Courtesy of Josh Walker

Executive chef Josh Walker and chef de cuisine Alex Yellan of Tu in Charleston share their best bites after a food-fueled trip to Mexico City.

Elyse Inamine
March 26, 2018

Mexico City is still the culinary mecca among chefs these days, and the Tu team made their pilgrimage just before opening their Charleston restaurant.

Executive chef Josh Walker and chef de cuisine Alex Yellan snuck into hole-in-the-wall pozole spots and fine-dining destinations during their time in the storied city. Here Walker shares their favorite haunts.

Courtesy of Josh Walker

El Cardenal

“This restaurant in the Centro Histórico neighborhood is like the greatest hits of Mexico. Right after we got off the plane, we headed here for lunch, eating buttery, epazote-scented escamoles (ant larvae) and some crispy worms with guacamole. It all starts off with bread and salsa, then they give you a bib with your mole and encourage you wash everything down with a glass of mescal.”

La Mascota

“Come ready to graze at this small cantina in La Condensa. There’s a great mix of young and old patrons, so follow their lead. Grab a beer and take advantage of the daily changing selection of perfect drinking food: snails with mole, raw chopped beef with olives, or a giant, fatty chamorro (pork shank). The tiny table have an ingenious knee-level drink shelf to clear space for all the snacks.”

Courtesy of Josh Walker

El Pozole de Moctezuma

“Located on a side street between major thoroughfares in the Guerrero neighborhood, there’s no sign of what’s to come at this amazing little spot. Look closely at the apartment buzzer, where you’ll find “POZOLE” on a button. Press it and get ready for the greatest soup of your life at this fourth-generation family restaurant. Order the signature green Guerrero pozole, which comes with a tray of fixings: onion, cilantro, chicharrón, avocado, raw egg, sardine, and mescal. (The server will mix everything tableside.) The herbal green broth offsets the richness of the pork and corn, creating the perfect contrast of texture.”

Courtesy of Josh Walker

Quintonil

“At this fine-dining restaurant in Polanco, chef Jorge Vallejo celebrates the history and flavors of Mexico through a unique filter of his own. Whether it’s through the bread course of perfect tortillas, salsa, and impeccable bean puree, or escamoles with avocado and ash or fish with huitlacoche and trout roe, the food here achieves that rare feat of being simple and comforting, yet complex and thought-provoking. Knowledgeable staff surveys the minimal and intimate dining room, making it all the more a must visit.”

Courtesy of Josh Walker

El Vilsito

“This Colonia Narvarte spot is truly in a category of its own. By night, this mechanic shop transforms into al pastor heaven. Despite my expat friend grumbling about why we were trekking so far for something so readily available, all complaints were quickly silenced upon first bite. There are more grilled meat options than pastor, but clearly al pastor is the specialty here. Pick from one of several vertical spits hunkered down with perfectly seasoned red-tinged pork and order as many tacos as you think you can eat—then order some more.”