Mexico – Jalisco State – Guadalajara – Zona Centro – Places to eat

All the places mentioned below, and quite a few more, can be found on my Google map. Please see my previous post for things to see and stuff to do.

La Fuente (Elementary A) Calle Pino Suárez 78, www.cantinalafuente.com.mx

My favourite watering hole in Guadalajara in terms of atmosphere, this is an old (since 1921) Mexican bar just around the corner from the Hotel de Mendoza.

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The ambience is very down-to-earth, with the odd quirky decorative item on the wall. It reminds me of certain spit-and-sawdust pubs in Liverpool in my student days (such as the Yates’s on Old Haymarket for those who can remember).

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The authenticity extends to customers spontaneously bursting into song on a regular basis. On one occasion there was an old guy bashing out tunes on the piano to a very appreciative audience.

The clientele are predominantly older blokes but I have seen younger women drinking together there. If you hang out by the bar you’ll most likely be engaged in conversation and offered snacks, it’s that kind of friendly place.

Modelo is my favourite Mexican lager, so I decided to give their dark beer a whirl, which is fine (B).

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I also tried a couple of reposados here. The Cabrito (B)…

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… and the Antiguo (B-).

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In terms of good food, this was the best place I found…

Birrieria las 9 Esquinas (Intermediate B+), Avenida Cristóbal Colón 384, www.las9esquinas.com

Service: B
Atmosphere: B
Food: A
Value for money: B

This is a place where you can eat Birria (a traditional Jalisco goat or mutton stew), located in Plaza de las 9 Esquinas, a pretty little square to the south of the Centro Historico.

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It was recommended by my friend Hamish who is a food writer and former chef living in Mexico.

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I began with the usual starter of salsas, tortilla chips, pickled onion and the best refried beans I’ve ever eaten (A).

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Then I had the Birria de Chivo Tatemada a Fuego Lento (slow-cooked goat stew) which was really good (B+).

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Another speciality of the house is the Barbacoa de Borrego en Pencas de Maguey (lamb barbecued in the leaves of a type of agave).

Video recipe in Spanish here.

Another safe bet for good food is…

La Chata (Intermediate B+), 120 Corona (at Juarez and Lopez Cotilla), www.lachata.com.mx

Service: B+
Atmosphere: C
Food: B+
Value for money: B+

This place serves decent grub and has a good reputation for cleanliness, which means it’s very popular. You’ll have to queue outside even during non-peak periods, but it’s worth a bit of a wait.

I can’t remember what I had in 2007 but it was certainly okay. Lonely Planet suggests you try their specialty, the Platillo Jaliscense (fried chicken with five sides). They also mention that Pozole (hominy soup) is popular, but I wasn’t too keen on it at their other branch (see my Puerto Vallarta post on food).

In terms of atmosphere, but not food, I really like this place…

La Fonda de San Miguel (Intermediate B), 25 Calle Donato Guerra, www.fondasanmiguelarcangel.com

Service: A
Atmosphere: A
Food: C-
Value for money: B

A beautiful interior that feels a bit faded a bit since I first came here in 2007. If the literary term ‘magical realism’ (cf Gabriel García Márquez) can be applied to interior design then they have achieved it here.

Tables surround a fountain in the centre of a large interior courtyard.

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Parrot motifs decorate the chairs and there is an actual parrot and some budgies in large cages.

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Modern art decorates the walls and the place seems to double as a gallery/art shop in the daytime.

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Candles and paper stars with fairy lights inside give the walls and ceiling a warm glow.

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In 2007 they had live music and dancing on stage, but the stage is no longer there so perhaps things have changed in that respect. On both occasions the service was efficient and friendly but on the second visit the staff seemed to outnumber the customers by about two to one on the Thursday night in August that I went. It might be because it’s expensive for locals and the food isn’t very good.

The starter was a smaller version of Torta de Abogada, not an actual tart but in fact a ‘drowned’ sandwich, (typical in Jalisco and particularly famous in Guadalajara) made with French bread and grilled pork. The whole sandwich is dipped or ‘drowned’ in a hot sweet sauce made primarily of Chile de Arbol and served with raw onion.

It was okay (B) but for the real thing you might want to go to Tortas Ahogadas César at Calle López Cotilla 1449 or Tortas Ahogadas las Famosas at Avenida Patria 2546 (see Google map). I wanted to but didn’t get the chance.

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For the main I had one of the house specials; Filete de Res Oro Negro, a filet of beef with Huitlacoche (aka ‘corn smut’, a kind of fungus that grows on maize), topped with grilled cheese. I’ve heard Huitlacoche described by a top chef as having a taste somewhere between a mushroom and a truffle, which is why I tried it, but sadly I found it quite unpleasant and ended up scraping it off to one side with the cheese (D). The white rice it came with was overcooked and over salted and I couldn’t finish that either (C-).

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By contrast, on my first visit in 2007 I had their other speciality, Molcajete; a spicy Oaxacan dish served in a sizzling hot stone mortar (molcajete), served with fajitas, which was much better. I even went as far to say that it was the best food that I had on the entire trip (B+).

So mixed results, but to summarise, I think you should definitely come here to experience the ambience but be careful what you order. The Molcajete would seem a good bet.

La Estancia Gaucha (High Intermediate B), 2860 Avenida Ninos Heroes (near Lopez Mateos), www.laestanciagaucha.com.mx

Service: B+
Atmosphere: A
Food: B+
Value for money: B+

I went in 2007 but it was still open in 2015. This place is a bit of a trek as it’s not really in the centre but the nice building and the good quality Argentine food make it worth the walk (or taxi?) should you want a change. You should come here if you feel the need for a steak with chimichurri and a glass of good red.

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