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Guadalajara - Try These Places

Several years ago right here on Chowhound I met a poster by the name of Cristina who lived in Mexico. Over the years we've gotten to know each other and I've had the opportunity to visit her. This trip, complete with photos has been documented here - http://thediningdiva.typepad.com/

Dining in Guadalajara is heavily "see and be seen" so one of the nicest things about touring and dining with Cristina is that she knows where you can actually get really good food.

Even though I was staying with Cristina at her house, if you're checking into a hotel one of the first things you might want to do is check to see if the hotel has a copy of "Asi es Come en Jalisco", or Where to Eat in Jalisco. This is a little booklet, a Guia Gastronomica/Gastronomy Guide, put out by the Governor and Secretary of Tourism for the State of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is located. This little booklet is a pretty handly directory. It's broken down into sections of the city and contains a small (but not detailed) map of the area and pinpoints restaurants as well as other major points of interest. Intersperced throughout the booklet are recipes for regional specialties such as birria, posole, carne en su jugo and more. The booklet is in Spanish, but I think there is value to it even with limited Spanish skills, as it has a lot of photos, and, of course, addresses and phone numbers for close to 100 restaurants

Some of the places Cristina took me to eat include

Ma Come No and Italian restaurant and one of the very best restaurants in Guadalajara. I had a seafood risotto with some of the biggest, fattest, brinest mussels I've ever eaten. Pasta is house made, fish is cooked perfectly and there is an excellen salad bar, a rarity in Mexico. The tiramisu (not one of my favorite desserts) was outstanding.

Los Alteños Taqueria on Avenida Tepeyac in the Chapalita colonia, most taxi drivers should be able to find it. Tacos are $5 pesos each. (As of this posting, $5 is equal to about $.46 USD). The tacos are served from different stations at the back of the open air restaurant. You get in one line for al pastor, another for canitas, another for bistec or chorizo. One centeral flat top has big pieces of onion caremlizing away on it and you simply take the scoop and ladle whatever quantity of onions you want onto your plate. Salsas - verde, rojo, ranchera and avocado - are served in industrial containers from a stand in the center of the room. The al pastor is out of this world, the chorizo good but a little on the sweet side for my tastes. The carnitas are good, but pale in comparison to the al pastor.

In Tlaqupaque we ate at El Pescador Rojas. Once again a taxi driver in Tlaqupaque should know exactly where this place is. Here we ate wonderful chunky guacamole, shrimp empanadas with a crust that had been stained with achiote. Our entree were whole deep-fried huachinangos, which came with rice AND mashed potatoes, chayote and carrots al vapor (steamed) and a lettuce salad.

Other good options for Tlaquepaque would be Adobe a restaurant in a shop of the same name, or Casa Fuerte.

One of the specialities for which both Guadalajara and Jalisco are known is torta ahogada, or drowned torta. These are enormous torta sandwiches stuffed with pork and then cover - or drowned - in a thin chile sauce that has a pleasant kick, but will not singe off the taste buds. We ate tortas at La Torta Loca in the Mercado Libertad. The sauce is served on the side so that you can add as much or as little as you like. Whether you choose to eat at the Libertad or not - and it *is* packed with fondas of all strip and food safety - it shoudl be on the agenda for a visit. You can find almost anything under the sun there from bootlegged computer programs to hand tooled saddles to huitlacoche or a family offering knife sharpening services.

Not a food venue, but across the street from the Libertad is Las Cabañas, and old multipurpose colonial building. Inside, under the dome, are 54 murals painted by Jalisco native son Jose Clemente Orozco, one of the big 3 muralist (along with Rivera and Siquieros). They are totally worth a visit and extremely powerful in impact. English speaking guides may be available for the tour and if they are, do have them explain the meaning of the murals. Also Orozco played some perspective trickes with these murals that would be lost if you didn't know about the. Las Cabañas is so close to the market that you can do them both in the same day.

Though we didn't eat there, we did visit the fish market in Zapopan. There are several fish restaurants worth checking out. Same with the street vendors outside the Basilica de Zapopan on Sunday night. We did eat at the Tianguis del Sol, which is also in (where else) Zapopan. Great, huge, quesadillas made from masa and stuffeded with a variety of fillings. I am sure they were probably artery clogging fat bombs, but there is no getting around the fact that they were strikingly delicious - especially the cheese and rajas (strips of roasted chiles).

Of course there is Karne Garibaldi that institution of speedy service that serves only carne en su jugo, beef cooked in it's own juice until tender and succulent. You add the white onion, cilantro, lime and salt. Served with refried beans enriched with lard and corn kernels, tiny tortillas and rustic flame grilled knob onions. http://karnegaribaldi.com.mx

One of the trendiest spots in Guadalajara these days is Nude. I have been assure that clothing is not optional. http://nuderestaurant.com.mx/ Nude offeres transportation to and from hotels.

If you need a caffeine fix, there are 5 (and probably more on the way) Starbucks.

Guadalajara is a fabulous city. It's dynamic and has great energy.

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  1. Thanks DD for the helpful post - I'm headed to Guadalajara in 2 weeks, and yours was the only recent (and helpful) posting. Los Altenos and Ma Come No are definitely on the list. Any good bakeries of note?

    1 Reply
    1. re: sumi

      It's not especially Mexican, but Croissants Alfredo makes the most insanely delicious chocolate croissants ever. There is a location on Tepeyac, two blocks east of Nino Obrero, and there is another one at one of the big roundabouts- I believe it's the one with the horses. The croissant pastry is a tiny bit on the dense side, but it is absolutely stuffed full of really good chocolate. I usually take four bites of just-croissant and the rest is just an oozy, chocolately mess. I buy them and keep them in the fridge, then microwave them for fifteen seconds on power level four on each side. I ususally eat them in my pajamas because I make such a big mess! Croissants are six pesos each (about $0.55 US/CAD) and also come in other flavours like (if my memory serves me) pineapple and strawberry. Soooooo good.

    2. Sorry, I can't help you on the panaderia question. Mexican sweets have never turned my crank all that much, so I don't seek them out. They're either too sweet or not sweet enough, I haven't found the right balance yet. Perhaps if Cristina reads the boards this weekend she'll see your request and respond.

      You really should visit Karne Garabaldi. The food is good, and the place if fun. Patronized by locals, clearly off the tourist track. There are 3 locations in Guadalajara.

      1. Hey Sumi...let me know if you'd like to do anything (including eat) in Guadalajara. Send me an email address. I'll be in town.


        3 Replies
        1. re: cristina

          Sorry for the late reply. I've been on the road and didn't check back. Just got to Guadalajara - any suggestions for good coffee/breakfast/er, anything around Hotel Morales?


          1. re: sumi


            Cristina is currently in D.F. and won't be back in Guadalajara until late on Sunday. I'm not sure if she's checking e-mail while she's gone or not.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              thanks! i'll just wing it (always an adventure).

        2. Personally, I prefer Kamiloz 33 to Karnes Garibaldi, Kamiloz is on the same block, around the corner from Garibaldi in the Santa Teresita Neighborhood.

          The tacos de barbacoa fritos from El Amigo (corner of Plan de San Luis and Diaz de Leon, closed Sundays) are excellent.

          Good fish tacos at Avenida La Paz near Federalismo.

          Las Hermanas Coraje at Gobernador Curiel near the Mexico-Nogales train track.

          El Farallon de Tepic in the Mercado Libertad (San Juan de Dios) has good Nayarit-style seafood cocktails, ask for your cocktail served caliente (hot, actually warm) .

          Decent sushi from Miriam and El Gordo in the Estancia Neighborhood, Avenida Bach between Patriotismo and Rafael Sanzio.

          1. I would add Santo Coyote to the list. The grilled Ribs with Tamarind Adobo are sublime...the decor is a little like Disneyland meets a Mexican Folk Crafts mercado... but I think it is within the realm of good taste.


            1. Oh my.

              I would refer you back to the very first paragraph of the DiningDiva's original post. Santo Coyote is *THE* prime example of 'see and be seen' theme park restaurants in Guadalajara.

              Eat Nopal, you must be the exception that proves the rule, and I congratulate you on finding something 'sublime' to eat at SC. In fact, I congratulate you on finding something on their menu that qualifies as edible.

              The last time (and I do mean the last time) I went to Santo Coyote, I was with a group of five, three of whom are serious chowhounds and two of whom either are or were knowledgable professionals in the food/wine industry.

              During a meal that included bad food AND drink (the waiter swore the bartender made superb mojitos--they actually looked and tasted more like pond scum), I ended up in the manager's office having a little chat with him about what serious problem must surely have occurred in his kitchen that day--a restaurant so lovely certainly must have suddenly lost its chef. The manager expressed his concern, comped us several meals, and offered us free teas and desserts. Even with his generosity, our bill was substantially more than 1000 pesos and our meals were still inedible.

              I later talked with local friends who have dined at Santo Coyote. To a person, their experiences were equally terrible.

              If you want to be in an over-the-top ambience, Santo Coyote will turn your head. Go there to sip a tequila or enjoy a beer. If you're a chowhound looking for something wonderful to eat, for heaven's sake enjoy your drinks at Santo Coyote (don't order a mojito, though) and go elsewhere for food.

              4 Replies
              1. re: cristina

                Ah... not having a good day? Last time I was at Santo Coyote was in 2001... I was in Guadalajara on business with a bunch of 50 year old gringos who considered themselves Gastronomically endowed. They all agreed it was one of the best meals they ever had... guess it has gone downhill since then.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  No, it wasn't about Santo Coyote having a bad day. The restaurant is across-the-board terrible. Everyone agrees that it's awful. A friend of mine, part of the waitstaff team at a truly good restaurant here in town (I live in Guadalajara), started her career at Santo Coyote and has told me tales that would curl your hair.

                  As I said: go to Santo Coyote for drinks and go elsewhere for your dinner.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Last time I was at Santo Coyote was in 2001 also and I thought it was overhyped. I live in the U.S. and took my cousins to dinner there since one was getting married. I think it was THE place to go back then (that and Sacromonte). I was not impressed and it was very expensive for what we got. Needless to say, I went back to GDL in October 2005 and my family wanted to take me there. I had to decline that offer and picked a taco joint instead.

                    1. re: Mari

                      Guess I will stick to Mexico City recommendations instead =) Sacromonte... forgot about the place... if I am not mistaken that was the one with the "Like Water for Choclate" reminicent menu... I rember having some good food there... but didn't like the stuffy atmosphere.

                2. DD & Christina:
                  Thanks for the recommendation of El Pescador Rojas. Had a good meal there yesterday. Didn't realize they closed at 6:00, as I arrived pretty much about that time, and they were really nice and let me order. The guacamole was very fresh, although I tend to like mine with a bit more in it (particularly garlic). The ceviche was quite good, as were the empanadas. By the way, the sign says that they're now open 7 days a week.

                  Sorry to be contrary, but have to say a couple (or more) words about Ma Come No. I had one of the worst meals there that I've had in a really long time. It really was. I had the salad bar, which was ok, but no great shakes (although yes, it was a nice change to get a fresh salad and veggies.) But the chicken and pasta dish I had was simply inedible. Really and truly. And it wasn't just me - the people at the next table had ordered it too and didn't eat theirs. The chicken breast was overcooked, way too salty and you honestly couldn't taste any of the stuffing (cheese and squash blossoms). The sauce over the chicken was awful - the cook put a lot of sugar in a chunky tomato sauce. Blech. I tried - I really did, but after a few bites I couldn't take any more. The flat bread that came out was pretty good. However, the bread that came with the chicken entree was pretty bad too - it sort of had some type of ricotta like cheese inside, but it was cold in the middle and the whole thing was generally tasteless. I stuck to the flat bread.

                  For dessert, had an ok creme brulee (quite a large portion size). Ordered a coffee - mistake. Probably should have stuck to espresso. The coffee was watery. Service was quite friendly, but alternated between super attentive and completely absent (and mostly absent, and the restaurant was half empty).

                  Had breakfast this morning at Cafe Madrid which was a couple of blocks away from my hotel. Wasn't bad, with good coffee, small portions. Had chorizo and eggs, which were quite tasty. But the beans that came with them were stone cold. Good people watching spot, particularly on Sunday, when the street is pedestrian only until the afternoon, and everyone is out on their bikes and rollerblades.

                  Have to say the best meals so far have been the numerous fresh fruit stands and taco joints around town. Everything has been fresh and really tasty.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sumi

                    If you're eating in Guadalajara restaurants at normal USA times (ie, early breakfast, noon-ish for lunch, and 6.30-7-ish for dinner), you are getting the kitchen B-team everywhere you go. Mealtimes in Guadalajara (if you want the kitchen A-team) are:
                    Breakfast: 9.30-11.00 AM
                    Main meal: 2.00-4.30 PM
                    Late supper: 9.00-11 PM

                    In ten years of frequent dining in the restaurant, I have never eaten a meal such as the one you describe at Ma Come No.

                    If you're still in town, email me: piensalo44@hotmail.com


                  2. Thanks - left Guadalajara very early on the 11th and have been on the road for the last several days (am currently sampling the artery clogging cuisine in Pittsburgh).

                    Actually, I ate at Ma Come No at about 4 p.m. (and I was starving) but clearly they were really having a bad day.

                    Some friends and I went to a place on Monday night called Sacromonte, which was a short cab ride away from the Camino Real (weird hotel by the way - much preferred the Hotel Morales downtown). I ordered the pork pibil - it was terrific. Everyone else seemed to like their dishes as well. Don't know whether or not you've tried that.

                    Had a wonderful time in your fair city - thanks again for the chow suggestions. If you're ever traveling in SF, have lots of recoommendation (although one look at the Bay Area board and you'll have plenty of advice).


                      In Centro, LaGorda has amazing Torta Ahogadas & Chilaquiles in Mole Verde. I never like Chilaquiles but I tried these at the Server's suggestion. They're completely different from the usual fried torilla chips. They use whole tortillas which soak up more of the flavor of the sauce and they have a sweetness reminiscent of cornbread. Two people for breakfast including drinks and a 20% tip was $16US. Check them out at: www.lagorda.com.mx

                      Also, Cafe Madrid is open early to late (and they have the best you can hope for in a Mexican cappuccino). The service is that of a 4 star restaurant. We loved the 40's diner feel, like a trip back in time. In December 2006, 2 steak dinners with 2 starters, 4 beers, 1 desert, & 1 coffee for $40US including a 20% tip.

                      1. We were there about a week ago and went to a beautiful restaurant called Cocina 88 on Ave. Juarez. It has sort of a novel idea as the waiter takes you into the wine cellar where you choose your bottle of wine, then you go into a sort of butcher/fishmonger "shop" where you can choose your steak or fish - and then they cook it. We loved it!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bronwen

                          Cocina 88 is new since the Dining Diva was here last. It's getting rave reviews. I haven't been yet--but maybe next time La Diva comes to call, we'll go for comida.

                          Thanks for your post and I hope you loved everything about my city, Guadalajara--La Perla del Occidente (the Pearl of the West).

                          1. re: cristina

                            Provided I make my connection in SLC my flight gets in at 1:45 PM. I think I hear comida calling.............. ;-)

                        2. Los Alteños Taqueria is within walking distance of my house, though not in an area that I walk in very often. It is less than a block east of Nino Obrero, on Tepeyac. I've often driven past in taxis and seen the HUGE crowds of people there, but I always assumed the crowds were there for the nieves (as there is a HUGE nieves sign on top of the building). We were walking past last night after dinner and took a peek. The crowds are definitely there for the tacos! As a vegetarian, I can't comment on any food in which there is a seperate "head and tongue" line! However, there is a juice bar next door that makes really good aguas frescas- I had a watermelon (sandia) one- large (which should probably be called family sized)- and it absolutely made my day (sixteen pesos, mas o menos $1.50 US/CAD). They make their aguas frescas fresh for each customer, which I think makes a huge difference as the big jugs of aguas frescas tend to get watery after a while, as more and more ice is added. Photo of taqueria, with emphasis on the "head and tongue" line, attached.