Where to eat in Mexico City: Nicos

A tostada topped with edible flowers from Nicos, a Mexico City restaurant.

A tostada topped with edible flowers from Nicos, a Mexico City restaurant.

One of my favorite restaurants in Mexico City, for most of the time that I lived there, was Nicos, a neighborhood spot off a busy avenue in Azcapotzalco. Chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo has presided there for seven years, and his menu of traditional-but-creative Mexican food has turned the place into a citywide destination. He sources some of his recipes from colonial-era cookbooks; others might highlight a lesser-known chile or dish from a particular region. Vásquez’s parents opened the restaurant in 1957, and the neighborhood clearly adores the place — it can be impossible to get a table during the average weekday lunch hour.

My last visit took place a few days before I left for New York. My friend and I decided to start with mezcal, and a waiter wheeled over a little cart with at least a dozen bottles.

“Do you like your mezcal smoky, aromatic, or herbaceous?” he asked. He began opening several bottles and passing them to me so I could smell them, and eventually poured the desired choice into a silver carafe. It was an elegant, thoughtful little detail that I hadn’t seen in any other restaurant.

Mezcal at Nicos, Mexico City

Chef Vázquez was among the first that I could remember to use edible flowers on his menu, and among the first to plant a garden on the restaurant’s rooftop. Usually I like to get some sort of edible-flower dish when I dine there because he uses them so artfully — the tostada duo, for instance, is almost too pretty to eat.

I always, always order the sopa seca de natas, a colonial-era recipe that smashes together layers of crepes in a creamy tomato sauce. It’s like eating most comforting Mexican rice or fideo, the decadence level ratcheted up about 20 notches.

Nicos' sopa seca de natas. (This photo was taken on a previous visit.)

Nicos’ sopa seca de natas.

Salsas at Nicos in Mexico City.

Salsas and sea salt from Colima, at Nicos in Mexico City.

A salad of edible flowers with grapefruit, at Nicos in Mexico City.

A salad of edible flowers with grapefruit, at Nicos in Mexico City.

For my last meal there, we chose crabs coated in amaranth and pumpkin seeds and served with green mole, and conejo al chile piquín. The menu said the rabbit was raised in Tolimán, Querétaro, by a group of indigenous women. Both entrees were stellar — the amaranth, almost like a savory brittle, added a toasty-meaty umami to the mild crab. The rabbit fell easily off the bone and had just the right kick of heat. We scooped hunks of the meat into corn tortillas, which are made on-site.

While we ate, a band played Beatles songs and rock hits from the 1970’s. (Live music at lunchtime is one of my favorite Mexico City restaurant quirks.) Most folks in the dining room looked like business workers on a break, in dark suits and dresses. On the weekends I’ve seen mostly families.

Crab in amaranth-pumpkin seed batter, sitting in a lagoon of green mole.

Crab in amaranth-pumpkin seed batter, sitting in a lagoon of green mole.

Rabbit with chile piquin, from Nicos in Mexico City

Rabbit with chile piquin, from Nicos in Mexico City

I’ll be back in Mexico City again at the end of this week, and I know where I’ll be dining. Who wants to come with me?

Nicos
Cuitlahuac 3102, near the corner of Clavería, Col. Claveria
Note: Nicos is only open for lunch, and it’s not open on Sundays. The restaurant is about 20-minute cab ride north of Polanco. If you’re skilled at using public transport in DF, you can also take a pesero from Metro Chapultepec and get off right at the corner of Cuiltlahuac and Clavería. After you eat, make sure to take a look at the restaurant’s organic food shop, La Nicolasa, across the street.

More on Nicos:
Nicos, Mexico City Treasure (Mexico Cooks)
Restaurante Nicos: A Family Affair (Culinary Backstreets)
A Q&A with Gerardo Vásquez Lugo (Wine Enthusiast)

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7 Responses to “Where to eat in Mexico City: Nicos”
  1. Lola

    I wanted to try this place when I was there in June. Now it is a great excuse to return. Love the pictures!

  2. David White

    I love your blog, such lovely and lively pictures that truly made my mouth waters!
    Thanks for doing this great review, I hope I can try it myself someday :)

    • Lesley Tellez

      Thank you! I hope you can make it there someday, too.

  3. Don Cuevas

    Our meal at Nicos last summer was memorable. It may have been the best restaurant meal we have had anywhere in Mexico. Thanks for refreshing our good memories!

    Read my take on it at http://mexkitchen.blogspot.mx/2013/07/nicos-mexico.html

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

  4. Norma - Platanos, Mangoes and Me!

    I am so wanting to catch a plane and go…

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