Mexico doesn’t have a deep tradition of wine paired with meals. However, that’s changing, thanks to a growing middle class, increased availability and expanding Mexican wine industry.
The capital, Mexico City, is home to many restaurants with unique and wide-ranging lists like Jaso, Merotoro, Lorea, Máximo Bistrot, Rosetta, Pujol, Garum, Sepia Cocina de Mar and Nicos. There are also world-class international restaurants with exclusive focuses like Sartoria, Il Becco, Le Restaurant at Club France, Puerto Getaria and J By José Andrés, as well as an impressive natural wine program at Amaya. However, wine culture is reaching every corner of the country.
The following list focuses on Mexican restaurants that strengthen the country’s pairing culture and challenges visitors’ preconceptions. Like our annual Top 100 Wine Restaurants list for the U.S., these aren’t just restaurants where wine is a priority, but food, service, and atmosphere are top-notch as well. ¡Provecho!
Chef-Owner Francisco Ruano worked in such exalted restaurants as Noma, Mugaritz and El Celler de Can Roca before he returned to Guadalajara to open Alcalde in 2013. His approach is creative and playful, yet unpretentious and straightforward. He transforms familiar dishes like tuna tostadas, grilled octopus or pork and beans, and introduces flavor combinations like duck in an adobo of smoky chile morita, dried shrimp and eucalyptus. The wine list, which changes often, hovers around 100 selections.
Casa de la Troje
Located in a small town about an hour west of Mexico City, this is an unexpected wine lover’s oasis housed in a 225-year-old adobe house littered with art, books and immense charm. Casa de la Troje’s Owner Jorge Luis González’s extensive list leans toward Mexican and Spanish bottlings chosen for quality and value rather than name recognition. The menu features simple grilled fish and meats, Oaxacan specialties and original dishes like huitlacoche fondue and hibiscus duck. Its soups, like beet-coconut, blue corn or ricotta cheese, are exceptional, especially paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from Valle de Guadalupe’s Hilo Negro winery.
Chapulín, named for the popular edible grasshopper, is located in the Presidente InterContinental Hotel, which houses perhaps the most important cellar in the country, with more than 2,500 labels and 40,000 bottles. Chapulín boasts an extensive list of Mexican wines (not to mention mezcal and craft beer), and guests can also access the hotel’s collection. Chef Josefina López’s dishes are refined versions of classics like pescado zarandeado, arroz a la tumbada and beef tongue in almond mole, alongside unexpected ingredients like wild boar, venison and local deep-red “salmon trout.”
Valle de Guadalupe
Of Javier Plascencia’s six restaurants in Baja California, Finca Altozano is his most attractive. Located at the end of a long dirt road that overlooks vineyards in the heart of Valle de Guadalupe wine country, it’s a rambling outdoor restaurant with open-fire grills and roaming farm animals. Don’t be alarmed if a hungry pig snuggles your leg. Every ingredient comes from the peninsula, from the octopus in the ceviche to the grilled quail and suckling lamb confit. It also has the largest list of Valle de Guadalupe wines in the country, around 130 labels.
Hueso translates to “bone,” and 10,000 of them line the walls of this stunning, monochrome restaurant, like a large-scale Louise Nevelson installation recast in white. It’s a metaphor for Chef and Co-Owner Alfonso Cadena’s food, which creates art from the most elemental of ingredients. Co-Owner and Wine Director Juan Monteón maintains a large cellar, but keeps the dynamic list at less than 50 bottles. It changes up to four times a week, however, to introduce discoveries and harmonize with Cadena’s ever-changing menus.
Visitors to Mérida, the sleepy, steamy capital of the Yucatán state, might not expect to stumble across a 1999 Vega Sicilia Único or 2001 Château Lafite Rothschild. In fact, K’u’uk (“sprout” in Mayan) has one of the country’s most serious wine programs. Of the more than 500 labels, about 300 are from Mexico and include hard-to-find back vintages as well as extensive South American and Spanish selections. There’s plenty to pair with the restaurant’s elegant food that riffs on traditional Yucatecan dishes and ingredients like sea snails with preserved lime, mango, aloe and red seaweed, or rabbit in a plum pipián sauce with lima bean, radish and candied ciricote fruit.
Though located in the gorgeous oceanfront Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun resort south of Cancun, Le Chique is about as far from a “resort restaurant” as possible. For the 20-plus-course tasting menu—one of Mexico’s most transportive meals—Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna and Head Chef Alejandro Villagrana Pérez employ modernist techniques to deconstruct traditional dishes. Rather than fussy or precious, however, they distill each dish to its flavorful essence. Coursed pairings are available at different price levels, with an extensive bottle list as well.
San Luis Potosí
This Mexican steakhouse (named “wine barrels” in Spanish) has an Argentinian influence, but it offers many unique dishes like a steak-stuffed ancho chile, shrimp tacos in jicama tortillas and a soup based on the region’s famous enchiladas potosinas. It boasts one of country’s deepest wine cellars, with lots of back vintages nearly impossible to find in the country. It’s especially strong in wines from France, Spain, Italy and the U.S.
One of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, Pangea moved to a new location in January after two decades. While it’s always been committed to growth and change, the restaurant’s new iteration feels especially energized and inspired. Eduardo Morali, a former Top Chef contestant, has joined forces with Owner-Executive Chef Guillermo González Beristáin. The wine list maintains around 125 labels, with a newly increased focus on domestic wines—a reflection of the country’s emerging quality. There’s also a wine retail shop in the restaurant.
Many high-end modern Mexican restaurants can feel more academic than appetizing. Not so at Chef Jorge Vallejo’s Quintonil, which represents the zenith of so-called cocina de autor (chef-driven cuisine). This is thoughtful, personal food that never sacrifices flavor for flash. Humble ingredients like cactus, squash and huauzontle greens are given equal treatment as delicacies like abalone and escamoles (queen ant larvae), which redefines what constitutes “fine dining.” The 150-label wine list features everything from top Valle de Guadalupe producers, back-vintage Bordeaux and cult favorites like Matthiasson and Château Musar. It’s all backed by meticulous and knowledgeable service from Head Sommelier Wilton Nava and his team.