Whether it’s waves that pull you to surf spots around the globe, beachy escapes in the dead of winter, or a general curiosity about life in other places, there are a lot of ways, reasons, and excuses to travel. One of my favorite ways to structure a romp around the world is by exploring food. Culture always fascinates me, and food speaks to geography, tradition, and way of life like few other things can, making it the perfect way to experience a new place. When it comes to food, there are few places as culinarily diverse as our neighbor to the south: Mexico.
It’s something people either love or hate—I have yet to meet anyone who’s just ‘meh’ about mole. Those with an affinity for the spicy, nutty, chocolatey sauce would likely claim that good mole is worth a trip in and of itself. Tlaxcala, Puebla, and Oaxaca all claim be the place where mole originated but, while no one knows for sure, one thing is certain: Oaxaca is the place to go to get your fix—seven to be exact. Here you’ll find mole made with over 30 ingredients, producing a complex taste you’ll dream of for days. While it’s usually served over meat, drizzling it over some queso enchiladas is a great veggie-friendly route that’s just as decadent and indulgent.
While most mezcal is made in Oaxaca, the country’s eclectic capital is the place to go to sample all the mezcal you can handle. Distilled from agave and made much the same way that it has been for over 200 years, it’s easy to come by a variety of takes on this somewhat smokey drink in Mexico City, thanks to the growing number of mezcaleros within its borders. The choices are practically endless, but here are some great ones: Grab traditional mezcal at El Bosforo, sip on the bacanora version at La Nacional, or sample the more rare raicilla (a Jaliscan version) at La Clandestina.
It’s no coincidence that San Diego is known for its fish tacos—it’s the city’s proximity to the motherland of fish tacos, Baja California, that gives it the edge. The 800 mile strip of Mexico that’s just a few miles from downtown San Diego produced the fish taco as the result of a blend of the Asian and European influences that made their way to Baja on fishing and trade routes. These days, the places to go are are vast, but La Cahua del Yeho and Mariscos Walter come recommended. Last, but certainly not least, it’s recommended that you pair them with a good wave or two as well, since the surf is on point in Baja.
Seafood fanatics, get your ticket to Cancun. Isla Mujeres is a darling little island off the coast of Cancun in the Quintana Roo (I’ve always loved that name, as did Joan Didion) state that you reach by taking a ferry across emerald seas from the traditional spring break town. Once you arrive, you’ll be transported to an old fishing village that’s popular with weddings these days and is clad in exactly the colorful architecture you picture when you think of Mexico. Here you’ll find a ton of takes on ceviche, usually featuring a mix of shrimp, octopus, fish, or all of the above (and maybe more). It’ll be the freshest you’ve ever had—promise.