I am going to make a 5-6 day trip from Guadalajara up to Mazatlan and take the espizanzo del diablo up to durango where I might spend a night and on to Zacatecas for 2 nights. Curious to hear if anyone has any recs for these two places? Looking for only regional specialities and local institutions.
Gracias y saludos
Durango, in far north-central Mexico is cowboy country, Kare, and not particularly well known for regional cuisine specialties. You might luck onto some venado (venison), and you'll most certainly find machaca (dried beef) as well as other styles of beef. Look for pollo borracho, a chicken dish with a strong Spanish influence. Try ate de membrillo (fruit paste) with a regional cheese.
The state of Zacatecas grows the majority of Mexico's wheat, beans, chile, and cactus. While you're there, be sure to try the gorditas de trigo (wheat flour gorditas). Ask around for a place serving asado de boda. Eat nopales (cactus paddles) and tunas (cactus fruit). Be sure to visit the several local museums; each is excellent and I particularly like the Museo Goitia. Be sure to eat at the Cafe Neveria Acropolis, just across the corner from the Cathedral. It's a don't-miss, as much for the art on the walls as the competently prepared food. Take a quick trip to Jerez and another to Guadalupe; each is well worth your time.
You're going to pack a lot into 5 or 6 days! Just don't fall off the espinazo del diablo (devil's backbone).
Zacatecas is one of my favorite cities! Agree with everything Cristina says. I have enjoyed a couple meals at La Cantera Musical. Not sure how authentic their "authentic Zacatecan" dishes are, but they are well prepared, and the ambiance is nice. Breakfast at Neveria Acropolis. There is a good gordita place almost next door to Hotel Posada de Moneda, where I stay. Don't remember the name. They have a huge variety of toppings. Very popular and busy all the time. Besides the wonderful museums, the Mina El Eden and La Bufa are must-sees in my book. You can take a tour (inexpensive) to include both, or go up to La Bufa and take the tram down to near the entrance to El Eden. Have a great time. Hope you are going to give Mazatlán a couple of days! You won't regret it!
We had some of the best menudo we'd ever had, back in the 90s, at Menudería La Güera, on Plazuela Genaro Codina, in Zacatecas. (Generally, I don't like menudo anymore, especially as I've had it in Morelia and Pátzcuaro, but I'd make an exception for it at La Güera in Zac.)
I had my first birria in the Mercado del Laberinto in Zac. I thought it was excellent.
We've spent the night in Durango a couple of times but never had a meal there worth mentioning.
Zacatecas: My wife loved the regional cuisine, I tolerated it. We ate (twice) at La Cuija which specializes in regional cuisine. Their soups were quite good: She had nopalitos con camarones in a light broth served with fresh lime; I had mushroom with epazote. The entrees pleased my wife (a stuffed chile – meats, spices, fruits, cream one night and pork cooked with chiles and oranges (or orange juice), moist and flavorful, the next. The only regional entree I tried was chicken and enchiladas Zacatecaños which was extremely boring and bland.
The Zacatecas area makes some rather good wine that is readily available (but Baja it ain't). Try the local Ruby Cabernet.
Another restaurant I'd recommend is La Leyenda. Not much in the way of "regional cuisine" but they make a really good birría, served several different ways. I'm sure you know about all the local museums (which I think are among the best outside of Mexico City), taking the teleférico up to Cerro de la Bufa, seeing the old aquaduct, and having a drink at the Hotel Quinta Real Zacatecas (built in and around the remains of the old bull ring).
Have a great trip and don't get killed passing on a blind curve on that frightening road from Maz to Durango. (Though the new road is getting close to being finished and that will be very welcome for acrophobics like me.)
I have nothing worthwhile to add.... other than this is a good place to eat lots of Tunas (as others have mentioned).... and look for Gorditas... as you might remember that is a regional specialty here. Also.. some magazine you gave me had an article about Quesadillas de "Queso" de Tuna... didn't it?