This Is Guadalajara, Mexico’s Ultimate Guide for FoodiesBy Paola Quintana Vera
Today, tapatío is the favored word for anything or anyone that is native to Guadalajara, which is an ideal destination for foodies. More than 12 million people visit Jalisco’s capital every year and the number of people doing so because of its food is on the rise, and with good reason.
This city, the second largest in Mexico, is a hotbed of stunning typical dishes.
Guadalajara’s Typical Dishes
Birria, a spiced lamb stew that is cooked underground, is besides from being the best-known tapatío dish, a remedy to relieve the effects of a night of tequila and mariachi. Birriería El Chololo is something of a regional institution, thanks to its family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Another broth-based stew, this time made with beans, beef and bacon, is poetically known as carne en su jugo or “beef in its juice.” Diners can add onion, cilantro, lemon and salsas to their taste and it comes with a freshly baked tortilla wrap. If you are looking for the complete experience, try it at Karne Garibaldi, the restaurant with the Guinness World Record for the fastest service.
Another dish that hits the spot is tortas ahogadas (literally ‘drowned sandwiches’); delicious, crunchy bread filled with chunks of slow-cooked pork, soaked in a tomato and chili sauce. Locals will tell you that the secret is in the birote, the regional bread similar to a baguette, which is cooked until it is toasted, helping it stay firm even when wet. Tortas Toño, which has 8 branches around the metro area, is undoubtedly the best place to eat them.
Signature cuisine in Guadalajara
The traditional dishes are just a small part of what Guadalajara has on offer to delight the palate. During the last 20 years, chefs born or based in the city have opened restaurants that are now showing the rest how it is done. Some of them have received international recognition and prizes and they form the perfect circuit for a gastronaut. Their lively menus, which change depending on the in-season ingredients, mean you can visit time and time again because there is always a new flavor to be discovered.
The pioneers of the scene are probably I Latina, a project that opened its doors in 1999. It can be found in a space that used to house a wine cellar and its near-kitsch décor is all part of the attraction. Its menu provides a blend of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican flavors, and always favors local ingredients. The block de pato en mole (duck confit terrine in a mole sauce), is a good example of this fusion. Six years after opening its doors, its little sister came into being 100 feet away, by the name of Anita Li, which forms a palindrome.
“I want people to have a unique experience and to feel my passion for food,” says Darren Walsh, the Irishman who opened Lula Bistro in 2011. In this culinary playground, the chef experiments with textures, flavors and colors on tasting menus of up to 16 courses. The experience becomes a feast for all the senses when diner-concerts are organized with musicians to liven up the evening.
If Walsh is the godfather of signature cuisine in Guadalajara, Paco Ruano is the prodigal son. This tapatío spent some time at high seas and then in Europe before returning to his homeland to open Alcalde in 2013. The kitchen is one of the focal points of the premises and it is open so that visitors can enjoy a gastrovisual experience. There is a choice between the à la carte menu and the tasting menu. Ruano’s interpretation of jericalla, a milk dessert similar to flan, is majestic. In 2018, Alcalde was awarded 31st place in the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Nine places further down this list lies La Docena. Inspired by the oyster bars of New Orleans, Tomás Bermudez impeccably combines Louisiana’s typical Cajun cuisine with local ingredients, as evidenced by his po’ boys. In addition, all the vegetables are grown in the restaurant’s own orchard. With two branches in Guadalajara and two in Mexico City, this place is a must.