Centuries-Old Legends, Heady Cocktails and More Lurk at Guadalajara’s Most Unusual BarsBy Aníbal Santiago
In Guadalajara, a good bar can seem as valuable as diamonds; a few are little known, others discreet, some are popular only amongst tapatíos (so-called inhabitants of the city).
Thanks to the patrons, the food and the inventive drinks, an evening in any of these cantinas—traditional bars full of mystery and a touch of neglect—will make you travel through time and plunge into pleasures of both sight and taste.
Walk through Colonia Americana’s historic streets: El Retiro, Alcalde Barranquitas, La Moderna, El Santuario and Centro Histórico and open these bar doors that teach you how to enjoy life.
La Iberia: a Revolutionary Tavern
Behind its Old West-style saloon doors, one would expect to see cowboys. Instead, you’ll find veteran teachers from the University of Guadalajara debating medicine, law or simply laughing at life in this 1904 bar created by Mr. Porfirio Díaz.
Over this space’s adorned tablecloths—favored by leaders of the Revolution—it’s probable that you’ll hear the voice of crooner Jorge Negrete (a local legend) singing over the speaker, but one thing is certain: you’ll fall for the addictive tortas ahogadas (regional sandwiches) and accompanying frothy malts that topple from classic porcelain dispensers—their draft beer will save you.
Bar Zapotlán: Limes and Nostalgia
One day, a customer arrived with a little bag of limes and a request for the bartender: “Mr. Mario,” he said, “can you extract the juice and add vodka?” Since that fateful day, burlap sacks full of limes arrive every morning to make lima, an enchanting cocktail that brightens the abandoned-looking ambiance of this bar, which is decorated with an opaque blue mural.
For 40 years, its allure has been found on the menu: lengua en salsa verde (beef tongue in green sauce), birria (spicy beef stew), puerco sancochado (boiled pork)—all free with the purchase of a drink.
The jukebox oozes nostalgia via the piano stylings of Consuelito Velázquez, an accomplished musician and the darling of Jalisco, while the crowd sits on the furnishings—leather chairs as comfortable as clouds.
Bar Martín: The Eternal Vessel
The king of this spacious bar, situated in an old factory district, is a scale-sized frigate ship, La Modena, perched over the bar counter. With dusty sails, battered and stoic masts—from storms of yesteryear—this vessel has witnessed thousands of nights of patrons refreshed with sangria, a mix of wine or lemon and vodka.
Clients accompany these with birote (typical Jalisco bread stuffed with shredded meat). The walls are covered with humorous postcards about Chivas-Atlas—a mythical Mexican soccer rivalry that ignites the venue twice a year.
The stressed-out waiters never stop delivering delicious caldo de camarón (shrimp broth) to the tables. In contrast, the famed tapatío singer Vicente Fernández sings—in an absolute and almost painful calm—via the speaker system.
Los Famosos Equipales: A Sacred Centenary
The cash register is a temple for miniatures; a buddha, a virgin, a Christ, a Judas and three crosses. This devotion is effective: this bar is nearly 100 years old.
A savvy clientele raves, “the manitas de cerdo (pig’s feet) at Los Famosos Equipales are the best in Jalisco and around the universe.” And there’s another reason this place threatens to last forever: “Its discreet location favored by those fleeing the spotlight—from the humble laborer to the elegant businessman”, says Juan Salazar, a local artist and frequent customer.
Visitors drink the classic nalga alegre ( a drink made with orange crush, lemon, gin and wine) and the owner María Partida says “Drink it with caution, maximum two glasses,” she laughs.
Cantina La Fuente: A Place Where Time Disappeared
The bike that hangs high above this bar is a deity. A long time ago, a penniless diner left it hanging there to go and find some pesos. Though he has yet to return, they keep on waiting.
Collecting antediluvian dust, the bike remains over the clients’ heads as they eat chicharron (pork rinds), drink tequila and laugh inside these 98-year-old walls situated in the heart of the city.
The overwhelming simplicity of this bar, with its cobwebs and neon lights, is rattled by something unexpected; an ancient paper calendar that reads September 22, 1930—the exact date a wounded Mexico overcame the Guerra Cristera (Cristero War).