Some of my favorite tamales in the city are sold at Café de Raíz, a tiny Roma café near the Plaza Luis Cabrera.
Owners Pola Carballo and her brother Mardonio Carballo offer a handful of varities daily, and they’re much better than what you usually find on the street or in cafés here. The tamal de arroz — made with actual rice grains, not rice flour — is almost like a comida corrida on a plate, with a thick layer of rice snuggled around a stripe of sweet-and-savory chicken picadillo filling.
The tamal de frijol is one of the best I’ve had anywhere in Mexico. A moist rectangle stuffed into a banana leaf, the tamal emits a heady herbal perfume that pretty much bewitches you into eating more. Pola says it’s a mix of masa, black beans, cilantro, oregano and “un toque de manteca.”
The cafe carries between four or five varieties of tamales daily, with the rice and bean varieties pretty much constant. They also sell atoles (seasonal flavors include guava, pineapple, tamarind, champurrado) and pozole on the weekends. And there’s a breakfast menu. I loved the huevos rancheros, a rustic style with chunky tomato sauce on crispy corn tortillas.
The Carballos are Nahua people from Veracruz. Mardonio is also a journalist and writer, and he hosts a TV show on Mexico City’s Channel 22 called De Raíz Luna, which explores indigenous themes.
Pola says the cafe is meant to be a tribute to corn, and you can really taste the love in the dishes. If you like tamales — or even if you’re so-so about them — this place is worth a visit.
Café de Raíz
Merida 132 Bis between Chihuahua and Guanajuato streets, Colonia Roma
Open daily from 9ish a.m. to 10 p.m., and there’s WiFi.
tel. 5584 8847
No website, but they’re on Twitter
Who is Mija?
Mija is Lesley Téllez, a food writer and culinary guide in New York City. I spent four years in Mexico's Distrito Federal, which launched my deep love for Mexican food and culture. In 2010 I co-founded the tourism company Eat Mexico.
Be kind, ask permission!All photos on this site were taken by me, unless otherwise noted. If you'd like to use a photo, please email me.
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