The colorful city of Puebla has a deep culinary heritage, with an array of local recipes influenced by both indigenous traditions and Spanish colonial cooking. Perhaps the most famous dish is mole poblano, a thick, dark, flavorful sauce that is made from upward of 30 ingredients, depending on whose grandmother’s recipe you’re following. But mole poblano is just one of many moles available on menus in Puebla, where the selections vary with the seasons.
The restaurants below offer higher-end dining, but Puebla’s more-casual options are also worth exploring. Our guide, arranged through ground operator Journey Mexico, took us on a food tour of local spots that serve delicious street food. Highlights included a huge cemita, a sensational chicken schnitzel sandwich topped with pápalo leaves, avocado and Oaxaca cheese; molotes, like fried empanadas filled with huitlacoche (corn fungus) and chicharrón; and addictive tacos árabes, or “Arabian tacos,” made with a flour tortilla stuffed, improbably, with caramelized pork.
In addition to the recommendations below, we also had a tasty meal at the restaurant of the Cartesiano hotel and a good (if slow) dinner at Pasquinel Bistrot in the Azul Talavera Hotel.
Chef Ángel Vázquez caused a splash in Puebla when he opened Intro, a gourmet restaurant serving international cuisine that remains one of the city’s best. But I was interested in his newer venture, Augurio, which focuses on upscale versions of local recipes. On the ground floor of the Quinta Esencia hotel, the stylish space — with hefty woodblock tables and hot-pink accent walls — immediately impressed. I started with the fresh “Salpicón de Jamaica” salad, with tomatoes, local white cheese, crunchy pickled onion, creamy avocado, aromatic oregano and spicy chipotle vinaigrette. Even better was my main of suckling pig confit, with delicious crispy skin and rich, tangy pipián verde mole made with pumpkin seeds. An Augurio cocktail of reposado tequila, Ancho Reyes Verde liqueur, Bitter Mexicano and pipicha (a local herb) was a fine accompaniment.
9 Calle Oriente 16, Centro Histórico. Tel. (52) 222-290-2378
Another of Puebla’s acclaimed chefs, Hugo Minutti, draws inspiration from French cuisine but remains grounded in Poblano traditions. Casa Barroca feels traditional, with wood-beamed ceilings, wrought-iron chandeliers and white tablecloths. The service is highly attentive. After a large amuse-bouche of pork chalupas, I relished an appetizer of savory duck confit stuffed into a thin blue-corn tortilla topped with spicy-sweet almond sauce and quelites, a local green resembling thin chard. Also delicious was my main course of red snapper grilled in a corn husk and topped with pineapple adobo and purslane. The fish was such a star, the sides of onion-garlic purée, refried beans and avocado cream seemed almost like afterthoughts. Rather than order wine, I opted to try some local mezcal with the meal, neat. The Candinga Pechuga de Guajolote con Mole Poblano was round, smooth, focused and complex. Pechuga mezcals (distilled a third time with fruits, nuts, herbs and a poultry breast) are notoriously expensive, so don’t miss the chance to try a reasonably priced glass of a particularly notable example. We finished with a satisfying dessert of blue-corn sponge cake soaked in eggnog and accompanied by Papantla vanilla ice cream.
7 Oriente 205, Centro Histórico. Tel. (52) 222-290-4767
This restaurant in the hotel of the same name specializes in mole poblano. According to my guide in Puebla, Casareyna serves the best mole poblano in the city, which makes it the best in the world. I felt a little skeptical after we sat down, noting the tastevin around the sommelier’s neck, a pretentious affectation. But the proof was in the mole. I skipped the appetizers and went right for it. The Abuela Angela Mole Poblano lived up to its hype: Fragrant with chocolate and cinnamon, the sumptuous sauce tasted deep and complex, with an ideal balance of sweet and spicy flavors. It came lavished atop a chicken breast, a perfectly neutral mole delivery vehicle, and accompanied by rice and fresh tortillas. I chose the lemon and mint mousse from the comically oversize dessert menu — it was taller than our waiter. The dessert was light and refreshing, but I rather wish I’d opted for the more unique mamey ice cream.
Privada 2 Oriente 1007, Centro Histórico. Tel. (52) 222-232-0032
In the ancient religious center of Cholula, now essentially a suburb of Puebla, Ciudad Sagrada is the sister restaurant of Casa Barroca, also run by chef Hugo Minutti. It’s an ideal choice for lunch after visiting the new Museo Regional de Cholula and the nearby archaeological park, home to a massive buried pyramid topped with a picturesque church. I sipped a refreshing minted lemonade as we sat on the quiet garden patio and perused the upscale Poblano menu. To start, I chose a lush soup of poblano pepper purée and corn cream, garnished with fresh pepper slices, squash blossoms and a quail egg. A main course of butter-sautéed red snapper was small but satisfying, served with saffron rice, panela cheese and spicy guajillo chile sauce. The restaurant is down an unpromising-looking street near a rail viaduct, but it’s only a short walk from the pyramid. Come after 1 p.m.; before then, the menu is quite limited.
2 Oriente 615, Centro, San Pedro Cholula. Tel. (52) 222-247-9425