Talking Mexican Food with Susan Ripley

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.

Eating Tacos Carnitas at El Destilado OaxacaSusan 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!

Walking around the grounds at Monte Alban Oaxaca

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.

Market in Guadalajara

Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara

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.

Be Adventurous

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?

Tlayuda in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca

Tlayuda in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca.

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.

Blue Corn tortilla Tacos and Tascalate at Itanoni Oaxaca

Blue Corn tortilla tacos and Tascalate at Itanoni Oaxaca.

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.

Tacos in a comedor in Oaxaca

Tacos in a comedor in Oaxaca.

Chilaquiles in Las Flores Market Oaxaca

Chilaquiles in Las Flores Market Oaxaca

Every Region of Mexico has Different Food

Enjoy the regional differences in food. Some of Susan’s favorite foods are mole negro from Oaxaca, pozole and esquites as they serve them Mexico city and carne en su jugo in Guadalajara.

Mole Negro con Pollo

Chicken in mole negro in Oaxaca.

Pozole with Fixings in Mexico City

Pozole with all the fixings in Mexico City.

Torta ahogada in Mexico City at a market

Torta ahogada in Mexico City at a market.

Chile en Nogada in Oaxaca

Chile en Nogada in Oaxaca.

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.

Tejuino cart in Nayarit - local fermented corn drink

Tejuino cart in Nayarit – Tejuino is local fermented corn drink.

Local woman serving Tejate - the most popular local drink in Oaxaca

Local woman serving tejate – the most popular local drink in Oaxaca.

Alcoholic Beverages

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.

Specialty tequila shop in Tequila Jalisco

Specialty tequila shop in Tequila Jalisco.

Mezcal seller off the beaten path.

Mezcal seller off the beaten path in Oaxaca.

A pulque shop in Santiago Matitlan Oaxaca

A pulque shop in Santiago Matitlan Oaxaca

Susan’s Restaurant Recommendations

Take advantage of some of Susan’s no miss recommendations when you want to experience authentic Mexican food.

Oaxaca

  • 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.

Mexico City

  • 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.

Nayarit 

  • 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

Guanajuato

  • 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.

Enjoying the view on top of the tallest pyramid at Coba in the Yucatan

Enjoying the view on top of the tallest pyramid at Coba in the Yucatan.

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.

More People Passionate About Mexican Food
1 comment… add one
  • David R. Barajas, Sr.

    so how do I make contact for a trip to Mexico, we go many times, however we would like to see something different

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