One for Everyone: The Downtown Cantina Crawl

$115 USD/person

  • Fee includes everything consumed on the walk
  • Group Size: 2-7
  • Start/End: 1:00pm-6:30pm
  • Duration: about 5.5 hours
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To call Mexico City’s cantinas simply bars would be unfair. Yes, drinks are served here, but these old-school watering holes serve a much more important function, offering the neighborhood a place where locals – sometimes entire families – can gather to drink, socialize, play dominoes and, most importantly, eat. Along with their drinks, cantina patrons know they will also get botanas – assorted small portions of guisados (slow-cooked meats or vegetables), tacos, or quesadillas. Most self-respecting cantinas will offer a generous botanas spread of four or five courses, which helps make sure the drink orders keep flowing and that the regulars keep coming back.

On this leisurely walking tour, we’ll be among those regulars, eating and drinking our way through some of the city’s most iconic cantinas, open for generations and still serving traditional comida de hombres (men’s food), so named because cantinas traditionally had all-male staffs and, until even the 1970s, kept women out. The walk will take us through downtown Mexico City’s lively San Ildefonso neighborhood, home to a mix of university students and local workers and several museums and historical monuments. In this part of town, cantina culture – an essential part of Mexican social life during the first half of the 20th century – is still alive and well.

Our first stop will be at a cantina that traditionally has been frequented by professors from nearby Colegio de San Ildefonso, office workers, and Mexico City’s bohemian set, lured perhaps by the impressive array of more than 140 brands of tequila and the wait staff’s slightly more upscale look. Here we will sit down for our first round of botanas, enjoying the soup of the day, and a guisado, a stew of slow-simmered meat. Our next stop will be a tradesmen’s cantina – reminiscent of a Wild West saloon – favored by residents and blue-collar workers from the busy commercial district surrounding it. Here we will enjoy quesadillas, meatballs, and the guisado of the day, washed down with some of the cantina’s specialty drinks.

Our last stop will be at one of downtown’s oldest gay cantinas, a reminder of Mexico City’s diversity and liberalism. This unique and iconic spot operates as a cantina by day and as a dance club by night. Here we will have a few drinks and bar snacks while we enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and listen as the crowd sings along to the jukebox playing songs by beloved Mexican gay icon Juan Gabriel. It’s another reminder that in Mexico City, there’s a cantina for everyone.