I couldn’t verify that intel, but there was a lot about Coyoacán that seemed different from the rest of the city. While bustling, it also felt inviting, almost suburban, and largely unruffled from the masses of tourists that crowd neighborhoods like the Centro Histórico. Much of that might be attributable to the lack of big hotel chains in the area — you won’t find Sheratons or Hiltons in Coyoacán.
That left me with a handful of options, primarily small inns and Airbnbs. My first night in the neighborhood, I stayed just a couple blocks away from the Blue House at the cozy Chalet del Carmen Coyoacán, where I found a room for 1,330 Mexican pesos, a little over $70. I spent the next couple of nights in a private room with attached bathroom in a great central location near Plaza de la Conchita, booked through Airbnb for $30 per night.
My host, Gustavo Hernández Clark, waxed rhapsodic about his adopted home, saying he loved “everything about Coyoacán.” He emigrated from Cuba 20 years ago, murkily referring only to “the situation there” when discussing his homeland. After checking me in, we walked around the corner to one of his lunch haunts, Taquería los Parados de Coyoacán. I had a lovely plate of enchiladas suizas stuffed with chicken and drowning in a tangy green chili salsa for 91 pesos, less than $5, plus a freshly squeezed orange juice for another 35 pesos.
It was the first of many excellent meals. Unsurprisingly, the volume of inexpensive street food and casual cafes in Coyoacán didn’t disappoint. My first afternoon in the city was brightened considerably when I stopped by La Casa del Pan Papalotl, where I got a creamy banana licuado (something between a milkshake and a smoothie) for 32 pesos. The cute vegetarian restaurant sits on a lively plaza on Calle Xicoténcatl, and I spent some time hanging out, perusing jewelry and bootleg DVDs peddled by sidewalk vendors. I also couldn’t resist an enormous basket spilling over with churros. I picked up a bag of four of the fried sugary treats for 15 pesos.
Sweet, doughy delights are in abundance, and you’d be remiss to visit Mexico without trying a concha, a kind of pan dulce (sweet bread) caked with a cracked, crumbly topping. Rafaella Panadería does a nice, chocolate version (18 pesos) that’s worth the walk to the northwest corner of the neighborhood. A few blocks down on Avenida Division del Norte is El Rey del Taco, which does a decent taco al pastor (12 pesos), but is really worth visiting for the selection of tasty pickled chilies and onions that come with it.