Mexico City food

Sweet potato



Some people in Mexico City – mostly European immigrants – from time to time twist their mouths into a Gallic moue and complain about how this place has become agringada – “gringofied,” or Americanized. Without a doubt, in well to do neighborhoods Starbucks has become ubiquitous, and Wal Mart Mexico is now the largest private employee in the country. There are also the predictable outposts of McDonald’s, Burger King, and most omnipresently, KFC. In ritzy areas, shopping malls, of the mega and strip variety, are becoming ever-present.


However, despite these perhaps inevitable indicators of “progress,” Mexico City remains an emphatically Mexican city. Each evening, an hour or two after sunset, I hear a shrill steam whistle that tips me off that a vendor of baked sweet potatoes is passing by. He will sell them plain (the way I like them), or dress them with condensed milk, sugar and/or honey. Another whistle lets me know that the knife sharpener is on the block. The gas man cries out when he passes by, as does the guy who repairs curtains and the other who buys old newspapers. This is the way business was transacted centuries ago, and has nothing to do with the contemporary U.S. I wonder where the Europeans are when all these guys appear.

Chicken King, part three


In the past 25 years or so, while on the job, Gregg Lucas has broken four ribs, both hands, both legs, dislocated his left shoulder and hurt his back so badly that he needed to wear a neck brace for eight months. Nevertheless, he says he loves his work – he’s an actor, model and stunt man – so much that he would never think of leaving show business.


Perhaps, however, he was thinking of hedging his bets when a couple of years ago he bought PIN Pollos, a chicken shack in the Colonia Roma on Calle Campeche, almost at the corner of Monterrey. The birds are marinated and grilled over a wood fire. You can have them delivered to your home if you live in the area, by calling 5574 6349. Sometimes the actor will bring them to your doorstep himself.


Lucas grew up in the U.S. but has lived in Mexico for the last 15 years. Here, he has modeled for Eagle Eye sunglasses, a brand of milk marketed to people over 40, and has even been the Marlboro Man. He’s appeared in various Mexican soap operas, and was “the first guy to get killed” in Matador, a Pierce Brosnan vehicle that was shot here.


He hopes to combine his two professions at some point. “I have an idea for a TV commercial,” he says, “where, to deliver a chicken, I get on a motorcycle, then a paraglide, then a jeep and finally on a horse.”

Anthony Bourdain and the Mexican dream

Last October I mentioned on this blog that I worked as a consultant for Anthony Bourdain and the crew of his show No Reservations while they filmed part of an episode in Mexico City. Various readers wrote and asked when it would be broadcast. U.S. readers take note: It airs Monday, January 5th. It will be shown in Mexico considerably later; I'll let you know when I have more information.






The two photos below were taken at a cantina called La Mascota on the corner of Calle Mesones and Calle Bolívar in the centro histórico. It was one of my recommendations for the shoot. La Mascota is a traditional place, that has luckily not been remodeled with stucco ceilings or canteloupe-colored walls. The botanas – free food served in the afternoon, so long as you pay for your drinks – are first-rate.





The fellow on the extreme right in the green T-shirt is Carlos Llaguno, from Puebla, who made his way to New York, where he found work as a dishwasher at Bourdain’s restaurant Les Halles. Little by little, he worked his way up in the kitchen, and not long after Bourdain threw in the apron to become a full-time media personality, Carlos was promoted to chef. Nearly all the kitchens of New York restaurants employ Mexicans, but Bourdain told me that Les Halles is the only one where a Mexican has actually risen to become #1, el jefe.





So three cheers for Carlos, who is living the Mexican dream, along with his girlfriend Emily Cummings, who happens to be a Ford model. Immigration foes are cordially invited to eat their hearts out.