I don’t think there is any doubt that Mexico is one of the world’s great destinations for street food and Guadalajara is no exception. There is so much excellent street food in Guadalajara it is hard to choose the best. People in Guadalajara work long hours and street food is an integral part of daily life. I have no research to back this up but I suspect that at least 50% of the population eats something on the street at least once a week.
There are a lot of different ways to access the street food in Guadalajara. It could be something simple like a tamal or a cup of corn after church, a quick breakfast before work, tacos after a night out, or a food festival at the weekend market.
As I sat down to write this article I started thinking about the different vehicles that street food is sold out of. Everything is custom-made and custom painted specifically for that business. The motorcycle tejuino cart is iconic.
I love pickup trucks and I love birria so birria sold out of the back of an old pickup truck has a lot of charm. There are semi permanent metal boxes in front of someone’s house and a weekly tianguis market that is set up and broken down in less than eight hours. Or maybe just a guy on a bike with a basket of bread.
I finally decided to organize this article by mealtime. We are going to start in the morning and keep eating throughout the day finishing late at night.
I think that these experiences will leave you full and content.
How to avoid getting sick when eating on the street
You might laugh but I have a sensitive stomach. However, it usually isn’t the street food that messes with my stomach. I have NEVER gotten food poisoning from eating street food in Mexico. The only time I have gotten food poisoning was from something that I cooked (or undercooked).
The number one thing that messes with my stomach is overeating. Number two is too much spicy salsa. I love spicy salsas with habañero chiles or pureed serrano chile salsa but make sure to try the salsa before slathering on a double portion. That stuff burns twice. Mexican street food in moderation generally gets along with my digestive tract pretty well.
Here are a couple of tips to avoid getting sick when eating street food in Guadalajara so that your experience is similar to mine.
I recommend doing research and looking at the reviews for street food before eating there. You have a limited amount of bandwidth to sample a massive amount of spectacular food. Why settle for average? Find the best examples of street food in Guadalajara by following prominent food bloggers and Instagramers.
- Buen Diente Guadalajara (This guy is the absolute best!)
- Food Tour GDL
- Mal del Puerco
- Mi Gordo Interior
- Vinos en la Calle
A busy street food stand is a clear sign that people are not getting sick from food borne illness. Avoid street food stalls that are empty. Anybody that operates a business in the food and beverage space hates throwing away food. Food that sits around for too long makes you sick. Eat at places that are busy so you know their food isn’t sitting around in sub-prime refrigeration. This doesn’t just go for street food but also for brick and mortar restaurants.
Make sure the person handling the money isn’t the person making the food. It is best to have a dedicated cashier but at a minimum, the person touching the money should be wearing a glove or plastic bag if they are then going to touch your food.
I prefer to buy my buy aguas frescas and other beverages from established vendors because of water quality issues. There was a video floating around not so long ago of a street vendor mixing agua frescas in a downtown area with water not safe for human consumption.
How to Order and Pay for Street Food in Guadalajara
To start with, make sure you have some cash in pesos. It isn’t likely that your taquero is going to accept credit cards, foreign currency nor will they want to break a large bill for a small order.
Take a moment to observe the process by which everyone else is ordering and receiving their food. At a busy street food stand there will usually be a cashier taking the order and recieving payment. The cashier will give you a ticket that you will then need to give to the cooks to actually make your food. You may need to stand in line at the cashier and again at the food cart to get your food. Remember, a busy street food cart is better than an empty street food cart. Have some patience.
Smaller street food vendors may have a different system for ordering and paying. Sometimes the customer will order their food directly with the cooks and cash out with somebody else. Some times the customer pays at the beginning and sometimes the customer pays at the end. If it is your first time eating at a new street food stand, it couldn’t hurt to ask how the process works.
Useful Spanish Vocabulary for Street Food
One thing to remember about Mexico is that courtesy and greetings are important.
- Hola – Hello
- Buenos días – Good morning
- Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
- Buenas noches – Good evening
- Sí, por favor – Yes, please
- No, gracias – No, thank you
- Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco – One, two, three, four, five
- ¿Cuánto es? – How much is it?
- ¿Con todo? – With everything?
- ¿Algo más? – Anything else?
- Sin – Without
- ¿Algo de tomar? – Something to drink?
- Tortilla de maíz – corn tortilla
- Tortilla de harina – flour tortilla
- Cebolla – onion
- Cilantro – cilantro
- Col – Cabbage
- Queso – Cheese
- Limón – Lime
- Servilleta – napkin
- Tenedor – Fork
- Plato – Plate
- Chile/salsa – spicy sauce
- Refresco – Soda
- Jugo – juice
Sample conversation between a customer and a taco cook:
Customer: Hola, buenas tardes. Cinco tacos de pastor, por favor.
Taquero: ¿Con todo?
Customer: Sin cebolla
Taquero: ¿Algo más?
Customer: No, gracias, es todo.
Breakfast Street Food
I get a smile on my face thinking about all of the great street food that I have enjoyed for breakfast in Guadalajara. Between school and work, I have often left the house late without enjoying a proper breakfast. In a lot of cases, there is better food on the street in Guadalajara than I can make at home.
Fruit with Chile, Salt, and Lime
Look at Guadalajara on the map in relation to the rest of Mexico. It is a very short distance to a diverse selection of agricultural regions. There is a wide variety of fruit coming in on a daily basis from both tropical climates and cool weather climates. Tangerines, pitayas, and mangos mark the seasonal changes around here.
It may come as a surprise to see so much sweet fruit being prepared with chile, lime, and salt but the flavor profile works really well.
One thing that I like to observe with the fruit vendors is their knife skills. Someone who has been working in this industry for a long time will be able to clean and prepare fruit deftly. You may learn a trick or two for cutting up your fruit at home. Mangoes and pineapples are difficult to prepare without losing all the best parts.
Look for the fruit vendors with homemade chile sauces. Anybody can buy a bottle of commercial chile powders but it takes a lot of passion to blend one themselves.
The more bees on the watermelon the better!
Remember when I was talking about the different vehicles used to sell food on the street? This is what I was thinking about. I love how they modify these unique vehicles and show up next to a park on Sundays when the Via Recreactiva is reserving the street for pedestrians and bikes.
I don’t order chilaquiles all that often there is just something about walking down the street eating out of a carton that I thought was awesome.
Tacos de Birria de Res at Birriería Apatzingan
Birria de res and birria de chivo share a name but they are very different tacos. Beef and goat meat have very different flavors.
It is more likely to find goat meat birria restaurants established with brick and mortor buildings. I see a lot more birria de res establishments selling tacos on the street. Birriería Apatzingan is awesome.
The trailer is parked on an unassuming back street of the wholesale district of Mercado de Abastos (Avenida del Mercado and Calle Nuez). It is a little bit closer to Avenida Cruz del Sur than it is to Lázaro Cárdenas. This is deep into the market in a section that took me years to explore.
They serve both soft tacos and crispy tacos with stewed beef birria de res. They are an exceptional example of the style.
A lot of the most popular tortas are now sold out of formal brick and mortor stores that look a lot like fast food establishments. The number of vendors that sell good tortas on the street are fewer and fewer. The Iconic Tortas Ahogadas Don José El de la Bicicleta, who used to sell his toras off the back end of a bicyle has moved his operatio into a small local.
El Profe Jimenez
There is a good chance that this is the best street food in Guadalajara. The torta ahogada is classic Guadalajara street food but El Profe Jimenez just does it better than everyone else.
Besides tortas there are also soft tacos and crispy tacos. One of the reasons that El Profe Jimenez is so good is their selection of meats. The pork belly and the chicharon prensado are excellent.
The other difference is the cilantro and cabbage that everything is garnished with. The aromatics of the cilantro and the crunch of the cabbage complement the tomato sauce well.
While most beef birria is just ok, what I love about Victor’s place is the use of different cuts like machito and heart.
I tend to order tacos at the birria de res places but they will serve you a plate with all your favorite cuts as well.
Tejuino is a mildly fermented corn masa beverage that people either love or hate. It is not fermented enough to have an intoxicating level of alcohol but the fermentation process is what creates the unique flavor. Oftentimes, the tejuino is served with a couple of scoops of lemon ice
The tejuino cart is one of the most iconic street food vehicles that you will share the road with in Guadalajara. They are usually made out of the rear half of a moped and the front half of a pushcart. The good ones will have an awening to keep the vendor out of the sun because tejuino is a drink that sell well in the hot months.
Several of my friends love their tejuino mixed with something a little bit stronger. Some people swear by the tejuino and tequila cocktail while others enjoy a tejuino and cerveza mixture.
Tejuino carts can be found all over Guadalajara and Jalisco.
Much like tortillas, tamales in Mexico are so different from the tamales in the United States. First, Mexican corn is far superior to the industrial sort in the US. Second, the ratio of corn masa to filling has a better balance. I remember eating a lot of dry tamales back home.
Mexico has been an awakening for me. I can’t get near a church without looking around for the tamale vendors. The longer the line the better. If the parishioners are lining up for tamales after mass it is a pretty good sign that the tamales are good.
Mexico has a lot of regional styles of tamales. While it is common to find southern-style tamales wrapped in banana leaves, the most common tamales in Guadalajara are wrapped in corn husks. There are both savory and sweet versions. The raw corn (not nixtamal) tamal is usually the first to sell out. If you are lucky or if you know somebody you might be able to find some Michoacan-style corundas and uchepos.
I highly recommend asking around the local churches for the best tamale vendors. Try them all, and order more to go. You will be happy to have a half dozen tamales in the refrigerator late at night.
I am going to try not to put too many tacos on this list. I have an entire other article dedicated to just tacos in Guadalajara.
Tacos El Chino at the Estadio Jalisco
I think the experience of eating tacos at the Estadio Jalisco is one of the best street food experiences in Guadalajara. This is where I developed a love of liver and onion tacos. These guys have been to every soccer game and every bullfight going back decades. And the tacos are top-notch. I usually get tacos before and after the game. If you are looking for the best street food in Guadalajara you need to go see an event in the Estadio Jalisco.
Tacos Alvarez Ciudad del Sol
I have a couple of places that I go to for crispy tripe tacos and Tacos Alvarez has become my favorite. You need to make sure to get there early because the tripe tacos are some of the local favorites and they sell out early. They also make a mean bistek, adobada, and lengua taco but the tripe tacos are the best.
Las Chorreadas or El Palomar de Santa Rita
This place is hidden behind the Soriana in Chapalita. They are grilling up meat to put on Sinaloa-style chorreadas (big sopes or little corn masa pizzas) and tacos. The cabreria but of beef is the best by far. You are going to love their salsa bar. I love that every time they fill up the salsas they put a little bit of cilantro in the middle as a garnish.
Tripas El Rojo
Every time I look at these pictures I get hungry. These are the tacos that made me a tripe lover.
El Rojo is located in the Santa Tere neighborhood and operates from about 6 pm until he sells out which isn’t very late. I think he is wrapping up by 11 pm.
It is a very small operation with a small push cart and a minimal table. It is classic street food at it’s best.
Churches have some of the Best Street Food in Guadalajara
The most famous church food market is the San Nicolas de Bari night market held every Monday from 4:00 PM onwards. Personally, my favorite is the smaller Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on Av Tepeyac just before Av de las Rosas. There are only three vendors but they are all excellent.
The guy doing corn esquites is awesome, the tamale lady is the mother-in-law of the churros guy. This place is classic Guadalajara. Once after mass, I waited in a one-hour-long tamale line. They are that good.
Over by the Minerva and in the Colonia Americana there are a couple of food stands selling tacos Arabes. They are an Iraqui import with over a hundred years of history in Mexico, originally in Puebla.
Tacos arabes sometimes come in a flour tortilla rolled up like a small burrito and sometimes come in a taco shaped pita bread. They are both wheat flour based. The filling is either a blend of pork and beef, or just beef. The veggies served on top are lettuce, onion, tomato, and a good dose of cucumber which delivers a great complement.
This is Mexico so you can expect one spicy red sauce but the house sauce is a watery garbanzo flavor. Everything works well together. Finish it off with some green olives and you have a satifying late night street taco.
Dogos El Chino
Don’t get me wrong, the hot dogs are good but the experience of staying out late in the neighborhood drinking and finishing the night with some hot dogs next to all these historic buildings is even better. The University of Guadalajara administration building and indy movie theater is across the street so the neighborhood is safe.
There are lots of teachers hanging out and a classic Guadalajara Jazz bar on the other corner. Two blocks away but easily visible are the illuminated towers of the neo-gothic Templo Expiatorio church. The area is really cool. I used to live two blocks away and I have a lot of great memories of the buisinesses in the area. Hit up the Primer Piso bar to listen to some jazz, get a drink, and eat a hot dog when you are done.
Standing in line for hot dogs I heard someone say, “When I was doing my PhD in Spain.” Guadalajara is a university town and these are some university hot dogs next to a university bar. It reminds me of places I hung out in Chile, Costa Rica, and San Diego State.
Some Final Thoughts on the Best Street Food in Guadalajara
This isn’t good bye but until we meet again. This article is a work in progress. It is a place where I can post some photos of memories that I enjoy. I love reading my blog when I’m thinking about where I want to get something to eat. A lot of times I will see a photo of one taco stand and it reminds me of another taco stand nearby that I have on the list.
I hope you try some excellent street food while you are in Guadalajara. I don’t think you will regret it.
Guadalajara Mexico Travel Guide
Guadalajara Travel Guide: Know Before You Go
Airport: Aeropuerto Internacional de Guadalajara Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (IATA airport code: GDL)
Currency: $Mexican Peso 1 USD to MXN on Google Finance
Language: Spanish with some English and native languages like Wixárika, Náhuatl, and Purépecha.
Time Zone: Central Time Current Local Time in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México
Visa: A visa is not required for visitors from more than 60 countries. A Multiple Migratory Form (FMM) is issued upon arrival to a port of entry and must be signed, stamped, and held onto until departure.
Electrical Outlets: Mexico operates on 127V supporting Type-A and Type-B plugs like the ones in the United States. The electrical current may not be stable in all areas and regulators are recommended for expensive electronics and appliances, especially during the rainy season. Outlets with a third pin grounding plug may not be available at all locations either.
Local Tip: Many of the best museums are closed on Monday so plan accordingly.
Recommended Reading: Mexico: A Novel by James Michener
Additional Articles about Guadalajara: