Favorite places in Guadalajara. First (and long) report.
I’ve followed the board for a few years now and have enjoyed many of the recommendations I’ve taken from it. So I thought it was time to contribute some of my own opinions that will hopefully help others.
For my first post I decided to do a report of some of my favorite places in the city where I was born and where I lived for almost 30 years of my life. I live in Vancouver now but my last visit was in December of 2006, so it should not be very outdated. Cristina seems to be the board expert on the city and I agree with many of her choices but I wanted to add a couple that I have seen posted by others and a couple of my own. Here’s the list in no particular order:
A. Tacos in the corner of Chapultepec and Mexicaltzingo.
IMHO, this is the definitive taco stand experience in the city. 4 or 5 different food carts stand around this corner with different specialties, being the main attraction the one sitting right in the corner which offers excellent cabeza, sesos, lengua and pastor tacos. On the other side of the street the carne asada and adobada experts dish out well prepared “gringas” and “vampiros” (toasted tortilla with cheese and your choice of meat) right next to the desserts and “aguas frescas”. There is even a hamburger and a sushi stand for the more adventurous. They are only open in the evenings (starting around 7pm) there is no seating other than the curb and they take only cash.
B. I Latina / Anita Li. Av. Inglaterra 3100 Tel 3647-7774 and 3647-4757 (very close to the Fiesta Americana Hotel)
These 2 places may fall in the category of places to see and be seen that Cristina has mentioned before. However, the clear difference about these 2 is that you can tell that the food is really the main focus of their owners. Most of the dishes here are not Mexican inspired, but rather oriental / western fusion as you could expect in the Northwest area of North America (SF to Vancouver). They are very good however, very flavorful and fresh and they do add a few ingredients and recipes that you will probably not find somewhere else. The decoration and ambience of both places are among the best in the city and geared towards the city’s yuppie population with a somewhat eclectic architectural feel. Good service and bar make these 2 my top choices for taking a business acquaintance for lunch or your SO when you want a nice uptown night out. It is a good idea to make a reservation any night.
C. El Amigo tacos de Barbacoa. Corner of Plan de San Luis and Enrique Diaz de Leon (just look for the crowd). Open between 10am and 1pm Monday to Saturday.
Again this is a shiny taco stand where they only serve Barbacoa Hidalgo Style tacos. You have 2 choices: soft or hard. I prefer the latter, but make sure you dress them up with some onion, cilantro, avocado and their house sauce. The flavor of the barbacoa just explodes and for $8 pesos (or so) for each well sized taco, you just can’t get more flavor for your money anywhere in the world.
D. Fonda Gabina Escolastica. Javier Mina #237. Zapopan Tel. 3833-0883
This is my favorite place for Guadalajara style home cooking and it’s in a very clean and well decorated space near the Zapopan Basilica (a top notch tourist site as well). The Pozole is the main event here. The default is just maciza (or clean and fairly lean pieces of pork) in a perfectly cooked stew with large corn grains to be dressed with lettuce, onion, rabanos (raddish) and of course lime and some hot sauce. You can also ask for the more traditional Pozole de mixta which will get you some other pieces of the pork in the stew, like ears, snout, cheek, etc. Or here you can even try the only vegetarian Pozole I have tried that is worth mentioning, where they replace the meat with mushrooms and add a spinach base instead of the original broth. I recommend having the small children’s portion just to leave room for their excellent chicken, beef or cheese enchiladas. These are the closest in flavour, texture and quality to the ones my mother and aunt used to make for us when we were kids and every time I try them they take me back to those days. Another excellent option are the tacos de guiso which vary slightly every time, but I really recommend the Costilla ones if they are on the menu. I have also heard the tamales are quite good, but I have never made it that far. This is one of the places I can’t miss going to when I’m in town. Open evenings (7pm to 11pm) M-Sa. Sunday 2pm to 8pm.
E. Hosteria del Angel. Av 5 de Mayo 295, Zapopan. Tel. 3656-9516
This place is just around the corner from Gabina Escolastica and is owned by the same person (cousin of the women that operate Gabina). This is a more Mediterranean type of restaurant and specializes in cold cut meats, but I love going there for 2 plates in particular: the appetizer mejillones (mussels) which are among the best I’ve tried anywhere, and their famous Rotolatas. The Rotolata is basically a veggie and cold cut meat wrap but instead of using a tortilla or pita bread, they use a cheese and white wine crepe to contain the ingredients, it is delicious and I highly recommend having the salami con alcaparras (capers) if available. You can enjoy it with any of the 3 delicious house sauces: cucumber and green pepper, red beet and red pepper or carrot and habanero. Also very nice locale and well fitted for unadventurous tourists.
F. Carnes Asadas El Venado. Av. Circunvalacion y calle Cordobanes (close to Avila Camacho Av.)
Last but not least, I want to mention this place. This is a neighborhood style carne asada and taco place and is the single place where I have eaten the most times from in my life other than my mother’s house.
This is just solid, flavorful, clean and well prepared food. The menu has changed little over the years and I still love going there and sit at the bar accross the grill and talk to Tere who has been serving me the best possible carne asada, alambre (pork kebabs -my favorite-), cochinita and pastor quesadillas and tacos for at least the last 30 years (she told me last December that she has actually been working there for 25 years only). I always ask for either an agua de horchata (rice based) or a nice and cold bohemia beer with my dinner and leave fully satisfied for just about 60 pesos. Ah, if only I could go there tonight…
Thanks for the recommendation of Fonda Gabina Escolastica. I've been here for three weeks and have been trouble finding good vegetarian food. The vegetarian pozole was really good (a medium bowl plus two tacos dorados made for a very filling meal) and the tacos and horchata were also good. My co-worker has only eaten cheese quesadillas since we arrived in mid-January, but she claims their cheese quesadillas were the best she'd tried yet. Oh, and the boys waiting on us were absolute sweethearts. My third co-worker is one of those people who deals with her embarassment about speaking Spanish poorly by covering her mouth and speaking quietly, or just looking down instead of responding to questions, and they probably waited for five minutes just to take her order. It was packed by 2:30 on Sunday afternoon, so get there early!
Talking about Tortas Ahogadas and Mariscos El Negro, they had some excellent shrimp filled ones. I didn’t mentioned them in my original post because someone had already mentioned them before (and my report was already long as it was), but this place has great food as well. The original location is on calle Ignacio Ramirez #646, 3 blocks away from Enrique Diaz de Leon (towards Americas).
Regular Pork Tortas Ahogadas that I have tried and liked lately include “Waldos” on Lopez Mateos near “Las Fuentes” in the south end of the avenue, and I friend of mine (whose taste I trust) says he really likes ones called “El Arabe” in the corner of Av Arboledas & calle Nebulosa (that’s close to the Holiday Inn Express on Lopez Mateos and Niños Heroes) but I haven’t tried those ones myself.
I was in Guadlajara for 28 days three years ago with some language exchange students. My hosts took me to some fantastic places as well as cooking me some of their favorite home dishes. I never ate so well. The unfortunate thing is that it made me a food snob when it comes to comida mexicana. When I was there, I didn't follow these boards and never thought to write down the names of the places where I ate. I'll be going again in May for 10 days and will bring a note book and if I find something worth mentioning i'll follow up here.
Alberto, how can you write about Guadalajara and not mention tortas ahogadas? My favorites were from the red and white place at the corner of Av. Patria and Mariano Otero in Zapopan.
Oh and one other thing, any recs for a fonda inside of Mercado Libertad?
Kurt, I live in Guadalajara and would be glad to go out chow-ing with you, if the timing is right. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's see if we can get together.
In the meantime, do a search for Guadalajara on the Mexico board. You'll find a lot of other recommendations.
Alberto, terrific post! Thanks so much. I'll certainly be trying the places you mentioned. In fact, I can hardly wait. If I hadn't just come back from eating a wonderful lunch at the Fish Taco Stand that Shall Remain Nameless, I'd head right on out to one of your spots. Maybe later tonight.