In the last 10 years Guadalajara has grown into a world class epicurean destination. The traditional side was established centuries ago but the modern side only started to flourish recently. What makes Guadalajara such a cool place to hang out is that balance of modern and traditional schools of thought, that you encounter everyday. You see it in the architecture, how people think, but most importantly, you see it in the food. Some of the best food I have ever tasted comes from a family that has spent 3 generations preparing one dish. Then, for your next meal, you eat with a chef that has worked in the best kitchens in Europe and layers each dish with evolving flavors.
Guadalajara has spellbinding traditional foods, restaurants representing most of Mexico and a booming international scene. All of the sudden there is world class sushi, lots of Korean BBQ, home style Lebanese, French-Vietnamese, a surplus of Argentine grills, Venezuelan, Indian a uniquely Mexican natural foods movement, among many more.
I want to help you find your next great meal and I am trying to throw dozens of options at the wall to see if anything sticks. These are my favorite places to eat and be entertained in Guadalajara and I hope you find one or two that you absolutely love.
Where to Eat
- My Top 5 Culinary Experiences in Guadalajara
- Haute Cuisine
- Mid-Range International
- Mexican Food
Where to Drink
My Top 5 Culinary Experiences in Guadalajara
These are experiences that people visiting Guadalajara should consider.
Mexican markets are amazing. Under one roof you have a concentration of small vendors that represent local ingredients and recipes. Whenever you get to a new town you should check out the markets. In Guadalajara the most important markets are Abastos (wholesale market), Alcalde (old school downtown market), Santa Tere (neighborhood style) and the Mercado del Mar in Zapopan (seafood). For those of us not accustomed to eating in a market the experience is visceral. The food is exceptional but the experience could be life changing.
I am not much of a fan of the torta ahogada. Not really my thing. When it comes to the traditional foods of Guadalajara, I am all about the birria. Jalisco style roasted goat stew is one of the great culinary traditions of Mexico. You can find excellent birria in the markets, in the Plaza de las 9 Esquinas or in the Chololo Hacienda. Do not miss out on this one.
Highly regarded as the best coffee in town, palReal has become one of the most celebrated kitchens as well. The weekend breakfast is packed, always. The lonche de pancita is one of the most instagramed dishes in Guadalajara, the encacahuatadas are my personal favorite, and everything goes down better with specialty coffee. Make sure to buy a few bags of coffee and learn about all the parts of Mexico that grow excellent coffee.
I like to think about the Guadalajara food scene before Alcalde and after Alcalde. Chef Paco Ruano put Guadalajara on the map as a destination for haute Mexican cuisine. He has convinced the locals to try new things and paved the way for a modern foods movement. I love sitting at the kitchen bar to watch all the action. Make sure to try the frijoles puercos appetizer and the arroz con leche dessert are world class.
There is a building movement of traditional foods and ingredients in Mexico. Small farmers and heirloom ingredients are fighting back against industrialized farming. Xokol prepares heirloom varietal corn tortillas in the morning and operates a boutique restaurant in the evening. There are waiters but the chef comes out to explain the cultural significance of the ingredients and recipes.
Allium is a little ahead of the times in Guadalajara. Chef Adolfo Galnares is originally from Mexico City but he studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and has brought the farm to table movement with him to Guadalajara. He is sourcing and growing ingredients that nobody else has, and you can taste the difference. You can’t find heirloom tomatoes in Mercado de Abastos but Chef Adolfo has friends that are growing the best tomatoes in Jalisco. The cheese platter is a treasure trove of high end goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses that I have never seen before. The salads change with the season and are worth the trip alone. I highly recommend the pork belly in chile poblano sauce and the duck breast in two types of cherry sauce. We also loved the flan de elote dessert. Full bar with a creative cocktail menu.
Calle López Cotilla 1752, Lafayette, Guadalajara
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Chef Francisco Ruano has been making the world take notice of Guadalajara since opening Alcalde in 2013. After training in Puerto Vallarta with Thierry Blouet and later in Denmark with renouned NOMA chef René Redzepi he is back in his hometown winning awards and blowing minds. Ruano describes his food as simple but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The guy is methodical and each dish has multiple layers; visually stunning, multiple textures and lingering subtle nuances. Alcalde is a must see when in Guadalajara. The frijoles puercos appetizer, the duck entree and the rice pudding dessert are especially decedent. Full bar and reservations highly recommended.
Av. México 2903, Vallarta Norte, Guadalajara
Visiting Ofelia Bistro is like visiting dinner theater. The use of molecular gastronomy techniques adds more depth to the experience. The food is excellent but the experience is above and beyond anything else in Guadalajara. You can expect impeccable service and well educated recommendations for wine. Ofelia Bistro is a world class restaurant that just happens to be located in Guadalajara. It is a must see!
Av. Pablo Neruda 2707, Providencia, Guadalajara
Chef Darren Walsh is originally from Ireland but has been traveling the world jumping from one Michelin starred restaurant to the next. Trained in the classical french style he has gained a reputation for creativity and daring. Lula Bistro is a beautiful space with refined service and Guadalajara’s favorite tasting menu. Expect stylish contemporary cuisine that is seasonal and often organic.
San Gabriel 3030, Jardines del Bosque, Guadalajara
Chef Paul Bentley is another international heavy weight that has chosen Guadalajara as his home base. Originally hailing from Margaret River in Australia he spend his career, from dishwasher to chef, in world famous and highly decorated restaurants. He was leading kitchens in Paris, Rome and New York before falling for Mexico. Magno Brasserie is the definition of Haute Cuisine and a really enjoyable place to dine.
A lot of these restaurants are a fusion of a couple of different styles of cooking. You might find a taco plate listed on a menu next to a green Thai curry, or a capellini pasta dish with sesame and soy. These are some of Guadalajara’s favorite casual restaurants.
I Latina & Anita Li
The I Latina and the Anita Li are two of the funnest restaurants in Guadalajara, and they happen to have great food too! It can be hard to tell them apart because they are right next to each other but the Anita Li is for lunch and the I Latina is for dinner.
From the time you walk in the door you realize how important the music is to these people. Whether it is live music or a carefully crafted playlist you will catch yourself grooving all night long. You can tell the owners are well traveled and love to bring back the tackiest treasures from abroad. The ceramic pigs lining the bar, the throw rugs hung on the wall and the stuffed animals (fake?) playfully adorning different rooms makes the restaurant one of a kind.
When it comes to the kitchen, the chef is no-nonsense. These guys were some of the first people in Guadalajara to start using sous-vide and the consistency in their food is tireless. The food is nouveaus Mexican with some international flair. The shrimp in green curry is very good. The beef short rib entree is out of this world and I am still trying to find out who makes their desserts because the coconut and chocobanana ice creams keep me up at night. Full bar and reservations highly recommended.
Av Inglaterra 3128, Vallarta Poniente, 44110 Guadalajara, Jal.
La Pasteria Chapalita
The Pasteria Chapalita is a local favorite and a great place to start exploring the art market in the Glorieta Chapalita. Avenida de las Rosas is the heart of Chapalita where the tree lined streets smell of roses and orange blossoms. The kitchen puts out some of the best pastas and pizzas in the city and the chocolate and hazelnut cake is to die for. The place is packed on the weekends so come early or be prepared to wait for a table. Full bar and a nice selection of wines. Reservations available at 2pm and 8pm only.
Av de Las Rosas 730, Chapalita Oriente, Guadalajara
If you like pork then you will love Chancho. This place started out as a a pop-up dinner party and has grown into a successful brick and mortar restaurants. The chefs at Anita li and I Latina bought a Caja China barbaque to roast whole pigs and throw some parties. The parties were so popular they started having them every weekend and before you know it they had opened another restaurant. You have to start with the brussels sprouts appetizer and roasted red beet salad. The pork belly tacos are amazing and so is the porchetta sandwich. Finish with a guava creme brulee and you will be planning a return trip soon. Beer and wine only but they have a carefully crafted list of impressive labels.
Av. México 2207, Ladron De Guevara, Guadalajara
Growing up in San Diego we are spoiled with great burgers. Finding a good hamburger in Guadalajara can be a challenge. Thankfully there is Pig’s Pearls. The burgers are on the smaller side but that lets you order a salad and a bone marrow appetizer. I am partial to the lamb burger and the bacon maple syrup burger and can never decide which to order. Beer and wine only but they have a great selection of local microbreweries.
Calle Gral Coronado 79, Zona Centro, Guadalajara
Finding a great breakfast in Guadalajara is not that hard. The city has a great mix of classic Mexican fair as well as some excellent international options. Just be aware that finding that first meal of the day in Guadalajara can be chaotic. If you get up late on the weekend you will find yourself waiting for hours at most of the hottest restaurants. Try to get an early start or send someone to put your name on the list and see what the wait is like. These restaurants are hot and serve some of the best breakfast in Guadalajara.
PalReal is the pinnacle of the Guadalajara coffee experience but Chef Fabian Delgado has also built one of Guadalajara’s favorite kitchens. The partnership between roaster, barista, designer and chef has turned a bunch of talented kids into local celebrities. What started out as a breakfast only endeavor has grown into an exciting lunch and dinner.
Expect well educated baristas, carefully sourced ingredients, a national champion bartender; it is a well balanced experience. There are a few things that you absolutely have to try: the lonche de pancita it arguably the best sandwich in town. The encacahuatadas breakfast dish is to die for, and tacos de vacio are EXCELLENT! Make sure to go a couple of times and buy a couple bags of coffee to take home.
Calle Lope de Vega 113, Arcos Vallarta, Guadalajara
Fitzroy Espresso Bar
A big part of a great breakfast is great coffee. Fitzroy has taken the neighborhood by storm serving ‘chingon’ coffee and adding more and more breakfast items. They have the best pancakes in the Colonia Americana, a quinoa salad that I will travel for and chilaquiles so loaded with extras you have to look for the chilaquiles.
Calle Marsella 126, Lafayette, Guadalajara
As the name would suggest, Boulangerie Central is a French style bistro with excellent wheat flour bread and french sauces. The French toast is exceptional, there are a couple of exciting hollandaise dishes and your staple Mexican breakfasts. Make sure to come early on the weekends because this place is busy.
Calle Morelos 1984, Ladrón de Guevara, Guadalajara
What I love about Los Chilaquiles is the emphasis that they put on ranch style food. They buy most of their ingredients from small producers in the ranches surrounding Guadalajara. The family that owns and operates Los Chilaquiles comes from a small town called San Miguel de Cuyutlan and many of their recipes are from that part of Jalisco. Make sure to try the nata (milk fat), some gorditas and an order of the birria. This birria is a mixture of beef and pork so it is a little different than most of the birria you will find in Guadalajara.
Mercado de Abastos
Birria, menudo, carne asadas; under one roof you have a concentration of small vendors that represent local ingredients and recipes. The decor may be a little rough around the edges but the food is exceptional and there is always something new to try.
Calle 4, Comercial Abastos, Guadalajara
when my family is visiting from other parts of the world I want to show them the depth and diversity of the local Mexican restaurants. I want to take my mom out of her comfort zone and have her try the best goat birria in town. All the sudden my stepdad is a fan of crispy tripe tacos and asking what the next adventure is going to be. These are the Mexican restaurants that I rely on to impress family and friends.
Tikuun Comedor Local
It is refreshing to see young chefs looking at Mexico for their inspiration. Carlos Espinosa is one of Mexico’s most exciting young chefs who just happens to be working in Guadalajara. Tikuun is the sort of place that the chefs love to eat. The food is exciting and adventurous. There are lots of exotic meats, sauces and ingredients. The presentation is an Instagramer’s dream as every last leaf and pedal has been places exactly where it needs to be. This is independent Mexico. No Corona, no Cuervo, just recipes that maybe skipped a generation and got a fancy new presentation. This needs to be on your list of restaurants to visit soon!
Calle Robles Gil 50, Americana, Guadalajara
El Sacromonte is a nostalgic trip through old Mexico. The colonial era house that has been converted into a restaurant, and launched a very successful restaurant group, is a time capsule of a foregone era. The piano player in the entrance is the first clue that you are in for something special. The menu reads like a greatest hits album of Mexico’s most famous and historic personalities: Salads named after Dolores del Rio and María Felix, and entrees names after my favorite neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. Service is impeccable and much of the waitstaff have been there for decades. During chile enogada season this is my go-to restaurant. Full bar available.
Calle Pedro Moreno 1398, Americana, Guadalajara
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La Tequila Cocina Mexicana
May be considered a touristy restaurant but that shouldn’t affect your ability to enjoy this place. Besides the vast collection of rare tequilas, the menu includes exotic dishes from across the country. The tlayudas are excellent. On the weekends they sell lamb barbacoa out of a shack behind the restaurant that is top notch.
Av México 2830, Terranova, Guadalajara
Spending a Sunday in Tlaquepaque, dining at El Abajeño and listening to mariachi is uniquely Jaliscan experience. The outdoor patio is lush, the tequila flows and all is right in the world. The name Abajeño come from the people who inhabit the lowlands, as opposed to the highlands or Los Altos de Jalisco.
Calle Juárez 231, Centro, San Pedro Tlaquepaque
Guadalajara is not coastal but it is close enough that people know what good seafood is and where to find it. There is an incredibly diverse amount of seafood to be found in Mexico: Baja California to Sinaloa to Oaxaca and Yucatan. Sinaloa style seafood is by far the most popular, and while I love Los Arcos and Save, I chose some restaurants that I like even more.
Mexicans love seafood but La Docena is taking that love to a whole new level. Chef Tomas Bermudez is well traveled and has fused his travels into a new type of Mexican seafood restaurant. With a little bit of Baja California, a little bit of Louisiana and a touch of molecular gastronomy, La Docena has broken the mold of traditional Mexican seafood joints. Recently listed as one of the best restaurants in Latin America, La Docena has expanded into Mexico City and opened a high end sushi bar that is unlike anything else in the city. Make sure to try the grilled oysters in clarified butter, grilled young octopus and something from their live seafood bar. Full bar available with some special wines from Baja California.
Boulevard Puerta de Hierro 4965, Plaza Andares, Zapopan
Calle São Paulo 1491, Providencia, Guadalajara
Campomar is the hottest thing in seafood these days. The restaurant is ample but there is always a wait. The concept hails from Ixtlán del Río, Nayarit, just outside the State of Jalisco. Our server scoffed when I asked if they use Jugo Maggi or Salad Inglesa in the ceviche responding that their ceviche is all natural. The seafood options range from classic to exotic. The orange ceviche with shrimp and Bay scallops exceptional. Another test I have of seafood restaurants is the quality of their bean tacos. I want to see the ingredients and how well they prepare simple food. Campomar is excellent but beware that many of their salsas are professional level spicy.
San Dionisio 33, Jardín de San Ignacio, Zapopan
La Panga del Impostor
This is where the cool kids and the foodies in the know like to hang out. La Panga del Impostor is one part nostalgic trip to a sleepy fishing village and one part chef-driven menu. Chef Antonio De Livier is one of Mexico’s most beloved TV personalities, leading the show Cocineros Mexicanos. He has been all over the country and combines regional cooking with innovative innovative recipes. The birria de almejas is a seafood lovers take on a classic Tapatio dish. The dried shrimp aguachile with cecina is one of the best dishes that tried in 2017. And the taco de chicharron prensado with octopus is reason enough to get to know the Panga. The selection of popsicles they have for dessert is a gourmet version of a Mexican childhood.
Calle Miguel Lerdo de Tejada 2189, Americana, Guadalajara
While most of the attention goes to Taco Fish La Paz, and I agree they have a good taco, the award for the BEST fish taco goes to The Happy Fish. The Happy Fish has a little bigger menu and I always seem to order those tacos/tostadas that they don’t have at Fish Taco La Paz. The other difference is the salsa bar. At both restaurats the tacos are served try and you decide how you want to dress them. The salsa bar at The Happy Fish has more options and is in better condition. Both Taco Fish La Paz and The Happy Fish are great options that have been around forever, but I recommend The Happy Fish just a little bit more.
Av. Tepeyac 4709, Mirador del Sol, Zapopan
The sushi scene in Guadalajara has really grown up. I used to constantly tell my wife, “That isn’t sushi” but we have a solid rotation of good to excellent options nowadays. I have to admit that I have developed a relationship with the chipotle mayonnaise.
This closet turned sushi bar is one of the hottest tickets in Guadalajara right now. This is not your typical Mexican sushi but the real deal, high-end Japanese style sushi like you would find in Los Angeles or Mexico City. Nobody in Guadalajara has a selection of exquisite fish that Chef Daisuke Maeda has brought in specifically for this sushi bar. I tend to judge a sushi bar on the quality of their sea urchin and I can say, without a doubt, that is the best sea urchin I have tasted three hours away from the beach. There are only 15 seats at the sushi bar and reservations for more than two people can be hard to get. It is expensive but that is to be expected for the quality and selection.
Paseo Andares, Puerto de Hierro, Zapopan
Old school, Japanese owned eatery that is the real deal. Its part sushi bar, part teppanyaki and part museum. The place is enormous and will be full on a Sunday afternoon. They have gluten free soy sauce and if you know your way around a Japanese food menu you will be able to find some great options. Suehiro has excellent service and is one of Guadalajara’s favorite restaurants.
Nigiri SAN Cocina Económica
While this is not your traditional restaurant the sushi is excellent and cheap. Nigiri SAN mostly does take-out food but they have three small tables that are almost always taken. They have an excellent selection of mostly local fish and very good rice. Make sure to check out their Facebook page to see what the daily specials are.
Sushi Shop Xotchil
The Sushi Shop chain has been growing on me for some time. My wife has been coming here for years and I used to complain about it all the time. The fact is that this is not the place to go for exotic nigiri or the best quality fish. However the rolls are pretty good and the price is excellent. When you don’t want to spend a ton of money for the expensive options, the Sushi Shop is an option that satisfies my sushi needs.
I am really starting to rethink my criticisms of the Asian food that is available here. There are casual options in the market, after-work beer swigging and all-you-can-eat joints, and there are sophisticated yet casually elegant options to choose from.
M Cocina Creativa
Another great restaurant that seems a little out of place. How does a French-Vietnamese chef find his way to Zapopan, Jalisco. It turns out that he has a huge farm near Puerto Vallarta that grows specialty herbs and he loves Guadalajara. This is where you will find the only acceptable bowl of pho in Guadalajara with Asian style basil. The stuffed calamari and spicy octopus appetizers are excellent. I am usually a purist when it comes to creme brulee but the ginger creme brulee is dynamite and a must try. Full bar with creative cocktails and a very good selection of Mexican wines.
All of the sudden Guadalajara has a solid repertoire of Korean restaurants. I am really starting to rethink my criticisms of the Asian food that is available here. There are casual options in the market, after-work beer swigging and all-you-can-eat joints, and there are sophisticated yet casually elegant options to choose from. Restaurante SSAM fits into that sophisticated yet casually elegant category. Inside and out the experience is absolutely enchanting. A beautiful space on tree-lined Calle Morelos, educated and attentive service, and one hell of a kitchen make Restaurante SSAM a name that you need to know.