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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


January/February 1996
Volume XV, Number 1

Meatless in Mexico City

By Daniel Brook

I recently took a week-long trip with my wife, Julie, to 670-year-old Mexico City, fully expecting to find a huge metropolis of ancient Aztec ruins, colonial Spanish buildings, modern Mexican structures, fine museums, awesome monuments, colorful markets, relaxing parks, and warm people. It's all there - and then some. But it was pure serendipity to find so many vegetarian restaurants as well. Vegetarian food abounds in Mexico City.

It is well known that one can find enough vegetarian food to eat in many American Mexican restaurants. Beans without lard and rice without chicken stock, in addition to vegetable burritos and enchiladas, are fairly easy to locate in any city. However, it is less well known that in Mexico City it is quite easy (though less so for vegans) to eat most or all of one's meals in strictly vegetarian restaurants. And so we did!

We stayed in a little hotel near the huge and lively Zocalo, the main square of the city. Within a very short (and pleasant) walking distance were a few wonderful vegetarian eateries to tempt us. The Restaurante Vegetariano y Dietético, a first floor walkup at Madero #56 between Isabel la Catolica and Palma, was one of our favorites. How pleasant it was to sit at a table near the double door windows and watch the goings-on of Mexico City one floor below. Vegetarians might have chilaquiles (tortilla pieces baked in salsa with cheese) and orange juice for breakfast or refried beans, bread, salad, and carrot juice for a vegan dinner snack, but for the big afternoon meal we chose the comida corrida, a daily set meal. This consists of a refreshing fruit or vegetable salad, a hot mixed vegetable or cold fruit soup (e.g., lime, papaya, cantaloupe), a filling main dish made from squash or another vegetable of the day with sides of guacamole, stewed vegetables, spicy green beans with onions, or other such delicacies. There was also an agua fresca (fruit drink, e.g., guava, mango, pineapple), a basket of warm bread, and a sweet dessert (e.g., tapioca). For $4-5 (U.S.), we definitely went away stuffed, happy, and healthy, and satisfied to know that we were supporting a vegetarian business with our pesos.

This restaurant has three other branches, collectively called Vegetarianos Del Centro, but the only other one we made it to was the nearby one at Filomena Mata #13 between Madero and Cinco de Mayo, which looked and felt more like a diner. We were nonetheless fully satisfied with the food. Hard to believe but true, there is yet another first floor walkup vegetarian restaurant just down the block at Calle de Motolinia #31 between Madero and 16 de Septiembre. At this restaurant, our little table was literally on the balcony, looking out on to the small, quiet pedestrian- only street. What a pleasant way to spend lunchtime!

How could we leave such a fantastic area of the city? Easy; there were plenty more vegetarian restaurants awaiting our discovery. In the more upscale Zona Rosa neighborhood, we ate at the Restaurante Vegetariano Yug at Varsovia #3, just off Reforma. The warm bread, and soy meat enchiladas (TVP wrapped in tortillas, smothered in salsa) were quite gratifying. For a snack, you can ask for a side order of their smooth and savory refried black beans - they're not to be missed. Upstairs, for a couple of dollars more, an all-you-want-to-eat buffet was there for the taking. Here one could sample a variety of tasty treats which change each day. The nearby Restaurant Vegetariano Karl at Amberes #57 has an even better buffet, albeit slightly more expensive. For lighter fare, one could go to the interesting Centro Macrobiotico Tao restaurant/store at Cozumel #76 south of Colima; but beware of their short afternoon hours.

Why not go to Super Frutas - La Casa de Ensaladas at Uruguay #52 and enjoy their specialty? More treats can be had at a string of Soya restaurants, including ones at Fray Juan de Zumarraga #11, Insurgentes Norte #1501, Calz. Mexico-Tacuba #765 and #777, 16 de Septiembre #66B, Eje Central Lsszaro Cssrdenas #108, and Av. Atzcapotzalco #668, and similar Super Soya restaurants, including ones on 16 de Septiembre just off the Zocalo, on Tacuba near the Allende Metro station, on Calle Manuel Gonzalez near the historic Plaza of the Three Cultures and the modern Garden of Peace, and near the Bellas Artes museum and the Alameda Central Park on 16 de Septiembre in the shadow of the Latin America Tower. These soya shops serve scrumptious tortas (sandwiches). My favorite one was stuffed with grilled vegetables. They also served interesting veggie burgers, veggie tacos, fruit salads, and other stomach stuffers. The free condiment bar includes hot salsa and thick guacamole to spice up whatever choice one makes. To cool down, choose from one of the many fresh fruit and vegetable juices. We usually went for the carrot and the orange and split both between us. These shops also sell various health and food supplies.

Vegetarian food is so plentiful in Mexico City that we even bumped into a Food Not Bombs-type group along the West side of the Zocalo that was giving out delectable bean tacos and pungent ejotes (string beans). They sat us down, fed us, and wouldn't accept money despite their need. They were supporting a protest demonstration across the street with signs reading: "We want jobs not promises" and "We can't feed our children with government promises." Not wanting to eat more than one of their tasty tacos, we thanked them and walked on in search of more treats.

And then there are the Vegetarian Products stores. They're even in the subterranean train stations - two in the Metro Hidalgo and another two in the Metro Tlatelolco, for instance. And don't get me started on street vendor food: corn on the cob, pancakes, baked plantains, fruit, nuts, candies and chocolates, wafers, breads, juices, and more. Or for that matter the Indian, Chinese, and other ethnic restaurants. And what about vegetarian restaurants in other Mexican cities and the vegetarian resorts of Mexico? There's just too much vegetarian food to account for.

So much food and so little time. Now that the secret is out - tons of great vegetarian food in the Mexican Capitol - there's no reason not to go. It's easy and fun to be meatless in Mexico City.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 1996 issue of the Vegetarian Journal. We encourage you to subscribe to the magazine.

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