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By Josh Watkins
With a history that dates back to the 14th century, visitors find it hard to believe that Mexico City is so full of cosmopolitan, youthful energy. The classic European architecture forms a striking contrast with the capital city’s mirror-like skyscrapers, and the signs of an exceptional standard of living are everywhere. If there is one way to describe the locals, it would be life-loving. Being so affordable and accessible—especially from Texas—Mexico City is making a name for itself with its impeccable arts and food scenes. Curiosity might attract you to visit initially, but it’s the romance of the city that will keep you coming back.
Despite being the largest city in North America—and one of the largest in the world—a weekend trip can provide an impressive glimpse into the wonders of Mexico City. If you suspect that LGBT individuals and couples might be uncomfortable here, rest assured that throughout our three-day trip, my partner and I observed more gay couples in public than we regularly do in the United States. There were many instances where we actually felt safer being publicly affectionate than we ever have in Austin or Houston. So if safety is a concern, you’ll have few worries in Mexico City.
My favorite way to travel is by seeing life through the eyes of the locals. Personally, I think that visiting cafés and residential neighborhoods is the best way to do this. Over the weekend, we stopped by El Chiquitito Café in La Condesa and Quentin Café in La Roma.
La Condesa is referred to as the city’s young, artsy neighborhood. The buildings are remarkably colorful and historic. We stopped by El Chiquitito Café for coffee, and the latte I ordered completely matched the charm and charisma of this café.
La Roma is a neighborhood so well preserved that it almost felt like we had stepped back in time. The buildings are beautifully colored and maintained, revealing a rich European history. We grabbed an evening latte at Quentin Café, which is a very modern little space with the friendliest of baristas! The romance of La Roma seemed to be infectious as young couples—gay and straight—cozied up around the main square.
For shopping, we ventured to the higher-end neighborhood of Polanco. Because the U.S. dollar is doing so well against the peso, the prices were surprisingly cheap in the upscale shops. The El Palacio de Hierro shopping center reminded us of Houston’s Galleria—if it were run by Balenciaga, Lanvin, Jimmy Choo, and Alexander Wang. Seriously.
For our nightlife experience, we went to the Zona Rosa, the city’s official gayborhood. On Saturday night, we were in the mood to dance. The first tree-lined street we encountered was overflowing with LGBT men, women, and drag queens—sort of like a mini-Pride festival. Everyone was more shamelessly open than we usually see in the United States.
Our first stop was Drrama by 42, a low-key club that was nonetheless packed to the brim. This bar seemed more like a spot to socialize than dance, so we headed a few doors down to Pussy Bar. Fair warning: this is not a lesbian bar. Pussy Bar was on fire—meaning that hundreds of beautiful people were dancing the night away. After warming up, we decided to move on to Boy Bar, the “it” bar that offers the full club experience: a dark room with trance-inducing music, a dance floor with house music, and a dive-bar option that played typical Mexican and American pop songs. Boy Bar gave us the Queer as Folk fantasy that most can only dream of. Even though we were exhausted from dancing all night and indulging in too much mezcal, this was one of the most thrilling club experiences we’ve ever had.
Our big culinary experience for the weekend was Quintonil—which was ranked as the 12th-best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Since we had to make reservations for this meal two months in advance, we were obviously excited! Hidden on a quiet street in Polanco, Quintonil gave us the best four-hour meal of our lives. The 10-course tasting menu was a steal at 1,326 pesos ($70), and the Tamarind-Mezcal Margarita will change your life. Other than Quintonil, we mostly stuck to street food—elotes (traditional Mexican corn), al pastor tacos, tripa tacos, tamales, and tortas.
Before heading to the airport, we grabbed breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien Condesa,
a Parisian/Mexican café where we ordered omelettes, a concha (traditional Mexican pastry), and lattes. As we enjoyed our breakfast, we reflected on our weekend in this sprawling, culturally rich metropolis filled with energetic life.
If you haven’t been to Mexico City yet, go.
Josh Watkins is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.