Friday, June 14, 2024

The secret cave restaurant hidden beneath Mexico City’s pyramids

Years ago, I booked a trip to Panama. I told a friend about my plans and he said “You absolutely have to go to Bocas del Toro.” 

“Ugh,” I responded with dramatic flair, “No way. That place looks so touristy.”

La Gruta offers a range of delicious traditional Mexican dishes. (La Gruta MX)

He responded, “Yeah. For a reason.”

I thought for a moment. My friend had a point. Curious people all over the world are drawn to that which is beautiful, alluring, mysterious or uncommon. 

His words have always stuck with me, thus making me more open-minded to what I once abhorred as a quintessential tourist trap – because there are some that are worth the crowds. Would you go to China without seeing the Great Wall? To Egypt without seeing the Pyramids? Would you skip the Tequila train in Guadalajara just because it was too touristy? 

Probably not, and you probably shouldn’t. 

The restaurant also offers a chance to cool off from the heat with a refreshing cocktail. (La Gruta MX)

Neither should you forgo a meal in La Gruta, the famous cave restaurant just a few steps from the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacán. It’s so visually captivating, one might argue that it should have made it onto our recent list of Top 10 Instagrammed locations in CDMX.

Since 1906, La Gruta has been serving up traditional and pre-Hispanic dishes in an underground cave behind the Pyramid of the Sun, one of the planet’s 10 largest pyramids. 

Because the restaurant is located in the Teotihuacán Archaeological zone, about 40 miles outside of Mexico City, it’s full of tourists. Don’t let that stop you. Here are 10 reasons to make a reservation at La Gruta after your visit to Mexico’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. It’s farm-to-table
    La Gruta has their own farm where they cultivate greens, mushrooms, flowers and herbs used for flavor and garnish. The restaurant works with Gerónimo Nieto of San Francisco Mazapa in México state to harvest the corn used in their homemade tortillas and pan de elote.
  2. They support local artisans
    Staff uniforms are hand-embroidered by a community of women in Mazahua, México state, whose designs are inspired by the Mexica (Aztec) Corn God Centéotl.
  3. They’re environmentally conscious
    La Gruta developed a program known as KM 0. Its goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by consuming local ingredients, thus eliminating the transportation of products like organic eggs, nopal and tomatoes that are not cultivated on site.
  4. The space is healing
    Speaking of the environment, at La Gruta you’ll sit at a brightly-colored table surrounded by volcanic rock. Also known as lava rock, it’s a powerful element said to clear negative emotions and bring a sense of peace and calm. 
  5. You’ll have a chance at rebirth
    When you’re presented with the bill (which I can guarantee will be pricier than almost anywhere else in México state, but again, it’s the unique experience you’re paying for), you will be given a candle. According to legend, lighting a candle and placing it in the cave’s walls is a symbol of rebirth.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

    The restaurant allows diners to feast inside a cave hewn from volcanic rock. (La Gruta)
  6. There’s a kids menu
    Hallelujah! A kids menu! While not extensive, La Gruta offers soup, pasta, chicken and dessert for children.
  7. They can accommodate vegetarians There are soups, salads and a vegetarian entree that can easily be made vegan by withholding the cheese and opting for avocado in its place.
  8. The barbacoa The meat of free-grazing local sheep is cooked in underground ovens for 12 hours, a pre-Hispanic barbeque technique that enhances the lamb’s flavor and softens the texture. It’s the most traditional dish in the region and one of the most popular choices on the menu.
  9. The adult beverages are fun
    Taste the rainbow with La Gruta’s array of colorful margaritas, including Mexican flavors like Xoconostle (pink tuna fruit), tamarind and mango. 
  10. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner – every day of the year!
    La Gruta is open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s advisable to make a reservation, especially if you’re dining during peak hours or with a large group. Don’t be late, though, as reservations are held for only 10 minutes.

Not to mention, how many caves have you dined in? My guess is not many. Here’s your chance to tick a memorable experience off your bucket list while chowing down on fresh cactus salad and a zesty margarita. Buen provecho!

Bethany Platanella is a travel planner and lifestyle writer based in Mexico City. She lives for the dopamine hit that comes directly after booking a plane ticket, exploring local markets, practicing yoga, and munching on fresh tortillas. Sign up to receive her Sunday Love Letters in your inbox, peruse her blog, or follow her on Instagram.

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