I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Chapalita is the best neighborhood in Guadalajara if you have a family. I have had four distinct experiences living in Guadalajara: Jardines del Bosque, Zona Centro, the Minerva, and most recently in Chapalita. While I love all of these neighborhoods, I think that Chapalita is the best. The combination of city services, walkability, architectural charm, and quality of local businesses creates a wonderful quality of life. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Colonia Chapalita and think you should check it out.
Chapalita falls in both Guadalajara and Zapopan but the local colonos (neighborhood council) is ultimately in charge. The neighborhood includes the area from Av. Lázaro Cárdenas to Av. Niño Obrero/Av. Tizoc (the same street just changes names). Ciudad de los Niños, Prados Tepeyac and Ciudad del Sol are three neighboring communities that really complement Chapalita and make it even more enjoyable.
Av. Guadalupe and Av. Tepeyac are the main roads running through Chapalita but if you really want to appreciate the neighborhood you will walk Av. Parque Juan Diego, Av. Chapalita and Calle 12 de Diciembre. The combination of mature trees and mid-century mansions will make you take out your camera. Chapalita has some of the best examples of Guadalajara’s modernist and art deco architecture hidden behind well-maintained gardens.
Back in the 1940s, there was a movement of wealthy households out of downtown to more rural neighborhoods. Back then, Chapalita was a ranch being subdivided for development. It quickly became a model for the rest of the country as they organized better neighborhoods with lots of green spaces and self-sufficient services like water, lighting, and trash collection.
Chapalita Colonos and City Services
The most important city service is the police department. The Local community is very involved in security issues. The neighbors know one another, know the police, attend community meetings, and have group chats with a direct line to the patrol cars. I have neighbors that lived in Puerto de Hierro who say that the security situation in Chapalita is better than the gated communities.
A factor that has slowed development in Chapalita is the water well. Water is managed by the colonos and is limited. If your restaurant starts consuming more than their allotment someone will show up at your door to educate you about conservation. The Riu hotel had to go door to door asking the neighbors to sell them a percentage of their water in order to get their permits authorized. A big project in the Glorieta Chapalita has been put on hold for years while the colonos negotiate the cost of externalities such as traffic, water, crime, and parking related to a massive mixed-use development project.
Trash collection comes three days a week and they insist that you recycle. There are no cars parked on the sidewalk and the street lights work. The colonos are very conservative and want to maintain the quality of life that Chapalita is famous for. They even step in to mediate disputes between neighbors. This is a very civil and community-oriented model that works.
Chapalita is a wealthy community and was built that way. A lot of us think that green spaces, parks, and mature trees are an important part of where we want to live. It is much more enjoyable to walk around your neighborhood on a hot day when there is some shade. The orange trees and roses that line many streets let off an amazing aroma as they bloom in the spring.
The two most distinctive architectural styles in Chapalita are Art Deco and Modernist. These styles were prominent when the neighborhood was first built in the 1940s and 1950s and many have been fabulously maintained.
Luis Barragán, Mexico’s most famous architect, built a house on Av de las Rosas that has been immaculately preserved. The bright colors, clean lines, and reinforced concrete are a summary of mid-century Mexican modernism. The house is currently occupied by a dress store, a coffee shop, and an events terraza.
Templo de Santa Rita is another example of mid-century architecture but from a Mexican Catholic perspective. The use of cement and tilework are a contrast to the neo-gothic, baroque and classical architecture of centuries past. Whenever there is mass you will see street vendors out from selling corn on the cob, tamales, and churros that you should check out.
The best examples of art deco architecture are located on Calle 12 de Diciembre which happens to be the oldest residential street in Chapalita. Art deco was the architectural style of choice in 1940s Mexico before modernism took over, riding a wave of innovative post-war construction technology. Chapalita may not have as many architectural masterpieces as the Colonia Americana but it is still a pleasure to casually stroll the neighborhood.
Chapalita Is A Walkable Neighborhood
I have walked the streets in many busy Latin American cities without thinking much about walkability. Now that I have a son and I push a stroller, I appreciate sidewalks and crosswalks. Chapalita is not perfect but it is much easier to push a stroller in Chapalita than it is downtown or in the Colonia Americana. People actually walk in this neighborhood and I feel that the sidewalks are in better condition than they are in Providencia.
Today Chapalita is no longer rural but rather suburban. In addition to parks, there are lots of great businesses running down the principal avenues. The side streets are mostly residential with a few informal family-run businesses. My favorite street to walk is Av Parque Juan Diego because of the huge gardens, mature trees and the little parks in the traffic circles. You are not walking next to traffic but through a park.
On Sundays, the Via Recreactiva shuts down the westbound lane of traffic to cars and only allows pedestrians and cyclists. You will run into all of your neighbors on Sundays just cruising the Via Recreactiva with the family.
The neighborhood is centered around the Glorieta Chapalita, which connects Av Guadalupe with Av de las Rosas. The glorieta is a traffic circle with an immaculately maintained park in the middle. During the week the park is quiet but on Sundays, there is an art market that brings people from all over the city.
The Glorieta Chapalita was recently remodeled, updating the sidewalk, crosswalks, and installing a bike lane. Av Guadalupe is a main artery of the city so slowing down traffic was a challenge.
Just remember that crosswalks do not give the pedestrians the right of way and you need to be patient.
Where To Eat In Chapalita
The restaurant and bar scene is more mature than the Colonia Americana yet much less pretentious than anything around Plaza Andares. You can find excellent examples of street tacos, wine bars, and mid-range international options.
Tacos & Street Food
It took me a little while to find all of these but I really like the taco selection in Chapalita. The churches always have good corn, tamal, and churro vendors outside of mass in the evenings. There are still family-run fruit stores being run out of a garage. In short, we have great food in Chapalita.
El Palomar de Santa Rita (Las Chorreadas)
You go to Las Chorreadas for good quality grilled meats, a stellar salsa bar, and Chorreadas (8-inch Mexican corn pizzas, typical in Sinaloa). They have a big mound of corn masa and make the tortillas and Chorreadas to order. The coolest part is that they are hidden in an alley behind the supermarket with a tiny sign that says tacos. It is classic Mexico: amazing food in a humble setting.
They are open from 7 pm until 11 pm
Tacos de Carnitas Estilo Michoacan
The food in front of churches is very good in Chapalita. They are frying pork like they do in Michoacan and have a bunch of different cuts to choose from. They are cool people with very good food at a decent price. The tacos are served generously for $15 pesos per taco.
They are open in the mornings and tend to sell out before 1 pm.
Tacos de Vapor Don Dany
Tacos de vapor are very different from the tacos that most people know. They are served as breakfast in the morning and kept warm in a steam table. The steam lets the flavor from the filling penetrate the tortilla. Served with some cabbage, some spicy salsa and a big glass of orange juice, this is a complete breakfast. My favorite fillings are beans but the chicharrón is a close second.
They are open from 9 am until 4 pm
Clements Tortas Ahogadas
I don’t eat torta ahogada but I love the crispy tacos dorados with pork, cabbage, and the torta ahogada tomato salsa. You dress it with a really spicy chile de arbol salsa, salt, and lime and have to eat it with a spoon because of all the sauce. Clements has Jalisco style (dry) carnitas and juicy pork belly (pancita). The pancita sells out early. Movie star Diego Luna recently posted a picture eating here while he was filming the newest season of Narcos Mexico.
They are open from 8:30 am until 4 pm
Tacos Los Alteños
This is one of the busiest taco shops in Guadalajara because of good pastor, bistek, chorizo, and cabeza tacos. The salsas are good but not mind-blowing. The restaurant is very satisfying and open late. However, they close on every Catholic holiday.
Open from 10 am until 1 am (2 am on the weekends)
Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita
Sundays during the summer can see 45 minute long lines for delectable old-school style ice creams made in wooden barrels with rock salt and ice. Some are made with cream and some made with water but they are simple fruit and sugar combinations.
Personally, I like the Mandarin and passion fruit combo. My wife prefers the mango and lime combo. When there are no mangos in Mercado de Abastos there is no mango nieve de garrafa. It is all fresh fruit and delicious. There are a bunch of locations but Chapalita is where they are made.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
The church on Av Tepeyac and Las Rosas has a ton of awesome food on the alleyway out front. There are tacos de canasta in the morning but the best vendors come out in the evening. There is a corn vendor (esquites and corn on the cob), churros and tamales. All of the vendors have been there for a really long time and have excellent recipes.
Restaurants in Chapalita
The restaurants around the Glorieta Chapalita are good but the check totals are higher than the restaurants that are just off of it. I think Campomar is the best seafood in Guadalajara; Las Rosas has really good Italian options; and Tepeyac has some solid breakfast joints. Look around, there are some great restaurants in the neighborhood.
Most seafood restaurants in Guadalajara are Sinaloa style but Campomar is Nayarit style. Honestly, I don’t know what the difference is because the states sit right next door to one another and they both produce tons of shrimp. Anyhow, the food is excellent and they have a few specialty items like chocolate clams and huge scallops that are worth the trip alone.
Like most seafood restaurants in Mexico, they serve a lunchtime crowd and close early. They recently renovated the space which is essentially a very large covered patio reminiscent of something closer to the coast. While it is a little more upscale than your traditional mariscos joint the prices are reasonable for the neighborhood and quality of the ingredients.
When it comes to seafood I love the zarandeado whole fish. I like to go with a few people and split the biggest fish they have. Last time I went we got a 6 lb. red snapper and devoured everything. The checks are my favorite part.
My six-year-old niece loves the octopus tostada and we always start with an order of marlin tacos. You can pick at random and will score a great meal. This is where I like to take out of town family to impress them and talk about surfing Nayarit.
La Pasteria Chapalita is one of Guadalajara’s favorite restaurants. The food is consistent, home-style Italian food with one of the best (if not the best) pizzas in town. The service is refined yet unpretentious, the wine list is value-based yet ample, and the space is really comfortable.
I highly recommend the squash blossom appetizer and the burrata salad. The second course should be a pizza with half Italian sausage and half jamón serrano. The main course needs to include the salmon with a white wine and butter sauce and the beef ribs dish. The beef ribs have been slow-roasted all night and taken off the bone. It has some porcini mushrooms in a red wine reduction and crowned with caramelized onions. Both the salmon and ribs are insanely good. And you can’t leave without trying the hazelnut chocolate cake. It’s better than Nutella. I promise.
La Moresca is part of a very successful restaurant group with locations in Tijuana and Guadalajara. The food is good and reasonably priced but the high-end bar is on the expensive side. They do have an excellent wine list.
These guys actually lived and trained in a part of the world that has world-class BBQ and brought that back to Mexico. There are little changes that I love like the spicy habanero BBQ sauce. You can choose regular or spicy; the spicy sauce is freaking great. It’s Southern US and Mexican at the same time.
Get some brisket, get some bacon and finish with some ribs.
La Morenita del Santuario
Pozole, flautas, enchiladas, and tacos are the typical ‘cenaduria’ style Mexican food.
Where To Get A Drink In Guadalajara
There are not as many bars or coffee shops in Chapalita as there are in the Colonia Americana. However, I like to think that there are still some good options.
Cru Wine & Deli
Cru looks like a parking space that was turned in to a wine bar. The space is tiny but the people behind it really love wine and want to share that passion with their neighborhood. Mexico has been producing wine since the 16th century but only recently started consuming it in any quantity. What most people drink in Mexico is very commercial. Cru has done an amazing job of selecting excellent wines from lesser-known regions of the wine-producing world.
As you may expect, there are a lot of cheeses and cured meats to go along with these great wines. The people that work at Cru are very excited to share their knowledge with you. There is nothing that I hate more than a wine snob that only drinks expensive bottles. Cru is about helping you find a great wine that you are going to love.
Bars in Chapalita
The most popular beer bars in Chapalita are going to be Señor Stone, Ceverceria Chapultepec, and Cerveceria Tepeyac. They serve cheap drinks to an after-work crowd but focus mostly on the big commercial brands. If you are looking for a night club the only option is the Tiboronzzito above Wing’s Army in the Glorieta Chapalita. I haven’t been in ten years but I had a good time on New Years’ Eve 2010.
Coffee in Chapalita
Again, there are not nearly as many specialty coffee establishments in Chapalita as there are in the Colonia Americana but we have a couple of good choices.
Besides the stellar Belgian style pastries, Breadway has a beautiful Nuova Simonelli espresso machine and Cafe Estelar (2019 best coffee roaster in Mexico title). Their head barista is passionate about coffee and excited to make you an excellent espresso drink.
You will find some great pour-over methods and small, specialty coffee roasters at this hole in the wall coffee shop. The espresso machine is not their strength unless you want something with milk but the pour-overs more than make up for it.
There is a Costa Rican girl who works here that studied coffee in college and worked for Costa Rica’s biggest coffee company. She is a wealth of knowledge about coffee and will recommend some great new coffees that you have probably never heard of.
There is a spectacular selection of loose leaf teas and a beautifully shaded patio to enjoy them at La Tetería. The espresso is average; you are here for the tea.
Great neighborhood management, beautiful surroundings, and a wealth of great eating spots all contribute to my love of this place. I invite you to sample its charms on your next visit to Guadalajara.