This Overshadowed Mexican City Is a Feast
Editor’s note: This is the latest in our series on underrated destinations, It’s still a big world.
Thomas Fernandez Cortina’s friends in Mexico City still tease him: “Do they have cinemas in Guadalajara now?” It’s a strange stab at a city of more than 5 million people, even from the vantage point of the country’s four times larger capital. But for some, Guadalajara will always be the baby brother of Mexico’s most powerful city.
That goes for the chef and owner of Puerco Espada normal. For all its flair, Mexico City is crowded and (relatively) expensive, while Guadalajara over the past five or ten years has steadily risen from what tourists see as an industrial stop. Often overlooked by visitors to Tequila, Puerto Vallarta or Lake Chapala becomes a stylish destination all its own. Guadalajara is a Mexican city untouched by the demands of American tourists, with idyllic year-round weather on the rise, with world-class eats that don’t require reservations, with delicious food prepared Served at half the price of mediocre restaurants in resort towns. of Cancun or Mazatlan. Luxury, modern hotels are located in clean, walkable neighborhoods. And the best part: tourists can go days without having to hear Americans squealing if everyone speaks English.
Founded in 1531 by a Spanish conquistador to hunt for precious metals in northwestern Mexico, the city was relocated no less than four times over the next nine years, in the face of tribal resistance. indigenous, whose members were captured by slave hunters during the early colonial period. period and was treated miserably. Under the agreement to end slavery, the conflicts in the area ended and the village grew from 126 inhabitants to the modern metropolis it is today, thanks to the development of a rich mix of industrial agriculture, agriculture, commerce, mining and trade. Today, it is home to some of Latin America’s best universities and is a thriving technology hub, with offices from Intel, IBM and Oracle. Jalisco produces 60% of all computers made in Mexico, and Guadalajara is the country’s main software supplier. Its inhabitants are called tapatios, which recalls the name of a popular hot sauce created by Guadalajaran immigrants in California.
The city has changed a lot in the last decade or two. “Guadalajara is much more open now,” said Cortina, alluding to the conservative, Catholic culture, which has since given way to more progressive and LGBTQ-friendly vibes. “For me, it’s one of the best cities to live in Mexico.”
With direct flights from major cities across the US and Ubers for under $5 going anywhere in the city, Guadalajara is an easy place to get around, especially with a bit of English travel. Spain. In the Lafayette neighborhood alone, a number of luxury and modern hotels are within easy walking distance of each other. Two of the best include Casa Habitafeaturing tranquil courtyards and ample outdoor furniture, and Rame Hotel Boutiquelocated on a quiet street, with rooms opening onto a large swimming pool with high walls separating it from the surroundings.
Both hotels are five to 15 minutes from a fun and affordable food tour than anywhere in the world. Guadalajara has long been famous for its street food, from crispy pork buns dipped in chili sauce and often eaten for breakfast to a variety of Mexican street corn, or elote, served served in stalls all over the city. Now, it’s about the booming restaurant scene. The most famous is Alcalde, which many local chefs credit by convincing locals that higher quality food will cost more. Adolfo Galnares, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, was happy to escape Mexico City’s sky-high rents when it opened Allium in 2014. He and his wife, Maria Ortega, source high-quality fish from local fishermen, but it took some work to convince patrons they should pay more for it. Now, he says, “people finally understand that price is directly related to the quality of the ingredients you use,” says Galnares, and his patrons come from all over the world to Enjoy dishes created by Allium, from smoked radish puree with puffed rice and arugula emulsion to risotto huitlacoche, handcrafted with mashed corn, grana padano, artisan butter and cheese from Atotonilco. Each meal features a little home-made sourdough from an appetizer the couple have maintained over the past five years.
The culinary innovation that is emerging in Guadalajara is largely because chefs, like Galnares, are looking for a city that requires less investment and overall risk, to try something new. Mutante is another standout restaurant in the neighborhood, with a tree-lined outdoor patio that resembles a secret garden and an extensive menu of Oaxaca locusts, duck flutes, aguachiles, and perfectly seasoned sashimi. For breakfast, it palReal, a labyrinthine cafe that roasts its own coffee and serves creative take on huevos cafes and its own take on an ahogada turtle. For a late lunch, head to Puerco Espada, for some of the best seafood in the city.
Despite competition from exclusive breweries like Pacifico, Guadalajara also has a thriving craft beer scene. One of the best breweries in town is Alejandro Magallanes’ Loba, was founded by. On any given night, there are nine beers open on tap, one of which is the surprisingly good low-gluten beer, Lobita. Loba was named North America’s Best Brewery in the 2019 International Beer Competition. And the food at its newly opened on-site restaurant, UMHOis top, from the ceviche to the pulled pork sandwich.
Between meals, Palacio de Gobierno in Plaza de Armas worth the long walk, as well as the nearby twin building Church of Guadalajaraand the huge indoor market, Mercado Libertad San Juan de Dios, it takes another 11 minutes to walk. Only a few minutes left to lie Hospicio Cabanas, one of the city’s most vibrant and unique attractions, is located in a former orphanage and features murals by Jose Clemente Orozco. It served as a workhouse, hospital, orphanage and almshouse, and remained a hospital until 1980, when the Cabanas Cultural Institute occupied it. Orozco frescoes can be found throughout the complex.
After a few days in the city, head to the volcanic valley, home to Tequila’s green agave fields, an hour’s drive northwest. Aside from obvious tours of the world’s most famous distilleries, this is a small town charming enough to wander with cantarita, the juiced version of margarine, in hand. Casa Salles far and away is the best hotel choice, partly because of its luxury shops including a good on-site restaurant and tranquil swimming pool, but also because it sits on a spacious plot of land next to it. El Tequileno, which makes some of the strongest wines in the region. As the agaves cook, the sweet smell of sugary pina wafts into the courtyard at Casa Salles, whetting appetites for the informative on-site dishes available upon reservation.
For the adventurous, the guide Martin Gaytan Guzman leads the scrambles down a steep cliffside to a series of waterfalls of the Rio Lerma that plunge into the Chiquihuitillo Valley. The pool beneath the largest waterfall is the perfect temperature for a dip most of the year, and although the climb is steep and somewhat challenging, it’s short.
Back in the city, a $6 Uber ride takes visitors to what was once a suburb of Guadalajara and now a further area within it, albeit with an entirely different feel: Tlaquepaque.
The beating heart of the town is Calle Independencia, a dedicated pedestrian street lined with shops buying ceramics, textiles and tequila. Although most of the offerings along this avenue are Chinese imports that look exactly like Chinese imports, there is an association of 150 local artisans who can find pottery here and there, especially at the craft market next to Plaza Parian.
There are several great options for ceramics: Cantu famous for its wide range of beautiful tiles, while Ceramica el Palomar has a whole room full of cheap “seconds”, pieces with minor defects, about a walking block away La Villa Del Ensueno, a boutique hotel dripping with neo-colonial charm around every intricately tiled corner. Family wealth El Patio is the best place for food, entertainment and a bowl of soup the size of a cazuela, the region’s specialty concoction of citrus fruits, juices and tequila. Visit El Patio on one of the three afternoons each week when the restaurant is open all-female mariachi band wandering around the restaurant, creating the perfect harmonies.