Chiapanecan and Mexican
El Mercadito (Diego Dugelay 11, tel. 967/678-0210, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$4–8) has gotta be good: Locals not only line up for its daily lunch offerings, they bring gallon soup pots and oversize plastic containers to tote it away. The menu rotates daily, but includes home-cooked Chiapanecan classics like sopa de pan (bread soup, with hunks of bread and melted cheese swimming in veggie stew with a hint of nutmeg) and an amazing chicken mole. The throngs mostly order to go, but El Mercadito does have a handful of tables for eating in.
Doña Áme Tamales (Calle Diego Mazariegos 28, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 4–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 6–10 p.m. Sun., US$1 apiece) serves only one thing, but few in town do it better. Tamales—corn dough stuffed with goodies of some sort and steamed in banana leaves or corn husks—are southern Mexico’s classic comfort food, and this tidy little eatery typically has 10-plus varieties to choose from, including Chiapanecan specialties like the chamula (spicy pork), cambray (chicken, olives, and raisins), and yerbasanta (a fragrant spice that’s something of an acquired taste). The Doña could be a bit more generous with the filling—everyone’s an expert, right?—but the flavors are spot-on.
Right on the pedestrian walkway but strangely easy to miss, Bugambilia (Real de Guadalupe near Av. Insurgentes, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) is a cozy little place with just a handful of tables and colorful papel picado hanging above. Though serving reliable Mexican fare all day, it’s tops for breakfast, with several hearty combos including crunchy chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and sizzling arrachera steak (US$2.50–4.50). All come with a plate of fruit and a strong cup of freshly made coffee (or sometimes, hot cocoa).
Though relying more on its reputation than its chef, the upscale La Paloma (pedestrian walkway, Av. Hidalgo 3 at Calle Cuauhtémoc, tel. 967/678-1547, 9 a.m.–midnight daily, US$5–14) still serves reliable and well-priced Mexican dishes, most with creative flair. Try the squash flowers filled with cheese mousse and served with huitlacoche (black corn fungus, a Mexican delicacy—really), the cilantro soup, or the meatballs in thick chipotle sauce. If anything avoid the beef medallions in chocolate sauce—the sauce is tasty enough, but the beef tough.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition