A Mexican Power Lunch in Downtown Mexico

Photo: L. Navarro

Photo: L. Navarro

The Mexican power lunch, the equivalent to a three-martini lunch  down South, is at least three courses long. It is coordinated by at least two staff. It involves at least one bottle of wine. And is most certainly not followed by a return to the office.

This sort of lunch thrived some decades ago, in the 1970s, when a great chunk of the Mexican economy was state-owned. Because of this, the Mexican public class swelled up with politicos so capable, so resourceful and so versatile they could run anything with the same success, from a cabinet to a textile mill. Within the context of a greater influence of the government in all aspects of life -productive or otherwise-, and against a backdrop of rapidly-increasing living standards and super-urbanization, the Mexican power lunch thrived. A visit to El Danubio is a glimpse into this world.

Founded in 1936 by Basque immigrants to Mexico City, El Danubio became one of the places to see and to be seen, where power players and mid-ranking bureaucrats alike would close deals. Autographed napkins, hanged throughout El Danubio, vouch for the myriad of politicians, telenovela stars, and magnates who ate and dined here. Today anachronistically situated in the Centro Histórico –the old downtown-, nestled among a chaos of pirated electronics, el Danubio is a portal to the past.

On this particular instance, your Correspondent began a three-hour long meal with a plate-full of freshly-shucked oysters. For all you lovers of mignonette, you – I’ll have you know Mexico lies outside the jurisdiction of the horseradish. Down here, one enjoys an endless array of alternative dipping options: a sauce of chiles and onions so house-made it has no name, hot sauces that have been produced in a (Mexican) factory, lime.

The Langostinos a la Plancha, ‘grilled crawfish’ as per the English menu, is perhaps one of El Danubio’s most famous dishes. Giant shrimps are grilled and then seasoned with one of three signature sauces – butter, garlic or guajillo pepper. The staff very adamantly make their point: unlike most other seafood on offer, which come from the Pacific, these crawfish come from the Atlantic, from the State of Veracruz.

When you are at El Danubio, sometime mid-Mexican power lunch, perhaps as you nab your tenth giant shrimp with a hand dripping with oil and salsa, you will realize: no one had it as good as a 1970s Mexican bureaucrat.

Hot-TipIn 1970s Mexico, dessert that is not Aztec is an afterthought. Since what is on offer here is 1970s ersatz French, skip it altogether and consummate your meal with an ice-cold Tradicional tequila shot.

El Danubio
Uruguay 3
Col. Centro HIstorico
Mexico, DF
+52 55 5512-0912

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Correspondent:Leonardo Navarro

Originally from Mexico, Leonardo moved to Taiwan to become a diplomat. While on the island, he promoted Mexican exports and managed a mariachi song and dance troupe. After working for a bread company in Beijing, Leonardo led the organization of business delegations accompanying the President of Mexico and others to China, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Within the these caravans, Leonardo was unofficial tour guide to Mexican businesspeople, diplomats, and magnates. He is currently based in New York City. Follow Leonardo on Twitter.

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