In the UK I don't eat out regularly, and when I do it's for an occasion - a birthday, a leaving do, or to catch up with friends I've not seen in a while. Mexico is a little different, and though I earn less in a month here than my UK mortgage costs (in fact 8 times less than my old UK salary), the cost of living here means it still works out very cheap for me to eat out. So I do. A lot. And yes, Mexico City has an astonishing number of eateries, and yes, after a year here, I've barely scratched the surface, but part of the reason for the latter is that we often end up at the same places, and with good reason. So here are my favourites from my time here. (NB: They may not all seem 'Mexican' but most local food is sold on the street, not in restaurants, plus I only frequent places where there are vegetarian options available. All of the following meet this criteria.)
NON SOLO PASTA www.nonsolo.com.mx
This is an Italian-style eatery with branches in Polanco and Roma. They have a bar and a Panini place, plus two full menu restaurants. The decor is not fancy, and the service not especially good, but the food is lush. We went here for (one of) leaving meals, and it was a good choice. The Roma one is crowded every time we've passed, but we managed to get a table immediately. The menu is, as the name suggests, 'not just pasta' though there is a good selection of this. They also have chicken and fish, and a variety of starters though there was no pizza on the main menu. We were in no rush, just as well since the food was slow to arrive, but the complimentary bread, garlic butter and parmesan kept us entertained and fought off the hunger. My pasta with roasted garlic was amazing, and the sort you use your fingers to lick up every last drop of sauce of, but it had to be fingers since oddly neither of us eating pastas were given spoons. The desserts were also to die for, and the chocolate bomb with a molten core is divine. In total we paid 350 pesos (about £17) for 3 people. That was 4 soft drinks, a coffee, two pastas, a chicken and a dessert, which seemed very reasonable given the high quality of the food.
LOS BISQUETS BISQUETS OBREGON www.lbbo.com.mx/
I've already written a full review of this place, so I'll try not to repeat myself, though judging by the response I got from LBBO HQ, they wouldn't mind if I gushed some more. This is more of a cafe than a restaurant, but is a firm favourite of ours, especially for Sunday brunch. The menu includes lot of eggs and pancakes, plus fruit salads and stuff, but the main draw is the biscuits, which are the American/scone kind not the British/cookie one. These are readily available throughout Mexico, but we sincerely believe the LBBO ones are the best. They are crumbly and flaky and delicious with butter, jam or cream, and even better, cost a mere 7.50 pesos (less than 40p) each. There are many branches of LBBO and they also do take away pan dulce (cakes and pastries) so I've got a biscuit from there a couple of times and taken it home to toast up and spread with butter. They bake every day so the stuff is always fresh and tasty, and it's everso cheap too. It's an extremely popular chain, and we've often had to wait for tables, but it's well worth it.
DE TODO UN POCO
I have no objection to being in Mexico and not eating much Mexican food, but I appreciate that people coming to visit might like to try the odd thing. I came across this restaurant accidentally but it immediately became my go-to place for takings out of towners. The reason? It has an extensive menu (as the name says...a little of everything) but more impressively has a massive selection of vegetarian Mexican dishes. There's no reason why most local food cannot be made with cheese or tofu anyway, but you normally have to ask. Not here: they have it all on the menu and the descriptions of what you will get are clear, also important in a country where 'vegetarian' usually means 'no red meat'. I have been here a number of times and never been disappointed. It is great for lunch though they don't start serving this until 2pm. It's a small place but the service is great, the prices very cheap (about £2-£3 per main), and you get free bread too. Mmm. The restaurant is located two blocks behind the church in the centre of Coyoacan.
100% NATURAL www.100natural.com.mx/
With a name like 100% Natural, you can guess that this place is no greasy spoon. In fact, the chain is just as you would imagine, with a healthy menu and 'natural' interior design to match (think wicker furniture and the odd fountain). The menu does not have a massive vegetarian choice, but there are some options, especially among the starters. This is the place to go for more 'exotic' things like hummus (that counts as exotic in Mexico) and has a total dedication to what they call 'integral' products. The free bread is a seeded wholemeal loaf, with oil, not butter, the breakfast pancakes are made with raisins, flackseed and no white flour, even the garlic bread is healthy, sans-butter and with lots of almost raw garlic on top. They lose a point for their drinks selection (charging an extortionate amount for water, and not serving fizzy drinks) and not having salt on the tables, just pepper, but gain it back for having 5 types of chocolate cake on their menu. Diet coke = evil, but chocolate cake = healthy and natural? I could get used to that way of thinking. Service depends on the branch and the time you visit, but can be slow, and prices are high (around £5+ for a main - that's loads here!), but it's a great place to eat a big meal and still come out feeling nice and light, not heavy and bloated.
I rarely eat in the historic centre since I live in a different area, but when my mother came to visit and we were planning a day there, I scoured my guide book for a recommendation. This place is a cute little cafe overlooking the Alameda park. It looks a bit like an American diner from the outside but actually has an Italian influence, though as always here, with a Mexican spin. We had a late lunch here after a day of walking, and it's definitely one to consider, though the menu is a bit eclectic. They have loads of unrelated dishes on offer, most available all day (no silly 'breakfast only' or 'after 3pm only' set up here). I had biscuits which were different from the LBBO variety, but tasty and filling. My mother had the vegetable plate which was, literally, just a plate of vegetables, which was kind of odd, but, she said, delicious. I blame the menu for not clearly allocating things to starters / sides / main courses and so on, as I'd have put this as an accompaniment rather than a meal in its own right, but with the free crackers it was enough to be going on with. The food here is super cheap, especially considering the location (right in the heart of the tourist zone) and the menu means I think most people could find something here, though everyone at the table could be eating a different type of cuisine.
Sanborns is a bit of a funny place. It is a shop/restaurant combo that has developed a number of niches for itself, though quite contrasting ones. This is the place to go for imported magazines, fancy chocolate, electronics and beauty supplies, but not much else. It's also the place to go for a scrummy breakfast. Sanborns is a national chain, with a standardised menu. Worth noting, is that this menu is available in English in all branches, though for some reason the English version does not have any prices listed. It is open all day (some are 24 hours) but I tend to go there for breakfasts or just an afternoon snack. The breakfast menu is extensive, with omelettes, chilaquiles, molletes, plus less Mexican stuff like pancakes, waffles and French toast. They do packages that include bread, coffee or tea, and juice or fruit, which are great value too, and though it's a chain, the service is good. They also have booths in most of their restaurants. I love booths  Sanborns is very similar to VIPs (see separate, full review) but not owned by WalMart. To be honest, there's not much to choose between them, but Sanborns just seems a tiny bit more Mexican.
NEVE GELATO www.nevegelato.com/
This is definitely a cafe rather than a restaurant, but has an amazing choice on its menu though only for those with a real sweet tooth. The ice cream here is expensive compared to non-branded chains, and only a little bit better, but it's what they do with their ice cream that has me going back again and again. Some of the branches only have counter service, but the bigger ones that have seating areas have just the best menus. They have crepes, waffles, sundaes and so on, all customisable with your choice of their delicious ice cream. None of that silly this flavour + this sauce combination only nonsense. My all time favourite thing here is the profiteroles. They serve you 3 of these, but instead of cream inside, they let you choose flavours of ice cream (all the same, or 3 different) then they drizzle with your choice of vanilla, chocolate or fruity sauce, and, finally, serve with a beautifully presented fruit garnish, which even included kiwi and star-fruit last time we went. It's a massive 'meal' rather than a snack, but very much recommended. Prices are high for what you get, but as an occasional treat (or if you're only in town for a few days) it's well worth a visit.
LA BELLA ITALIA www.labellaitalia.com.mx/
On the subject of ice cream, I recently discovered this adorable cafe just a few streets from my apartment. It is not a chain like Neve, and has much lower prices, but the selection is just as incredible. They have all manner of ice cream sundaes available, and once again you can mix and match flavours to get the exact thing you want, with no substitution charge. The servings are small, but the prices are cheap, and I really like being able to get a mini sundae that includes sauce and cream and a wafer, and still have room left for my dinner later. This cosy place is popular on rainy weekend afternoons, but it's spacious enough, and they have a cute decor including a juke box. You also get the impression the owners have actually been to Italy at some point, which helps.
CREPES Y WAFFLES www.crepesywaffles.com/
By now, you might have picked up a hint of a clue that I might possibly have a sweet tooth, and this next restaurant caters to it perfectly. My local branch is located in a mall, which is not the nicest location for a relaxing brunch, but the menu makes up for it. They have salads and sandwiches and eggs, but the main draw is the crepes and waffles, and they have an enormous range of these, including adorable mini waffles. I have been here with all my guests, because even though it's not really Mexican, it's something they cannot get at home. The varieties on offer include both sweet and savoury toppings, and I've never had the same thing twice here, because there's so much on the menu I want to try. The food is very nicely presented, and you get a lot of it - a waffle might come with Nutella, cream and ice cream for example, not just one of those. Again, it costs a little more than some of the independent places, but the food has never let us down, the ambience is great, and you can linger as long as you like. They also do ice cream cones to take away, and have a massive ice cream sundae menu too, which means that on more than one occasion my balanced meal has been a waffle followed by an ice cream, but hey. Their chocolate fondue comes with mini balls of ice cream to dunk in, as well as biscuits and fruit, but we never ordered it again because it's hideously expensive, even when shared. However the single scoop ice creams are much more reasonable, and the Brownie flavour is just to die for.
Italiannis (see separate review) www.italiannis.com.mx/
VIPs (see separate review) www.vips.com.mx
ONLY WHEN MY STUDENTS / THEIR COMPANY CREDIT CARDS ARE PAYING...
El Cardenal www.restauranteelcardenal.com/