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Lisa Monroy’s Mexican High Cheat Sheet

Please join us in welcoming Liza Monroy to The Window Seat. She is the author of Mexican High, a new novel about Mexico City that goes on sale today.

Upon a first glance at Mexico City’s smog and traffic, a traveler might be tempted to say no gracias and bolt to the nearest beach. I’ve experienced this sentiment, as does Milagro, the protagonist in my first novel, Mexican High. Also like Milagro, (who, embarrassed by her unusual name, insists on being called Mila) I went to high school there, and spent months adjusting to the megalopolis. Once I did, though, I discovered into-the-wee-hours nightlife, delectable cuisine, and abundant art, history, and culture. Eleven years post-graduation, I still return as often as I can. Mexico’s capital rivals any European one, and with a better exchange rate. The trick to catching the Mexican high is knowing exactly where to go. Here is a shortcut through my top things to do on a visit.

Photo courtesy of Liza Monroy.

Make your home base at hotel CondesaDF. This fun, funky boutique has a rooftop bar and hot tub, cozy yet modern design, and is adjacent to lovely Parque España. It’s also where the neighborhood’s artsy types gather.

Chef Martha Ortiz Chapa’s upscale-yet-affordable Aguila y Sol (Emilio Castelar 229, 3rd floor, 52-55-5281-8354) in the posh Polanco district is a unique experience–Chapa creates nouveau signature dishes around themes derived from traditional Mexico. When I last visited, the “Xochimilco chic” menu featured a dessert of pistachio ice cream
floating in a tiny trajinera (the Aztec version of a gondola) on a canal of blue crushed ice.

Ride a real trajinera in Xochimilco, a neighborhood in the far south of the city. In the same area, Museo Dolores Olmedo is a stunning hacienda that was formerly the residence of the eponymous patron and friend of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

In Mexican High, Mila hangs out in Plaza Coyoacan, which is perfect for a weekend afternoon meander through the artisans’ market. Stay for happy hour: El Hijo del Cuervo, another backdrop in my book, offers up live music and mean margaritas. Mila and her friends go dancing at Pervert Lounge (Republica de Uruguay 70, 52-55-5510-4454), a locals’ longtime-favorite club and lounge (the novel explains its unusual name). Eat tacos al pastor, delicious spit-roasted pork tacos topped with tangy pineapple, day or night at El Califa (33 Calle Altata, corner of Alfonso Reyes).

No visit is complete without taking in the monumental Museo Nacional de Anropologia, but to peruse more off-the-beaten-track contemporary Mexican art, kick off a self-guided gallery tour in La Condesa and Colonia Roma neighborhoods at arts center/restaurant/bookstore extraordinaire Centro de Cultura Casa Lamm. Que disfrutes! (Enjoy!)

Liza Monroy, the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, spent her high school years attending an international school in Mexico City. Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Jane, and other publications, and she was recently awarded a residency by the Kerouac Project of Orlando. She lives in New York City.


From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.


Anne & May

Okay, now I’m dying to know how that lounge got its name!

Thanks for the rundown on the DF. My fiance and I are thinking of doing Mexico for our honeymoon (affordable! close!) and I was wondering if we should include the DF in the grand tour. Sounds like yes!


Liza…Thanks for demystifying the wonders of the DF. On my last visit to the Museo Olmedo Patino I wandered around its amazing grounds for hours, marveling at the peacocks almost as much as I admired the art. For lunch It’s got to be the San Angel Inn for its truly Frieda & Diego experience…just across the street from their home. JV


Great tips! My girlfriend had a layover in Mexico City on a recent trip back from Cancun, and was fascinated by even what little she was able to see from the airport. The close and affordable parts definitely make it an alluring next destination for us. Much appreciated!


Gracias, Liza! I rushed out “rapido” and got your novel “Mexican High”. It’s “muy caliente”! Hot, hot as in “hip” – sizzling with the sights, sounds and happenings of Mexico City. We discover them with protagonist Mila – from tamarind margaritas, the picturesque plaza in Coyoacan and more. A must read and must visit city! Felicidades!

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