Sunday, April 1, 2018

El Hidalguense - Mexico City

I only had one restaurant on my list on our recent trip to Mexico: El Hidalguense in the La Roma section of Mexico City. I've never thought of lamb as being part of Mexican food, but my previous visits to Mexico had all been relatively close to the border. Lamb is one of my favorite meats and I figured they had to have lamb deep in the country, so I googled "best lamb in Mexico City" and El Hidalguense was one of the search results that showed up several times. Bon Appetit called it Mexico City's "ultimate barbacoa." When I learned that Andrew Zimmern had listed it as one of his delicious destinations, that sealed it for me, we had to visit.  
El Hidalguense is known for its lamb barbacoa. Barbacoa originated in the Caribbean and is where our word "barbecue" comes from. In Central Mexico, it refers to a whole lamb covered in maguey (agave) leaves slow-cooked in a pit dug into the ground. The meat is known for its high fat content and strong flavor.  
This lamb head on the wall matches the lamb head logo on the menu.
El Hidalguense is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. - no dinner. The lamb barbacoa uses lamb from the owner's, Moises Rodriguez Vargas, farm in Tulancingo, Hidalgo State, just north of Mexico City, where it is rubbed in salt and wrapped in maguey leaves, then slow cooked overnight (at least 12 hours) over wood coals in a pit. The lambed is packed in wood crates and then trucked in to the restaurant in Mexico City where it is served, by weight, in the maguey leaves charred from the flames.  
Up at the counter. 
We visited with our guide, Victor Pedroza, and picked a table near the front of the restaurant. They brought us three delicious styles of salsa, which we came to learn was pretty standard. All had a good kick to them. The green had some avocado in it with green chiles. Unlike American green salsa, Mexico green salsa has a good kick. The dark red was adobo with jalapenos and the orange had habanero chiles, perhaps my favorite. I was warned about it, but it was not overly hot. 
We ordered drinks and Judy and I both got strawberry guava. It was fabulous - strong and nicely combined. We both ordered seconds of it. I also had them bring me a sample of their pineapple and guanabana (soursop) juices, but neither was as good. 
Strawberry guava drink.
Pineapple and guanabana drinks.
The drinks are in large glass containers up on a counter. 
Judy got a consomme (broth) flavored from lamb drippings, chili and lime. It was quite thick. I took several tastes and would have liked it more seasoned. 
Victor showed us that they had interesting tacos and so we ordered two of each: white maguey worm (caterpillar), red maguey worm and ant larvae. All interrelate to the maguey plant, like the cooked lamb. The ant larvae looked like corn and tasted fantastic, once you got past the mental gymnastics of eating it. The large white maguey worms looked pretty disgusting and were the most difficult to eat mind-wise. Fortunately, the were fairly crispy and tasted strongly of lime and salt. The red maguey worms were easiest for me mentally as I'd tasted dried worms like them previously. 
One variety of maguey.
White maguey worms.
Red maguey worms.
Ant larvae.
We ordered a kilo of lamb (2.2 pounds) and it came wrapped in maguey leaves. It was boneless, very fatty and extremely tender. I looked for some of the fattier pieces and feasted on them - heaven. My first few pieces were on the dark corn tortillas, then I just resorted to eating it plain. 
Lamb wrapped in maguey leaves in a warmer near our table. 
We got this delectible collection of lamb. 
This was by far my favorite meal of the trip. The food was superb, unusual, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the setting was open and nice. I would go back again in a heartbeat. 


  1. Nice post I will have to check that place out. Nothing like a good slow cooked lamb. Ant larve look weird to westerners but it is pretty good. BTW it is Pedroza not Pedrosa.

    1. Thanks, I'll make the change. Thanks again for getting us lined up with your father and brother as guides. They were great!

  2. I agree that this was a stand-out meal. I think I'd go back for the juice (the other things too, but the juice was amazing)! I was pleasantly surprised by the "bugs," and felt fine about eating them in an obviously upscale establishment.