Mexican food offers such a unique variety of flavors, textures, and spices that UNESCO recognized its culinary traditions as an intangible cultural heritage in 2010.
The southern city of Oaxaca and the colonial city of Mérida are usually regarded as the key foodie hubs in the country. But don’t overlook the western city of Guadalajara, which has its own rich culinary culture – combining indigenous staples of corn, beans, and chili peppers with Europeanf imports such as bread and cheese. Here are some of the best places to sample local delicacies in Mexico’s second-largest city – from fine dining options to cheap and cheerful street stalls.
This uniquely decorated establishment has earned a reputation as one of Mexico’s finest restaurants. Led by renowned chef Alfonso Cadena, the walls of El Hueso are adorned with thousands of white animal bones. The menu is constantly changing, but you will typically find locally sourced duck breast, pork belly, lamb, and salmon on offer, as well as beef from the northern state of Sonora. Even the seating arrangements are unique in this venue – the dining hall boasts a long wooden table that sits up to 54 people, so groups that arrive separately eat together.
Expect rigorously high standards at this farm-to-table eatery. You’ll find only the freshest and ripest local ingredients at Allium, with many of them sourced from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. Local Mexican artisans play a key role in each plate. Whether it is cheesemakers from the nearby town of Atotonilco or beekeepers from distant Veracruz, Allium’s owners credit small local producers for shaping the menu. Savor a main course of pork belly in tomatillo sauce, or the catch of the day with sikil pak (a Mayan pumpkin seed-based sauce). Make sure you don’t skip dessert – the chocolate coulant with ice cream is the perfect final act.
Chef Francisco Ruana leads the fine-dining hotspot Restaurante Alcalde, which is a regular fixture on lists recognizing culinary hotspots across the world. Guadalajara-born Ruana opened the establishment in 2013. He crafted a menu that used ingredients sold in local markets, including the Alcalde market from which the restaurant takes its name. The food boasts a rich range of flavors and textures. Highly recommend is the starter of beetroot salad with toasted macadamia nuts, grapefruit and sour cream cheese. For your main course, the suckling pig in pipián (pumpkin-seed sauce) is truly memorable.
A hugely popular eatery in the city, Café P’al Real is famed for its delicious and inexpensive menu. The unanimously popular specialty is the lonche de pancita (pork belly roll). The dish consists of a sourdough roll stacked with pork and garnished with onion, avocado, and coriander. The chef drips a ladle filled with green tomatillo salsa over the final product, and you are strongly urged to sample this luxurious and delectable favorite.
Tucked away on a quiet side street in the Americana neighborhood, this unassuming little café packs a serious punch when it comes to flavor. The breakfast venue has a cheery, eccentric vibe. Its walls are festooned with quirky images and servings arrive on enamelware plates. In contrast, food and coffee are taken very seriously here. La Trompada’s chilaquiles (fried corn tortillas) have earned legendary status in Guadalajara.
Don’t leave Guadalajara without sampling a torta ahogada (drowned bread roll). The famous specialty consists of a bread roll stuffed with meat cuts and served in a spicy tomato sauce. Mr. Pacos is a renowned venue for torta tasting in Guadalajara. It is also noted for its unusual decor, boasting walls plastered with memorabilia in honor of the soccer club, Chivas. Over the years, several famous players – including local heroes Omar Bravo and Jair Pereira – have stopped in for lunch.
Put simply, Tacos La Choza sells some of the most mouthwatering tacos in Western Mexico. Since 2009, this food stand has been offering two popular dishes – tacos and quesadillas. What makes Tacos La Choza unique is that it offers top-quality cuts and ingredients at accessible prices. Magret duck breast, portobello mushroom, marinated shrimp, and goats cheese add a gourmet flair to everyday favorites. This spot offers an unmissable foray into the world of Mexican cuisine.
This popular restaurant specializes in delicious Jalisco-style tacos de barbacoa (barbecue tacos). The basis for the dish is high-quality beef, which is slowly stewed in a broth made of tomato and chilis. A handful of meat is added to two tortillas, which are gently fried until crisp. The final assemblage is served with fried onions, raw onion, lime juice, and salsa. Tacos Charlie set up shop more than three decades ago, and draws on that experience to provide the very best tacos de barbacoa in Western Mexico.
The specialty at Taquería Minerva is the taco al pastor (taco made with spit-grilled pork); without a doubt popular dish throughout Mexico. This beloved taco originates from the Lebanese immigrant community and is a distant relative of the kebab. The succulent meat used for this variety of taco is spit-grilled and stuffed into a tortilla with diced raw onion, coriander, salsa, and a slice of pineapple. There is also good news for those whose hunger for tacos knows no schedule – Taquería Minerva is open 24 hours a day.