Where to Eat in Guadalajara
Guadalajara, as a food destination, often gets overshadowed by its more populous, hyper-capital of Mexico's taco scene in the southeast. With scores of top-tier restaurants, Mexico City is a culinary force, but the country's "second city" packs a punch all its own. Those who prefer a more defined regional style and, generally, a more laid back food destination, will find themselves extremely satisfied eating and drinking their way through Jalisco's capital city.
Guadalajara is on Mexico's west coast and a short flight from most U.S. major cities. The metropolis of nearly 1.5 million people is a good introduction to the foundation of Mexican classics and has a lot to offer in terms of food and drink culture. Guadalajara represents a thriving culinary landscape filled with time-honored ancestral recipes and modern takes of native ingredients. Beyond Guadalajara and its neighboring communities, being the birthplace of such pillars of Mexican food culture as birria and tequila, there is so much more to enjoy. For starters, fermented drinks, dishes built on heirloom corn, historic sourdough bread, third-wave coffee, and a sensibility for fresh mariscos inspired by Jalisco's beautiful coast.
Welcome to Guadalajara.
Óscar Segundo and Xrysw Ruelas Díaz's restaurant inside of a tortillería in Guadalajara's working-class neighborhood of Santa Teresita is proof that a world-class restaurant can exist anywhere. There is no wine list, just naturally fermented beverages like tíbicos (water kefir) blended with tropical fruits, horchata de maíz, and some local beer and cider. Xokol's menu changes daily but it's focused on their wildly creative technique-driven dishes based on Segundo's family-grown heirloom corn and Indigenous roots. On one day, it can be a crispy and savory sphere made from ground huazontle (a wild vegetable) and stuffed with melted unpasteurized cheese, and on another day it can be a fresh corn tamal with a wagyu fat hollandaise sauce.
C. Ignacio Herrera y Cairo 1392, Santa Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal., México
Tejuino El Güero at Mercado San Juan de Dios
You cannot visit Guadalajara and not try a tejuino. It is the city's pride and joy in beverage form. Essentially it is a masa-thickened limeade sweetened with piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar) that is lightly fermented; think of this as a nixtamal-flavored kombucha. It's lightly effervescent, incredibly fortifying, and refreshing all at the same time. A sprinkle of chunky rock salt swirled into the drink balances the sweetness and keeps you coming back for more sips until it's all gone. To find one of the best versions of a tejuino, head to Guadalajara's largest mercado and stroll directly to stall #50. There you will find Tejuino El Güero, a stand with only one thing on the menu since 1965: tejuinos. If you want to truly experience a tejuino like a tapatío (the term used for a native of Guadalajara), order your tejuino with a scoop of Mexican-style lime sorbet, which dissolves into the tejuino and adds a layer of lime intensity.
Javier Mina #50 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Pal Real is Guadalajara's hippest breakfast spot. The art on its paper menus is as engaging as its offerings, the coffee — roasted by its sister company, Café Estelar — is unbeatable, and the delicious menu items will entice you with original interpretations of hearty classics like their encacahuatadas con chicharrón or an omelette draped with aromatic hoja santa. For lunch, you'll find a torta ahogada filled with suadero (braised beef brisket) and a rotating menu of mariscos dreamed up by chef Fabian Delgado.
C. Lope de Vega 113, Arcos Vallarta, 44130 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
De La O Cantina
One word sums up De La O Cantina's modern cantina philosophy perfectly: "Guadalajatiki." Expect cocktails like "Pulque Tropical" made from Mexico's first alcoholic beverage — before beer arrived via Europe — which is the fermented sap of the century plant, flavored with pineapple syrup and fortified with some aguardiente to boost the alcohol levels to traditional tiki levels. The food menu reflects their dark cantina vibe, super simple and highly effective drinking snacks like a Mexican [unpasteurized] cheese board, chicharrón tacos drowned in salsa verde, and an aguachile tatemado made from burnt chiles.
Calle Argentina 70, Col Americana, Guadalajara, Jalisco, 44160
La Panga del Impostor
A hot day in Guadalajara calls for a complete meal at La Panga's urban patio mariscos oasis. The seafood-driven casual restaurant pioneered some cutting edge surf and turf applications like a guisado made from tender octopus and pressed chicharrón, raw tuna tostadas topped with air-dried beef floss (machaca), and deliciously briny clam birria with shrimp. They even have a seafood version of Guanajato's famous "Guacamaya" chicharrón torta, except at La Panga they add a couple of spoonfuls of fresh tuna next to that crispy pork chicharrón. Their beer list features some of the best local brews served real cold to wash it all down.
C. Miguel Lerdo de Tejada 2189, Col Americana, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal.,
Karnes Garibaldi (Santa Teresita Original Location)
Carne en su jugo is Guadalajara's lesser-known contribution to Mexico's repertoire of incredibly satisfying stews. Imagine a plate of tacos in soup form. This stew is made from shaved beef cooked in its own juices, tomatillos, tender beans, and is sprinkled with crispy bacon bits. It is finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, minced sharp onion, cilantro, and served with caramelized onions, refried beans with white corn, and a pile of corn tortillas that are lightly toasted in beef drippings. It is a flavor bomb that warms you up from the inside out. This restaurant is the most famous for the dish and the most consistently delicious. Not to mention, it also held the Guinness World Record for fastest service since 1996. And by fastest service, we're talking 13.5 seconds from order time until the food — served hot, by the way — hits the table. Their micheladas are our favorite on the planet, also made with that same beef broth and mixed with lime juice.
Calle Garibaldi 1306, Villaseñor, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Taco Fish La Paz
The seafood tacos at this daytime-only taco operation are a welcome respite from the abundance of carnitas and birria found in Guadalajara, and at a great price. Originally from La Paz, Baja California Sur (BCS), this fish taco original is the closest you'll get to top-quality fish tacos in the middle of a city. Whether you order fish, shrimp, scallop, or their specialty "toritos" (yellow chile stuffed with chopped shrimp), the batter will always be flaky and light. Their smoked marlin-stuffed masa empanadas are also worth ordering. However, half the fun of this place is to take advantage of the salsa and toppings station and stack your tacos high with all the fixings. If you only have room for one taco, make sure it's their original fish taco. They make them the BCS way; frying entire fish fillets and cutting it into pieces to slip into your taco.
Avenida, Av. de la Paz 494, Mexicaltzingo, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Birriería Chololo (location on the route to Chapala, about 15 minutes from GDL airport)
Birriería Chololo is the Disneyland of birria, specifically the original formula, made from fresh goat and roasted in an oven until it develops a crispy chile bark. It is conveniently located about 20 minutes from the Guadalajara airport, so it is the perfect welcome feast if you are flying into Guadalajara during daylight hours. The tortillas are handmade and perfect for sopping up the spiced birria broth. Their baked beans are also some of the best we've ever had, topped with a blanket of locally made cheese and broiled until it is crusty and melty. Their outdoor-only seating makes it perfect for large gatherings.
Carr. Guadalajara - Chapala Km 17, 45675 El Capulín, Jal., Mexico
A torta ahogada in Guadalajara is usually our first meal upon landing and also our last before leaving. There is no faster way to understand the regional food style of Guadalajara than by getting messy and stuffing one of these saucy beauties into your face. We usually head to Tortas Toño because they offer a variety of torta fillings to accommodate every eating style, from pork belly carnitas to poached shrimp and avocado, to milky fresh panela cheese. Make sure to order the torta with a couple of crispy bean or potato tacos served on the side to provide a nice crunch along with your drowned torta. There is no easy way to eat this torta, so just get down on it with a fork and a knife, get your hands dirty or stuff it in a plastic bag so the delicious mess is contained within itself.
Saloon del Bosque
Eating through the traditional cantinas that are still around in Guadalajara is reason alone to book a ticket and make an entire trip out of it. They represent an old Guadalajara, where the food and drink offerings are timeless and forever untouched by any kind of food trend. Opened in 1992, Saloon del Bosque is not the cantina featured on almost every other Guadalajara eating guide, but that is why we love it. The booths are comfy and the service is friendly. They have an amazing old-school cocktail simply called "Hierbabuena," which is just blended up spearmint, ice, and your choice of tequila or rum. It is reminiscent of a green juice, but one that is spiked with booze. Like a true cantina, their botanas (foods meant to be paired with drinking) is simple and delicious: Tacos de lengua y cachete (braised beef tongue and cheek, espinazo con verdolagas (meaty pork spine braised with purslane), tortas de camarón con nopales (shrimp fritters stewed with cactus), and their famous tacos de villamelón, which are tortillas smeared with beans, steak, chorizo and crispy chunks of chicharrón. The more you drink, the better the food tastes.
C. José Guadalupe Zuno Hernández 2200, Col Americana, Americana, 44140 Guadalajara, Jal.
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