Navigating Mexico: A Plethora of New Eateries
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
What’s going on in Mexico City’s Colonia Juárez? How is it possible that so many new restaurants are opening in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and in such close proximity to each other?
Luís Peña’s story is one that many restaurant owners in the capital could tell.
Mexico City, the fifth-largest city in the world, had a very competitive pre-pandemic market for fine dining, and while the competition was fierce, with hard work from a hands-on owner, a restaurant could turn a profit, as well as provide stable work for many families.
Peña took a risk a few years before the pandemic hit and rented a space in the east-of-Insurgentes side of the Colonia Juárez neighborhood.
At the time, Juárez was considered an up-and-coming neighborhood, where artists and musicians could no longer afford to rent since new condos were being built and rents went flying through the roof.
Then, just as he was finally getting settled into his new business, the pandemic hit and restaurants across the city were forced to only offer at-home delivery.
Like many others, Peña’s restaurant did not survive the pandemic. He was forced to close.
This is where Peña’s story is different from the countless other hard-working restauranteurs whose businesses did not survive the covid outbreak.
Two neighbors who frequented his former restaurant decided to join him as partners to completely rebrand the business as a British pub — but wait, with a taste of India in the mix.
One of his new partners was the child of British and Indian parents, so the cuisine was perfectly normal in his eyes, like in the big cities of England. But would it work in Mexico City?
A few months ago, the Duke opened its door in Mexico City and while it may have seemed illogical to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, it turned out that Pea and his partners were on to something.
The new pub looks and feels like one in England, with traditional British drinks and beers.
For the close to 1,500 British citizens who live full-time in Mexico City, it has become a place that has British sports on the big screen as well as familiar foods on the menu
Unlike in Mexican bars, which may have popcorn, nachos and some microwave food items to satisfy basic munchies, in a British pub, the food is just as important as the pints, and at the Duke, located at Lisboa 15, a block from Avenida Reforma, that concept brings clients in not just from the neighborhood, but from the larger metropolitan area.
About 50 meters away from the Duke, around the corner on General Prim 95, is another pandemic restaurant success story: Noohwi Cycling Club, a mix between a bicycle shop and a breakfast café.
Sandwiched between the very popular and hard-to-get-a-table-at Amaya restaurant on the left and a gourmet taco restaurant on the right, is La Sede Rooftop restaurant, offering Mediterranean cuisine.
There seems to be a growing trend among some smaller boutique hotels, in order to survive, to rent out their former restaurants, essentially creating partnerships.
These restaurants, to prosper, need to attract diners beyond those on the hotel guest list, and they do, creating value for the restaurant brand as well as the hotel.
So what seems to be the common thread in taking a culinary risk in the midst of a pandemic?
Partnerships and a menu or atmosphere that truly does not exist anywhere else in the city.
While clearly some of the pre-pandemic, stand-alone business models of the past will not work in Mexico City, here are a few that managed to find a different path for success.