Admiro, quiero y sufro cuando hablo de Guadalajara. — Emmanuel Carballo, interview in La Jornada
Guadalajara isn’t the prettiest city in Mexico. It’s dirty, dilapidated and sprawling. The traffic is overwhelming. It has pockets of beauty, but much of the grand old architecture is punctuated by austere, rectangular buildings that look like they’re from the 60s and 70s.
But, as my friend said, tiene algo. There’s something about it; a pull.
You’ll feel it while ambling along the charming, laid-back streets of La Americana, Guadalajara’s trendy neighborhood that seems like a small town inserted into the middle of a big city. You’ll feel it while walking down Avenida Chapultepec, the city’s massive main avenue flanked by touristy restaurants and concrete office buildings. And you’ll feel it while trying to break through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in the historic center as microbuses cut in front of you, apparently not caring if you have enough time to stop before smashing into them.
Guadalajara is often referred to as a mini Mexico City, probably because it has the same chaotic, surreal, oxymoronic qualities, just on a smaller scale. I recently spent four days there, most of which were dedicated to fitting as much food as possible in my stomach. So, it seemed appropriate to make a list of the restaurants that anyone who visits Guadalajara should try.
This was the best meal I had in Guadalajara, which is why it’s the first restaurant on this list. Silvestre serves a typical multi-course Mexican lunch with a twist; they use local, seasonal ingredients, and they add plates with an international influence, like grilled vegetables with pita bread and pesto sauce. They also have a good selection of Mexican beers. You can eat outside on a patio covered in luscious plants or inside in their pared-down, calming interior.
La Cafeteria is where you go to eat a delicious breakfast and take in a slice of Guadalajara life. On any given morning, its charming outdoor patio is filled with well-dressed Guadalajarans eating enchiladas and sweet bread before they head to work. The restaurant is famous for its variety of chilaquiles (think chilaquiles with salsa de epazote).
Av. Libertad 1700, Americana
If you tell someone you’re going to Guadalajara, they will probably say that you need to eat two things while there: tortas ahogadas and carne en su jugo. The latter, which translates to “meat in its juice”, is basically a meat stew, and it’s made at a restaurant called Karne Garibaldi. This place also has excellent guacamole, and they’re known for their delicious refried beans mixed with big chunks of corn. They happen to hold the Guinness World Record for fastest service.
La Trompada Caligari
The chef’s grill is the first thing you see when you walk into this charming breakfast spot. The space is small, with just three or four tables. The walls are covered in bright chevron-patterned wallpaper and a collage of framed photographs. La Tompada is known for its breakfast sandwiches (bacon, sweet sausage, eggs over easy) and its chilaquiles.
Argentina 66 (Morelos)
This is a great place to people watch—you’ll see women dressed to the nines in tight dresses, heels and big jewelry at one table and stylish hipsters at another. The interior feels a little like a boudoir, with black-and-white striped walls and enormous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. We were a little disappointed with the food (it was fine, but not anything worthwhile), but the restaurant has an extensive mezcal selection at reasonable prices.
Av. Inglaterra 3100 (entre Tapalpa y Autlán)
Families come here on the weekend to eat a long, lazy lunch in the big, open-air dining space. You’ll find lots meat and fish prepared in traditional Mexican styles, like adobo or empapelado. There’s one location in Guadalajara proper and another in Tlaquepaque, which is a small town nearby. The latter is the more famous one, and when you’re done eating you can wander along Tlaquepaque’s charming cobblestone streets.
Juárez (Alfareros), Tlaquepaque