When it comes to foodie travel in Mexico, Mexico City usually steals the spotlight. Rarely, if ever, does Mexico’s second-largest city, Guadalajara, make the cut. But the “City of Endless Spring” is also a city of endless good eats and drinks, ranging from hyper-local specialties like tortas ahogadas (drowned sandwiches), to Mexican twists on American classics like pulled pork and mac and cheese, to a thriving beer scene.
The heart of Mexico's burgeoning beer scene
Craft beer is a relatively recent phenomenon in Mexico, and Guadalajara is leading the charge. Whether you’re looking for traditional Corona-style light Mexican beers or an American IPA, there are fun breweries all over the city to try out. Cerveceria La Blanca offers delicious German-style beers and rotating seasonal ales. Its beers are light and not particularly hoppy, making it a good fit for folks looking for mellow, easy-drinking brews. The brewery is also a fun place for a snack – its guacamoles, with unusual additions like bacon and watermelon, are generously portioned and delicious. It also serves flatbreads, sliders and other pub food.
For the more serious beer connoisseur, Patan Ale House offers a larger selection including red ales and IPAs, which can be hard to find in Mexico. The selection includes local Guadalajara breweries Insurgente and California Brewing as well as beers from elsewhere in Mexico and even a few West Coast USA brews. Patan also offers delicious twists on American pub food, including a fantastic jalapeño-infused mac and cheese.
Unique Jalisco favorites
Every region of Mexico has its own unique cuisine, and Guadalajara is no exception. It’s the culinary crown jewel of the Jalisco region, and a great place to dive into regional dishes. The most famous dish in Guadalajara is the torta ahogada – literally translated, it means “drowned sandwich” – which is a baguette stuffed with pork and beans flavored with lime and fresh onions, and then soaked in a sauce made of tomatoes and chilies. It’s sometimes so wet it requires a spoon to eat, but tortas ahogadas are mouthwateringly good and, according to local legend, can cure pretty much any hangover. There are both mild and hot versions of the torta ahogada, but unless you are a seasoned spice eater, be wary of picante version – it's burning hot.
The story of how the torta ahogada was created varies, but most variations share one truth: the sandwich was an accident. In some versions, a construction worker accidentally dropped his lunch in a bowl of salsa; in others, a torta slipped out of a vendor’s hand and into a hot vat of sauce on its way to a waiting hand. But however it came to be, the torta ahogada is here to stay. There are tons of places around Guadalajara to try one, the most popular of which is Las Famosas, which has a few locations around the city. Ahogadas Betos also offers a delicious version of the traditional dish using a family recipe.
For a one stop shop to try tortas ahogadas as well as other Jalisco specialties, there is no better place than La Chata, a local favorite that often has a line out the door. But it’s worth the wait – besides a delicious and subtly spiced torta ahogada, La Chata also offers an incredible pozole, a comforting, delicious corn soup in a limey broth that is the Mexican answer to chicken noodle soup. The restaurant is a great place to try flautas – lightly fried tortillas stuffed with meat, referred to in the United States as taquitos – and sweet horchata (a sweet rice milk drink). The jovial family atmosphere and loud music are as much a part of the experience as the food.
Guadalajara is also home to the largest indoor market in Latin America, and a visit to the city isn’t complete without it. Mercado Libertad, a massive, chaotic marketplace over three stories, has everything on offer from produce to clothing. The market has dozens of food stalls and even a few restaurants including El Tapatliotl, which offers enticing steak tacos on warm fresh tortillas.
Spots to satisfy your sweet tooth
You might not have much room in your stomach after a dinner in Guadalajara – the portions are generous here – but if you can make space for dessert, there’s no better way to end your night than with a hot, cruchy churro and a thick Mexican hot chocolate. Churros La Bombilla is a family-run operation that has been serving up traditional churros for decades; the walls are covered in photos of happy customers and sepia-toned shots of the Guadalajara of yesteryear. It’s right across the street from one of the largest and prettiest parks in the city, Parque Revolución; the whole experience feels nostalgic enough for a black-and-white film.
For a more modern take on the traditional Mexican dessert, make your way to Mercado Via Libertad, a sleeker take on the traditional Mexican market. Inside are several floors of eateries including Casaxurro, which serves traditional churros as well as ones filled or topped with different types of ice cream or chocolate, churros formed into dipping balls instead of the traditional twist, and even a churro ice cream cone.
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