Enjoying the flavors of Mexico City

Demand for fried churros dusted in sugar and dipped into chocolate sauce begins at breakfast and continues all day at Mexico City’s historic El Moro churreria, open since 1935.

Street food carts at busy intersections in the sprawling city of 9 million serve up sweet corn slathered in butter and crispy chicharron fried pork skins.

Bustling food markets such as the Mercado Merced boast rows of colorful candies — from lollipops to marshmallows.

But, there’s a healthy side to Mexican food emerging in Mexico City’s exciting culinary scene.

Fish flown in daily from the Pacific Coast is simply grilled and presented on top of wilted greens and sliced golden potatoes with a side of locally foraged mushrooms at chef Jair Tellez’s newly opened Amaya restaurant and wine bar.

“We serve good food and strange wine,” said Tellez, who offers an entirely Mexican wine list. A light dessert at Amaya is a sampling of Mexico’s unique fruits, including bright pink prickly pear and dark orange mamey served with a touch of fresh cheese scented with anise.

At Vinocola Urbana, a restaurant set in a demonstration vineyard planted on a rooftop, the Baja California-grown wines are paired with traditional dishes prepared for modern palates, including squash blossom soup and yellow rice wrapped in nopales (cactus leaves).

Getting fit

There’s a fitness trend in Mexico City.

Central streets are closed to traffic and open to cyclists and pedestrians only on Sundays.

The St. Regis Mexico City holds yoga classes with skyline views, and the bartenders make breakfast fruit smoothies, including one with orange, papaya, agave honey and oatmeal. Quinoa salad with dried mango chips and an avocado-topped pizza are popular menu items at the hotel’s JG & Grill.

“Many people who travel a lot like to take care of themselves,” said Manuel Aceves, a St. Regis Mexico City dining manager.

There’s healthy fare on the streets, too. A day spent with Eat Mexico Culinary Tours led our group to a woman on a street corner shaping and cooking blue corn tortillas filled with huitlocoche (corn fungus) and to a tiny shop specializing in pavos tortas (turkey sandwiches) made with roast turkey, avocado and chipotle salsa. Delicioso.

Next week: Mexico City’s finest gastronomy.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at carolyn@carolynoneil.com.