Guadalajara , Mexico -??
In Tlaquepaque--off the tourist path--eat at Mariscos El Pescador Rojas, open only for comida from 11AM till 6PM (closed Mondays, as I found out to my chagrin only yesterday). Take Juárez to the Parián, turn left at the end of the Parián. Go two blocks; you'll see a Canadá shoe store on the right-hand corner. Turn right. About half a block down on the right-hand side is a public parking lot; park there and walk back the way you came about two or three doors; you'll see the restaurant's oyster bar. This place is fantastic for seafood. My friend and I shared an order of guacamole; she ordered filete de robalo a la Mexicana (sea bass filet with tomato, onion, and chile). I ordered what I always order: huachinango dorado (whole fried red snapper). If you order the whole fish, you can get the size you want--mine was well over half a kilo. The meals came with sautéed vegetables (carrots and chayote), salad, and rice, accompanied by house-made tortillas. She had a soft drink and I had a limonada, although of course there is a full bar. The entire bill was 268 pesos.
Also in Tlaquepaque but definitely an upscale tourist draw is Adobe, on Independencia (the walking street). The ambience is lovely inside; there are also tables outside where the breeze is delightful but where you are also frequently approached by ambulatory vendors. Food is delicious for the most part; I particularly like the cilantro soup. Full bar, wine list. Substantially more expensive than the fish restaurant.
One last Tlaquepaque suggestion is Casa Fuerte, also on Independencia. It's another upscale and lovely restaurant with excellent food and full bar/wine list.
In downtown Guadalajara, go for an Italian comida to Ma Come No on Avenida de las Américas, about 3 blocks north of the corner with Avenida México. They open at 1PM for comida and remain open until late evening. Some nights there is live music. Be sure to order the salad bar with your meal--in fact, if you want a light lunch, order only the salad bar. The menu doesn't show that as an option, but for 30 pesos you will have a heaping plateful of incredible vegetables, a variety of salads (seafood, orzo, etc) and cold meats, as well as a slice or two of fritatta, along with grisini and other crunchy breads. All of the breads and pastas are house-made. You'll be served a complimentary rosemary focaccia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before your meal. I've eaten there frequently and particularly like the puttanesca, the four-cheese ravioli, and several others I can't remember at the moment. I often eat just a pasta and the salad bar. The last time I was there I ordered the salad bar and the grilled fresh tuna, which was served seared and medium rare as requested. Another excellent dish is the papardelle con camarón . Expect to pay 60-90 pesos per pasta and 80-150 pesos per entree; add 22 pesos for the salad bar. Full bar, decent wine list. Clientele is mainly very upscale Guadalajarans out for a business lunch or lunch after a morning's recreational shopping.
For a way-off-the-tourist-beaten-path treat, go to Karne Garibaldi at the corner of Garibaldi and José Clemente Orozco in Colonia Santa Teresita, just west of the Centro Histórico. They're open from about noon till late at night. The restaurant serves only one dish, carne en su jugo, and holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for fastest restaurant service. Before your rear end hits the chair, a platoon of waiters will deposit plates of frijolitos refritos and grilled onions on your table. The beans, onions, and tortillas will be replenished free until you simply can't eat anther bite. The choice for your main dish is only carne en su jugo--little bits of beef, braised with beans, with crispy bacon added just before serving. You order small, medium, large, or extra-large, with chile or without. Go for the medium, with. When your meal is in front of you, add as much chopped onion and chopped cilantro as you like, a pinch of coarse salt, a squeeze of limón, and as much more table sauce as you want. Get ready to be instantly addicted. The waiter will also offer you quesadillas. For dessert there is flan, jericalla, and mil hojas--maybe something else, but I don't recall. The mil hojas is outstanding. Full bar and soft drinks. I've eaten here a hundred times and have never been disappointed. Ridiculously inexpensive--100 pesos a person plus any alcoholic beverages will cover it.
In the Mercado Libertad--Latin America's largest enclosed market, several blocks square and three stories high--most of the second floor is devoted to fondas where you can get anything from comida japonesa (Japanese food of the yakitori/tempura sort) to fresh Mexican seafood. I'd opt to wander through the fondas and head for the ones serving seafood. There's nothing better than a Mexican shrimp cocktail, or an octopus cocktail, or a mixed-seafood cocktail. Friends who've ordered the small have been sorry they didn't order the large. When it's served to you, add bottled salsa picante and a squeeze or two of fresh limón to taste. Your cocktails will be served with traditional crispy tostadas (hard-fried tortillas) and saltine crackers. On the ground floor, be sure to try TORTA LOCA, the best sandwich I've ever eaten.
At the other end of the scale from the Mercado Libertad is the Hotel Quinta Real, on Avenida México. Perfect for the most upscale Sunday brunch or midday buffet dinner, prepare to go hungry and leave groaning--the food is plentiful, fresh, beautifully prepared, and opulent. It will cost you--maybe $25 USD per person--but it's worth it for a blowout fabulous experience of haut Guadalajara. Ask your hotel desk to make reservations for you.
Go to Birriería El Chololo, just past the airport on the Guadalajara/Chapala highway. They're open only for comida from about noon till 7PM and serve only birria, the best I've ever eaten. Birria in this case is goat, stewed and plated, then glazed under a salamander, served with a bowl of consomé (the seasoned stewing juices), frijoles refritos, and house-made tortillas on the side. This is another place I've been to more times than I can count and have always been delighted. Unless you want birria surtido (your plate will include slices of snout, ears, intestines, etc), ask for maciza. That plate is less exotic--it's just slices of delicious goat meat. The waiter will ask if you want frijoles. Yes, you do. There's a squeeze bottle filled with a house-made salsa on the table; it's to be added to your consomé. Also add onion, limón, and a pinch of coarse salt. The restaurant seats nearly 1000 people. The best time to go to El Chololo is Sunday afternoon, when all Guadalajara is there. The mariachis are playing, the joint is jumping. Closed Fridays during Lent.
Here are some places not to bother with:
Sacromonte: highly touted and absolutely beautiful in ambience, this is another of the 'theme park' sort of restaurants that Guadalajarans love. Service is unctuous (uh oh, the 'U' word), the food is ho-hum, and prices--at least by Guadalajara standards--are through the roof. I'm sure that $30 per person for lunch doesn't sound too awful by USA standards, but lordy, it's a little shocking here.
Santo Coyote and its offspring, Santo Cachorro, the bar next door: another highly touted gorgeous restaurant with bad-to-awful food. When I was there a couple of months ago for the first and last time, I ended up in the manager's office in a long discussion about just how terrible our food and service was. He comped us our drinks and two of our dinners and the house bought us desserts and tea, but it wasn't compensation enough. Very, very expensive by Guadalajara standards. Unless you really care more about atmosphere than what you're eating, don't bother.
Your observations on Santo Coyote and Sacromonte are spot on. Perhaps the poster can get a drink at Sacromonte to absorb the nice setting, but don't eat at either one. Everytime I go to Guadalajara my relatives want to take me to these places and I have to say no. I'll take some tacos over these places any day. The food at Santo Coyote was particularly bad when I went about 6 years ago.
If you can find a Polo Norte then head there for some ice cream - I particularly like guanabana ice cream. Make sure to also try tejuino - a fermented corn drink served with lemon ice that is delicious and refreshing. Don't let the description scare you, just try it.
One of my friends is leaving GDL and we needed a location for a little going-away dinner. I was REALLY hesitant to suggest El Sacromonte after reading this and other Chowhound threads, but our choices were very limited (I am full-on vegetarian and two other people don't eat any red meat). I was VERY pleasantly surprised! I wouldn't describe the service as unctuous- I felt our waiter was very polite but in a genuine way, and he seemed openly displeased when members of our group (not me!) began taking flash photos. None of us were spoiled for choice, and even some of the dishes that looked (semi-)vegetarian actually had red meat, but what we did order was quite solid. I split the "rose petal" "quesadillas" in strawberry sauce with my friend as an appetizer. It was more like deep-fried cheese with a few rose petals in it, but it was G-O-O-D. 70 pesos, split two ways. For an entree I had the only vegetarian choice, a "crepe" stuffed with squash blossoms in a poblano sauce. It was more like a... I don't know... "little bag" made from phyllo-like pastry and baked, and the filling contained carrots and corn (and cheese, obviously) in addition to the squash blossoms. The dish evoked memories of the chicken pot pies I used to eat when I was a little kid- it was surprisingly satisfying. The poblano sauce covered the bottom of the plate and was quite good, and there was a little mound of salad on the side, with lettuce, sprouts and tiny shards of fried onions. 110 pesos. Our margaritas were pretty expensive at 65 pesos each, and we probably wouldn't have ordered additional rounds had we known. No big deal, as later we walked down Chapultepec to Bananas for 21-peso cocktails! As a vegetarian, the dinner at El Sacromonte was DEFINITELY one of the better meals I've eaten in Guadalajara, and the other people I was with thought it was good as well. The decor is very nice but really it's nothing to write home about- I had a brief flashback to my middle school cafeteria when we walked in and there was this room full of white tables with nothing to break it up (all the decor is on the ceiling or very high on the walls). I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, and I'll probably go back with my guests who are coming in May.
PS - A lot of reviews of El Sacromonte mention that they also have a bar next door called El Duende or something (I've probably messed that up), but that bar is no longer in business and now there is an Argentinean restaurant in its place.
Your consejo is greatly appreciated. Myself, three other adults, and four small children are in the GDL right now. It is such a vast and inconsistent mix, we are stumbling and succeeding only irregularly. We are staying in La Estancia, which I think is in Zapopan, on the west side of town. If you know of anything over here, we would love to hear about it, but also greatly appreciate the recomendations you already made in the preceding email. In your mind, are these THE places to go for food? One other question. We have a pretty ok kitchen, and have found our way to Mercado Los Abastos, and are cooking up some good shit, but would love to have a favourite local recipe you love, love, love. I don't have a cookbook with me, so we have been eating mostly easy stuff (meat, beans, salsa, fruit).
Thanks so much and we love your city.
I lived in the Guadalajara-Lake Chapala area for 10 years. Do NOT eat street food unless you want to get gastroenteritis aka Montezuma's revenge. If you get it, use Bactrim F, a sulfa drug, which you can buy at a pharmacy there without a prescription. In Mexico gastroenteritis is considered bacterial in origin. Drink only bottled water, not tap water. Be careful about eating in the food stalls at the Mercado Libertad. Several years ago the health department closed all of them down due to poor sanitation. There are many excellent restaurants in Guadalajara with excellent food that is safe to eat. Enjoy your trip.