Netflix´s Taco Chronicles tacos included on this tour: Canasta, Guisado, Carnitas
Eat Like a Local Mx has been THE BEST food tour experience I’ve ever had. And I’ve had A LOT. There was something about the ethos of the company and our guide that just resonated with me beyond a superficial level. Yes the street food was AMAZING! Yes, our guide was so attentive and thoughtful. However, the icing on the cake was the fact that I was supporting real people, who I got to meet and interact with, in a tangible way. I can only recommend Eat Like a Local Mx for anyone who wants to travel more sustainably.