Like any major city in the world, Mexico's capital has a bit of everything for everyone. The city offers the traditional in terms of cantinas and tequila, largely found in Mexico City's Historic Center, while at the same time uber-chic places are a plenty in the popular neighborhoods of Polanco and Condesa.
A charming mix of the old and the new, the Condesa neighborhood is Mexico City's answer to New York's East Village or London's Notting Hill Gate. The area boasts a slew of cafes, art galleries, bars, clubs and cultural centers. Although older residents complain of the traffic on weekends when capitalinos literally invade this area, the Condesa still retains its leafy feel despite all the constant partying. One thing's for sure, you'll never ever see a McDonalds popping up on one of its tree-lined streets.
While undoubtedly being the hotspot for the best bars in Mexico City (check out the New York Times and The Daily Telegraph) the Condesa, like all things popular, has suffered a backlash in the last couple of years from the uber-cool who are migrating to the capital's Historic Center as a new style of avant-garde bars and galleries (usually a combination of the two) have sprung up there. But more on that later.
For years it was virtually impossible to go into a bar in Mexico City and hear anything but rock, pop or salsa. Then electronic music arrived and the clubs out here became slave to one rhythm. Now with the recent wave of new, eclectic, bars popping up in the Condesa the choices are much wider.
The Black Horse is an English pub with a very noticeable twist. Unlike some jingoistic, Union Jack-decorated drinking hole in the Costa Del Sol, this bar is as far further from the stereotype than you can imagine. Based on the mantra of funk, the Black Horse has established a reputation of staging some of the best jazz, rare-groove and hip-hop bands in Mexico City. Occasionally, it throws in some cutting edge salsa and alternative groups for good measure.
The crowd is a mix of expats and locals and also a mix of the elderly and the young. Think Hoxton Square and East London and you'll get an idea of what this establishment is all about. Mexicali 85, corner with Tamaulipas, Condesa. Mon-Sat, 18:00 to 3:00. For more information check http://www.caballonegro.com/
The Rexo (5553-1300, 5553-5337) was one of the first bars to open up in the Condesa and has remained popular ever since. Designed in a New York black-and-white style, the twin-level bar offers a tasty menu and is a regular hangout for the 30-plus crowd. Saltillo 1, Condesa. Mon-Sun 13:00 - 02:00.
A chic bar situated next door to the defunct Plaza Condesa Cinema (which has been brutally converted into a tacky sports casino) is the PM (5553-0438) which offers a cool, Manhattan-ish atmosphere, with music played at a very manageable pitch while offering some decent food. It's the perfect spot to down a few pre-drinks before heading to the adjacent AM nightclub (5286-8572) that currently is Mexico City's hottest venue to hear the latest in electronic music. Be warned though, if you arrive in large numbers (especially if you're all male) your chances of getting entry are pretty much zero. And just because you're a foreigner will carry little currency with the grunts on the door. If you can't convince a lady friend to accompany you, try saying you know "Mike" who is the club's general manager. Nuevo Leon 67 - 2, Condesa. Wed-Sat. 22:00 - 6:00
The ever-popular Barracuda (5211-9346) was once a sleek restaurant / bar that under went a radical transformation to become initially Mexico City's first 24-hour diner. Rapidly though, the owners realized the logistical nightmares of having a restaurant that never closed and consequently the place now shuts down at 4:00 a.m. It's a great place to tuck into a juicy U.S.-style burger accompanied by one of their many malt shakes especially after a night on the town. Nuevo Leon 4-A. Mon-Sun 7:00 to 4:00.
What's so charming about El Mitote (5211 9150) is the extremly friendly vibe that it generates. Owners Alejandro and Walter make a concerted effort to greet customers with a fraternal manner and by your second visit you literally become a regular. The music is an excellent combination of acid jazz, soul and samba. However, the volume never gets intrusive and the lights are kept low. El Mitote's success is really one simple formula: long night drinking and discourse away from the dredge of a noisy nightclub. Amsterdam 53 corner with Sonora. Tues-Sat from 20:00 to 2:00.
In it's original incarnation La Pata Negra was a very small tapas bar tucked away from Parque Mexico. Then came along the might of the local government and, as with so many restaurants and bars in the Condesa, they closed the place down; obviously they were lacking the 300 and something documents plus greasing someone's palm to stay open. Finally, after almost a year of bureaucratic haggling, La Pata Negra once again opened it's doors but this time they changed addresses and set themselves on the corner of Plaza Condesa - the opposite end of where the Cinna Bar is. La Pata Negra stands out as one the most recognized and popular bars in the neighborhood; even on Sunday nights the place is packed. It now has a second floor which puts on live music. Wednesday's salsa night is particularly popular with local residents. Juan Escutia and Taumalipas, Condesa. Tel: 5211-5563/4678.
Further down from the Pata Negra is the Celtics (5211-9081) bar which professes to be an authentic Irish pub. That might be questionable considering the owners are Argentine and you'd be hard pressed to find an actual Irishman drinking there. However, the Celtics is an extremely popular hangout for yuppie types who are into their rock music and Guinness pints. They generally have live music during the week and there always seems to be a lot going on there. Tamaulipas 36, Condesa. Tuesday to Saturday from 19:00 to 2:00.
With counterparts in Miami and Milan, the Cafeina (5212-0090) is the perfect spot for idle chatter and slinking a few frozen martinis before charging into Mexico City's club scene. Co-owned by Mexican actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Nicotina) Cafeina ia all about comfortable chairs, low-lit lighting and feeling as relaxed as possible. Girls simply love it. Impress a date by buying her their special mango ice-cream dessert, and watch her eyes roll back literally in ecstasy. Nuevo Leon 73, Condesa. Monday to Sunday from 12:00 to 02:00.
For real, upfront, intimacy nothing beats Barneys (5212-0007). This cosy bar is all red velvets, leather-interior booths and colonial-style ceiling fans. The music is always low-fi and the onus is on spending some quality time with your partner. Fernandes Montes de Oca 43-A, Condesa. 19:00 to 2:00, Wed-Sat.
Hot Spot of the Moment:
When Tim Parsa (CEO of Todito.com and Associate Editor of Details magazine), Gaby Camara (Contramar, Capicua, Barracuda) and Crispin Somerville (founder of El Colmillo) joined forces to launch the high-end restaurant Prima it seemed destined to be an unprecedented success. And it was to a certain extent. However, with chefs either leaving or being fired, the quality of the food lagged and consequently people didn't come as much as they used to. The original concept needed a rethink and a relaunch. The triumvirate came up with Cibeles (5208-2029) which has transformed the amber-colored restaurant into a lavish bar with an assortment of french-style sofas, opulent chairs, persian rugs and Alice in the Wonderland mirrors. The bar is twice the size than before and the clientele has returned in droves. A fantastic place to take a large group of friends but more importantly a chic-looking group of friends. Plaza Villa de Madrid 17, corner with Durango. Tue-Sat, 18:00 to 2:00.
As little bars go La Mezcaleria is full of charm and atmosphere. The bar has rejuvenated the market for tequila's poorer brother mezcal by offering more than a hundred varieties of the drink with bottles of mezcal displayed on shelves like a pharmacy. With a nod to Mexican kitsch fashion, the bar is decorated with ornaments and trinkets from cantinas of yesteryear. La Mezcaleria is a definite drinking stop through Condesa's chain of bars. 396 Campeche, Condesa. Mon-Sun, 18:00 to 2:00.
After setting up the successful Habita boutique hotel in Polanco, the Basico and Deseo in Playa del Carmen, owners Jonathan Farr and the Micha brothers have opened up the 40-bedroom Condesa DF (5241-2600) hotel in the heart of this neighborhood. Smart, elegant and impossibly cool, Condesa DF is the diamond in this colonia's growing oasis of bohemian chic. The roof-top terrace is one of the best places to enjoy a glass of fine wine and watch a city sunset. Avenida Veracruz 102, Condesa, open 24 hours.
Polanco / Lomas
If Condesa is Mexico City's hip district for twenty-somethings than Polanco and Lomas are where the capital's high-spenders come out to play. Home to a row of five-star hotels - Nikko, Intercontinental, J.W. Mariott and W - Polanco consequently boasts some of the best restaurants and bars in the capital.
The classic Hard Rock Cafe (5327-7101) has the same standards and menu as any Hard Rock Cafe around the world. Their popular Zombie cocktail will leave you literally reeling and their adjacent live music stage has occasionally cool bands from abroad. Campos Eliseos 290, Polanco. Mon-Sun, 13:00 to 2:00.
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