Owner of Brooklyn Tropicali, Latin American Adventures
This is the fourth in a series of posts based on interviews with people and companies which are passionate about Mexican food.
Susan Ripley is the owner of Brooklyn Tropicali, a travel company that designs inspirational and rejuvenating adventures in Latin America for burned out creative professionals.
I had the chance to speak with her about travelling Mexico and her experiences with Mexican food. She is a fan.
Adventures in Food
Her travels have taken her to Oaxaca, the Yucatán, Mexico City, Jalisco and Nayarit. She has found that each region has it’s own character and incredible cuisine. The proof is in the pictures below. Even more proof on her Instagram.
See Susan’s restaurant and market recommendations at the end of the post!
What does she say about travelling Mexico?
Her Favorite Thing
Visiting local markets is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I think it’s the quickest way to understand the local culture – how they eat, how they shop, how they interact with each other. It’s fascinating to experience. I also love to eat in markets. Along with street food, it’s one of my favorite and most trusted places to experience local food. We visited the Tlacolula market just outside of Oaxaca on a Sunday. It’s one of the best markets in the area and it didn’t disappoint. The food section was a maze of crowded vendors, each with wood burning stoves, steaming vats of sopas, tacos, grilled meats, and more.
Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara
We visited the biggest market in all of Latin America – Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara. It was amazing and overwhelming – 2980 stalls over 3 levels. The middle area is open so you can peek down from the top floor to the vendors below. We were able to watch the comedor kitchens cooking up the daily specials. It was a really interesting sight.
Susan recommends being adventurous while travelling Mexico. Food is biggest part of the culture. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry about being embarrassed because you have no idea what is being served. Learn some simple words so that you can ask about what is good. And most importantly be flexible. After you seeing all of her amazing pictures how could you not want to try it all?
Eat Street Food
Typically, travellers are warned not eat street food when they visit Mexico because all sorts of gastrointestinal calamities will befall them. Susan recommends the opposite. She says to eat the street food. Invariably, it’s the tastiest food and most representative of the region.
How to Choose Street Food
Susan says to look for places that are crowded with locals. They don’t eat in places that will make them sick. When you eat at a street stall you are able to see how the food is prepared and their food handling practices. In a restaurant you have no idea how the kitchen is run.
Check out our recipe for chicken chilaquiles in salsa verde.
Every Region of Mexico has Different Food
We have a great recipe for chiles en nogada.
Beverages Vary Regionally Too
Tejuino, a fermented corn corn drink is popular in Jalisco. Tejate, prepared with roasted maíz, chocolate, cinnamon nuts white foam on top. Tascalate which is popular in Chiapas is prepared with achiote and maíz.
In Jalisco, the alcoholic beverage of choice is tequila and in Oaxaca it’s mezcal but don’t think that the mezcal is like the cheap stuff that comes with a worm in it. A well made mezcal is closer to a fine Scotch, smoky and complex. Pulque, a beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey is popular in Mexico City and Oaxaca.
Susan’s Restaurant Recommendations
Take advantage of some of Susan’s no miss recommendations when you want to experience authentic Mexican food.
- Itanoni -all dishes and all drinks are corn based.
- Biche Pobre – a casual family restaurant with incredible mole.
- Doña Flavia – outside of the Centro, but the best Tlayudas in the city.
- Azucena Zapoteca – delicious Chiles en Nogada, great atmosphere.
- El Destilado – a little more upscale and trendy, great small plates, traditional food with a twist.
- Cochinita Power – great slightly trendy restaurant serving spicy, flavorful cochinita (spicy stewed slow roasted pork,
traditional dish from the Yucatan) on everything – tacos, tortas, chilaquiles, etc
- Alpozole – no frills lunch spot for pozole – but super delicious! My favorite pozole so far…
- Casa de Toño – another pozole restaurant – been around for many years.
- El Vilsito – a casual taqueria in Narvarte with the best tacos al pastor I have ever had!
- La Costilla – another casual taqueria in Narvarte – great tacos
- Tacos Hola – a simple and busy taco stand in Condesa.
- Taco Stands almost anywhere! There are usually a concentration of them near metro stops. Have definitely had some of my favorite tacos, tortas, and esquites at these street stands.
- If you find Pollo al Carbon – stop and get some! It’s the tastiest chicken I’ve ever had. Typically served whole, chopped up roughly with a stack of tortillas, rice, and fresh salsa
- Esquites woman outside of the Scotia Bank Atm at 5 de Mayo/Benito Juarez – the best esquites I have ever had. So amazing I tried to go back every day!
Playa del Carmen
- La Floresta – Incredible fish and shrimp tacos. A little outside the tourist area, but well worth the walk.
- La Cueva del Chango – delicious brunch – very fresh and flavorful
Susan’s Favorite Markets
A market highlights the personality of a city. These are great markets to visit.
- Mercado Libertad – in Guadalajara, it’s the biggest market in Latin America! Fun to wander and get lost.
- Lagunilla – a fun weekend market in Mexico City. You can find antiques, vintage clothing, get a haircut, and drink micheladas.
- Mercado de Sonora – traditional market in Mexico City, you can also find ingredients for witchcraft and spiritual cleansing. Very interesting!
- Tlacolula market – one of my favorite markets in Oaxaca. It’s about 45 minutes from the centro and open on Sundays. It’s huge with a great mix of food and beautiful artisan crafts like clothing, bags, blankets, etc.
- Central de Abastos – this is the biggest an craziest market in Oaxaca. It’s just south of the centro and has everything you could ever want to find. It’s giant and you will most likely get lost, but that’s some of the fun!
- Lucas de Galvez – central market in Merida. Great for a stroll to see some local culture and women dressed in traditional Mayan clothing.
When You Need a Mexican Food and Travel Adventure
When you are in need of a Mexican food adventure and travel adventure let Susan set up a unique experience for you. She has a love for the food and culture and she will guide you to the best Mexican experiences that most travellers will never get to enjoy.
A Final Recommendation – House Sit for the Best Food Experiences
For the very best for food experiences when you travel Susan recommends that you house sit. You will have a kitchen so you can go to the markets and buy local produce and products and learn to create the local dishes.