A visit to Mexico without a trip to a cantina would be incomplete, as traditional cantinas are an essential part of the Mexican experience. Guadalajara has some of the oldest and most legendary in the country, so here’s a rundown of the best watering holes in Mexico’s second-largest city.
Rough tiled floors, spindly stools and sticky tables, La Fuente is Guadalajara’s most iconic cantina, attracting a diverse crowd of all ages, from hipster students to old men who have been knocking back tequila here for decades. Founded in 1921, La Fuente is located in the heart of the city’s historic center and has unique quirks. Make sure to ask about the bike mounted above the bar, which was left by a drunken patron who couldn’t pay his tab. He failed to return, and his bike has been there ever since.
Founded sometime in the 1870s, La Iberia is the oldest cantina in Guadalajara, and the one most steeped in legend. The bar was reportedly won from its original owner in a game of poker in 1904. Counted among its former patrons are several bandits, including the Mexican revolutionary icon Pancho Villa. The cantina’s signature drink, La Batanga de Doña Chela is refreshing yet potent: it mixes vodka, tequila, aguardiente rum, Coca-Cola, lime and mint.
Soccer and tequila enthusiasts will find exactly what they are looking for in this charming cantina. The stars of Chivas of Guadalajara, Mexico’s most popular soccer team, used to drink here, and waiter Cuco will happily regale patrons with stories about the soccer stars who would down a few shots as a pre-game ritual. The cantina’s most popular beverage is still the house cocktail, the Happy Buttocks. Invented in the 1970s, it consists of rum, gin, red wine, orange soda and lime juice.
This traditional and lively cantina has got it all: a solid menu, a sizable drinks collection and a jukebox with classics from Mexico and beyond. The white walls are covered with bullfighting and sports memorabilia, with a clear bias for Atlas soccer club, the hometown rivals of Guadalajara Chivas. Mascusia República is so authentic that it still has a gutter-like urinal beneath the bar, although thankfully, today, no one uses it.
One of the city’s most eccentric bars, what the tiny Morelias Bar lacks in size it makes up for in attitude. The most unusual feature of the venue is the bar festooned with a huge collection of underwear donated by patrons from far and wide. Part dive bar, part traditional cantina, Morelias has the liveliest and most inebriated clientele on this list. A great choice if you’re out to make friends.
Another bar that first opened in the late 19th century, La Sin Rival ticks all the boxes as a traditional cantina: saloon doors, worn tile floors and an antique wooden bar. As befits the cantina’s name, the food is unrivaled; the speciality here is the shrimp broth. The legendary Mexican actor and singer Pedro Infante reportedly once drank here, too.
Step into this spacious cantina, pull up a pre-Hispanic chair and order from the extensive drinks list and menu. This traditional cantina is a popular venue for post-work drinks and has a loyal base of regulars, meaning the bar can get pretty crowded on weekends, especially if one of Guadalajara’s two major soccer teams, Chivas or Atlas, are playing. It’s ideal for those wanting to catch up on sports, experience the afterwork lifestyle in Guadalajara and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
A rather unique cantina in more ways than one, El Bar Martín stands out, with good reason. As you enter, your eyes are drawn to the huge antique model ship that sits high above the wooden bar. The bar is a haunt for locals and is much loved by local writers and journalists. On Saturdays, El Bar Martín offers some of the city’s best birria, a traditional dish that mixes lamb or goat with tomatoes and spice. The cantina also has yerba buena cocktails on its drink list; a must-try fusion of vodka, lemon, syrup, peppermint and ice.
Undoubtedly one of Guadalajara’s classiest cantinas, Saloon del Bosque is one of the best places in the city to try Mexican cuisine. For 25 years, this venue has had the same owner and head chef. The cantina’s waiting staff wear the classic black and white uniforms, and the interior has a chic yet traditional feel. Unlike most eating and drinking spots in Guadalajara, the cantina plays no background music, so it is an excellent option if you’re looking for laid-back conversation.
The exterior to La Cava has been questionably decorated with wooden barrels that have been sliced into two and attached to its façade. Once inside, however, you soon realize that you’ve discovered a hidden gem. A clean, well-kept bar with classic Mexican films playing on the TV screen, La Cava specializes in tequila, which is served at accessible prices alongside tasty snacks. The ideal place for a laid-back afternoon with good drinks, good food and a great atmosphere.
Don’t be mistaken by the rustic dark ambience of De La O Cantina; its aesthetic may be sleek, but the atmosphere gets vibrant. Inspired by Genovevo de la O, who was an important figure in the Mexican Revolution, the bar has a really open environment; everyone who visits here is considered a friend. With amazing ingredients, the food and drink here are incredible, so it’s necessary to order a few plates to share.
If you want to celebrate or just have a good time, then Don Cruz is the place for you. It’s a very authentic cantina with over 50 years of providing traditional tasty snacks and high-quality drinks. The staff are super attentive and great to chat with about life in Guadalajara and the history of the bar. The undeniably warm atmosphere makes a visit here perfect with friends, family and even alone.
If you like to dance, then Cantina La Pichina is the place to go. With very colorful walls and a unique decor, a visit here is a special experience. The food here in the daytime is great, and the selection of drinks, beer and spirits seems never-ending. The music is, of course, incredible, why else would people be dancing their days away in here? However, at night it’s not so traditional, and the young come en masse, and it becomes more of a nightclub – the 2020 version of a cantina?
A cantina located in the heart of Chapultepec that specializes in tequila, craft beer and mezcal, El Pedrón has a really friendly and welcoming atmosphere. With an unusual ambience for a cantina, a little quiet and candlelit, it’s the perfect place for a really enjoyable chilled evening, deep conversation and tasty bar snacks to share.
Additional reporting by Vanessa Gainford.
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