Way downtown – Doña Chela of Tlapan
Reluctant to venture south of the Viaducto, I recently risked bearings lost and made my way down to Tlalpan. A surprisingly tranquil little hamlet, Tlalpan was another one of those villages, like Coyoacán, that eventually made its way into the greedy maw of that hungry beast, ‘El D.F.’ Its quaint small-town center and colonial buildings survive, testaments to the day, not so long ago, when Mexico City’s centro was the centro, and these places existed autonomously and were visited on burro or tram through fields of corn.
Central Tlalpan, home to a mix of Marxianlumpenproletariat and the decidedly well-heeled, is still tattered at the edges. It could use a little loving care. Huge mansions are minimally maintained. A hundred year old convent is topped by what looks like a five story parking lot, way above the supposed limit – who did those nuns pay off to get their ‘permiso de contrucción’? Unlike Coyoacán whose center is relatively intact, Tlalpan struggles to keep face like an aged Hollywood diva of yore. But a walk down the streets surrounding the peaceful, recently renovated zócalo, pays off. An ancient church, San Agustín de las Cuevas, shimmers, its meditative courtyard providing refuge for the city-weary. Casa Frissac, a mansion of bygone days, houses a museum and cultural center. And the red brickMercado de la Paz dates to 1888 and is the oldest still functioning market building in the city. Enter through one of its welcoming portals. Inside, down the well-trodden stone paths happens to be one of the best fondas in town: that of Doña Chela.
“¡Sabor y Calidad!” shouts the sign, and Chela doesn’t mince words, just chilies. Covering several stalls due to popular demand, she cooks up a veritable encyclopedia of Mexican antojitos, fromtacos de guisados – filled with green or red mole to enchiladas, tostadas, grilled meats, sopes, huaraches (no, not shoes, but large oblongs of meat topped masa). On a cool day one can order a piping hot and rich pozole.
Fonda Doña Chela
Mercado de la Paz, just off the main plaza of Tlalpan
The best way to get there by public transportation is
Metrobus to Perisur, then a short taxi ride.