Looking for a guide to Guadalajara’s Mercado de Abastos?
Mercado de Abastos, also known as the Central de Abastos, is the best place to go grocery shopping in Guadalajara. The vast majority of the market is set up for wholesale purchases but the first two blocks are the retail section.
While there might be a hint of Truth in the old Hemingway maxim about culture and travel, “If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars”, Pablo Neruda has a much better take on Mexico when he says, “ Mexico is found in its markets”.
While most visitors are told to visit Mercado Libertad (AKA San Juan de Dios) Mercado de Abastos is the regional wholesale market that supplies all the other markets with produce. This is where the trucks arrive from the provinces full of agricultural wonders.
There is an amazing selection of food from both industrial producers and individual campesinos. It is a magical place to try new foods.
Where is Mercado de Abastos?
The market runs between Avenida Paseo de las Arboledas and Avenida del Mercado from Lázaro Cárdenas almost all the way to Avenida Cruz del Sur.
The retail section is right off of Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas. The SAT and Recaudadora 001 are on Avenida del Mercado and Calle 8. From Calle 4 heading south are mostly wholesale vendors. There are fewer stores as you south towards Avenida Cruz del Sur.
Where to park
The easiest way to access Mercado de Abastos is from Calzada Lázaro Cardenas turning onto Avenida Mandarina (200 meters from the Arcos de Milenio monument). Look for the parking structure on Av. Mandarina between Calle 1 and Calle 2.
The largest parking structure is on Avenida Mandarina one block from Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas. It is a modern, safe parking structure right in the heart of the retail section of the market. As you exit the elevator you will smell the carne asada cooking on the grill.
There is another small parking lot directly across the street from the big parking structure. I find the smaller parking lot to be more convenient because it is on the same side of the street as you come in from Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas
Where to go shopping
The market is the size of a neighborhood with the vast majority dedicated to wholesalers. However, there are several retail sections that have the freshest produce you will find in Guadalajara at a fraction of the price of the supermarket.
Big Rig trucks arrive 24 hours a day with treasures from the provinces. This is where the price of staples of the Mexican diet is set based on supply and demand.
Seasonal changes are marked by the arrival of the mandarin or the pitaya and you can find excellent examples of the local culinary traditions. Pay particular attention to the birria and the menudo.
Economists gauge the rate of inflation by measuring the cost of a kilo of tortillas, the change of season is marked by the arrival one fruit or another, and most of the culinary traditions pass through the market. Mercado de Abastos is a wonderful place to look for Mexican culture.
I spend most of my time in the retail section between Calle 2 and Calle 4. This is where you will find the most established food vendors, meat market, fishmongers and vegetable vendors. There is another covered retail section on Calle 9 that has some great deals but is a little rough around the edges.
The vast majority of the market is a wholesale section. Most vendors are dedicated to one or two products and break the truckload down into crates for distribution to retailers, restaurants and even the supermarkets. One of my favorite pastimes is walking around the market asking people where different products come from. There are a number of different microclimates within a three hour drive of Guadalajara each with a different specialty and growing season. The port of Manzanillo is also close by so you will regularly see out of season fruits coming from South America and specialty foods from Asia and the United States.
Where to eat
In the main retail section between Calle 2 and Calle 4, right next to the parking structure on Av. Mandarina, is where you will find the best food stalls with some of the best food in Guadalajara. In addition to the traditional dishes from this part of Mexico you can find a good sample of Korean and Japanese options. Look for an open seat, pull up a stool and get ready to dive in!
Quite possibly the best birria in a city famous for making birria. Rogelio Aceves has been making birria his entire life and took over the family business when his dad got old. No frills, down home, ranch style birria made out of goat and veal. Grab a juice at the stall next door because its hard to drink coke in the morning.
Click Here to learn more about the best birria in Guadalajara
Menudería Chela is another cultural icon that just happens to be found in the market. Chela has also been serving food in the market since they opened in the 1967 and has a pretty impressive list of clients. Besides the presidents, governors and businessmen, there is Vicente Fernandez. There is more than one photo of Don Vicente hugging Chela with a look of admiration and love in his eyes.
There are few cultural ambassadors that represent Jalisco than Vicente Fernandez and when this man says that Doña Chela has a spectacular menudo you can believe it. The motto of this restaurant is, “The traveler who visits Guadalajara but does not visit Chela, did not really see Guadalajara”.
Menuderia & Carne Asadas Alfonso
Alfonso grew up working on the other side of town in Mercado Corona but has had prime real estate in Mercado de Abastos for the last 20 years. He makes one of the best and most economical breakfasts in town.
There are few places that have better tortillas than Alfonso’s. They use a a corn nixtamal masa from a small vendor that gets the best quality corn. This is not maseca! Don’t forget to tip the tortilla lady a 10 spot!
Pan de Nuez from the Korean Lady
Other Services in Mercado de Abastos
In addition to the market, the neighborhood around the market has more services than a mid-sized city. There is a SAT office, the most efficient recaudadora office I have used, a ton of banks, and the best food you will find in Guadalajara.
Temporary residents and permanent residents of Mexico will at some point need to set up an RFC number with the SAT. The amount of business being done and money changing hands in this market is staggering. The tax authority is present and making an effort to formalize the informal sector. The SAT office in Mercado de Abastos was very efficient in my experience.
Recaudadora 001 is located on Avenida del Mercado not too far from Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas. A Recaudadora is where you go to pay the state government things like vehicle registration taxes or the Verificación Responsable SMOG check costs.
I am always impressed by how quickly the line moves and how much quicker I finish my task since I started using this Recaudadora. I celebrate by getting breakfast in the market on my way out. I spent much longer waiting in line at the Recaudadora office in Las Aguilas.
There is a lot of money in Mercado de Abastos. A place that moves so much money needs a lot of banks. Every time I use the ATM at Mercado de Abastos I see a conspicuous truck with dark-tinted windows double parked in the financial zone and three people getting out with what I assume to be a suitcase full of cash. At least one of those three people is an armed bodyguard.
You can find just about every major bank in Mexico in the market.
Is Mercado de Abastos Safe?
While the market may not look safe to the untrained eye, during the day it is actually one of the safest parts of Guadalajara. That is due to the tight-knit community of warehouse owners, private security, and the police.
The trucks arriving to the market are full of millions of pesos worth of product. Much of that is exchanged for cash at many different levels of bulk breaking along the retail ladder. That much cash would normally be a criminal’s dream.
There is a joke that if a criminal were to try and hold up a wealthy bodega owner in Mercado de Abastos that criminal would disappear and their body would never leave the market. There are multiple layers of security orchestrated by experienced security professionals. Armed robberies are not common.
Inside the retail sections of the market, customers will be in tight proximity to other shoppers. Pickpocketing does happen. It is best to take precautions and put a wallet in the front pocket and women should consider an anti-theft style bag. Locals, both men and women, use a fanny-pack-style bag held over the shoulder in front of the body.