As I mentioned in my last post—a love letter to Guadalajara—one of the major reasons we decided to visit and spend a month in the city was because we had heard such good things about the food. This isn’t the first time we’ve let our stomachs make the decisions when it comes to deciding on a destination (one could argue that indeed, our time in Asia was essentially spent pursuing their whims!), and I sincerely doubt it will be the last. If there’s one thing that can guarantee we will fall in love with a place and not want to leave, you can bet it will be food-related.

(Remember this? Or this? Or this??? )

We arrived in Tlaquepaque excited for vibrant food scene, preferably one with more than just meat wrapped in corn tortillas on offer. After a month in La Peñita, we were pretty burnt out on tacos and the limited flavor profiles we had experienced thus far and were ready to mix things up.

Although we had all of Guadalajara at our disposal, we ate 99% of our meals in Tlaquepaque, partly out of convenience, but also because we found quite a few places that we really liked and wanted to eat at frequently. Also, despite staying pretty close to home during our stay, we managed to sample all of the dishes for which Guadalajara is famous so we don’t feel like we missed out.

Here, then, are our major food highlights from our month in Tlaquepaque and the places we recommend fellow food travelers visit. (A map with all the destinations is included at the end.)

Breakfast

Rio San Pedro

Chilaquiles at RIo San Pedro, Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara

Because of our early Spanish lessons, we tended to eat most of our breakfasts at home, but during our final week in the city when we were footloose and fancy free, we made a pilgrimage to Rio San Pedro and found ourselves feeling like we had possibly wasted all of our previous breakfasts while in town. Rio San Pedro is technically open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but since this place is pretty much the Holy Grail of chilaquiles, you’ll want to come for breakfast.

Chilaquiles at RIo San Pedro, Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara

Chilaquiles are essentially left over corn tortillas that are warmed in a flavorful sauce and frequently served with beans, eggs, and sour cream… essentially breakfast nachos! What sets Rio San Pedro apart from anywhere else we have ever been is the astounding variety of chilaquiles they have on offer: most places will let you choose between red or green sauce (if that), but here, they have something like 25 different permutations of the dish, some with some really exotic/unusual ingredients, and they all sound delicious.

We didn’t have a chance to try them all, but the two that we did order were incredible and still remain the best chilaquiles we’ve had anywhere in Mexico. Tony’s order featured a green salsa made from peppers, and was accompanied with corn and machaca, which is a dried beef that is generally served with scrambled eggs. My order featured a huitlacoche (a fungus that grows on corn!) salsa, garlic-roasted mushrooms, and lots of ooey gooey cheese. Both plates were a complete flavor explosion and it remains a regret of mine that we were only able to visit Rio San Pedro once. The chilaquiles here will cost you two or three times what they would cost anywhere else, but the ingenuity of the ingredients and the amazing flavors make it well worth the splurge.

Address: Calle Juárez 300, Centro, Tlaquepaque

Lunch

Mercado Juarez

The main market in Tlaquepaque was the very first place we ate and it swiftly became our go-to lunch spot. The lower floor of the market is devoted to food stalls, many of which offer incredibly affordable combos (known as “paquetes”); we could often grab lunch for $2 a person! Some of the stalls specialize in one specific thing (for instance, there’s a stall that just does beef and goat birria—a spicy, soupy stew that is native to Guadalajara), whereas others offer a variety of standard Mexican dishes that you can choose from (like chicken mole, chiles rellenos, etc.,). You can also get tacos, tortas (including the hometown hero, the torta ahogada, which is a sandwich drowned in a spicy tomato sauce), and seafood too. In fact, our favorite place to eat was the large seafood restaurant that served up amazing fish & shrimp tacos, and incredible ceviche too. The market is open early in the morning and many of the places serve until the late afternoon, so this is a great place to get either breakfast or lunch. As far as cheap eats go, Mercado Juarez can’t be beat!

Address: Mercado Juarez is found one block east of Tlaquepaque’s main square.

Tacos Charly

Tacos Charly, Guadalajara

We both assumed that once we moved inland, our seafood consumption would go waaaaay down but, in a surprise move, we actually saw far more seafood restaurants in Tlaquepaque than we did when we were on the coast. Even more surprising? The seafood was tastier too!

Tacos Charly is a great option for seafood lovers at lunchtime as they not only offer your standard shrimp and fish tacos, but they also have octopus, crab, salmon and several other types of fish on offer. You also can choose between getting a soft taco or a taco dorado (where they fry the shell so that it’s crunch), and they have an incredible salsa bar so that you can really make your taco sing (the chipotle salsa was the bomb!). Tacos here are more expensive than at the market, but they are really delicious and well worth a visit!

Address: Blvd. Garcia Barragan 1924, Tlaquepaque

Carnes en Su Jugo de La Torre Morales 

Carne en su jugo, Guadalajara
Carne en su jugo, Guadalajara

“Carne en su jugo” is another one of those iconic “only in Guadalajara” (only, not really, because we’ve seen this, along with several other supposedly limited-edition dishes far from their locus of origins throughout our travels in this country) dishes that we made it our mission to try. We intended to sample this dish at Karne Garibaldi, which isn’t just a Guadalajaran institution but also holds a Guinness World Record for being the fastest restaurant in the world, but instead we wound up visiting Carnes en Su Jugo de La Torre Morales. It was closer and cheaper and we figured those were worth waiting more than 3 seconds between ordering and eating.

The dish “Meat in its own Juice” may not sound delicious. Truthfully, it doesn’t even really look delicious either. But the taste? SO GOOD. I had assumed the “juice” would be watery and insipid, but it turned out to be a full-bodied broth and the surprise star of the dish: It was redolent with a rich, smoky aroma (likely due to the little chunks of bacon mixed in with the thin slices of beef) and was supremely satisfying and hearty too. I admit that I approached this dish with a sense of obligation, one of “when in Guadalajara…” but I was converted. Packed with flavor but not too greasy or rich, this dish (& this place!) is a must-try.

Address: Blvd. Marcelino Garcia Barragan # 1920 (Rio Mezquital), Tlaquepaque

Maria Tamales

Maria Tamales, Tlaquepaque

The food scene in Tlaquepaque was a lot more diverse than La Peñita, but it was still extremely meat-heavy. Consequently, I researched a few vegetarian-friendly options and we made it a priority to visit and stave off heart disease & scurvy for another day. Maria Tamales was one of the places we discovered and enjoyed immensely.

They offer a variety of different fillings, from chicken to pork to chard and poblano peppers. They even have sweet tamales (we tried one stuffed with pineapple and drizzled with a sweet cream sauce; it was goooood.)! Although there are plenty of mobile tamale vendors who drive around Tlaquepaque selling tamales for a third of the price of the ones sold at Maria Tamales, but we found they were uniquely carnivorous; Maria Tamales not only offers vegetarian fillings, they actually have specific vegetarian tamales where they make the dough with butter rather than lard, an important consideration! All of the tamales we sampled were delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the swiss chard one—the filling was earthy and rich, which contrasted nicely with the light fluffy dough. I found two tamales were more than adequate for lunch, while Tony would have three. At $12MX (~$0.80US) each, lunch at Maria Tamales is a healthy and very affordable option.

Address: Calle Donato Guerra 239-A, Tlaquepaque

Zaguan

Zaguan, Guadalajara

This was another restaurant we sought out, solely on the basis that I discovered it offered salads that consisted of more than iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion. We went in hoping for some leafy greens and wound up enjoying one of our most memorable dining experiences of the month. Turns out that Zaguan is something of a boutique eatery—you feel as though you’re enjoying your meal in the middle of an art gallery and the food absolutely meets the brief. Our meal began with a surprise amuse bouche, little toasts covered in a mushroom mousse and a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Zaguan, Guadalajara

Then for our mains, I ordered the incredible “pasión” salad, which featured arugula, strawberries, goat cheese, tempura prawns, and passion fruit caviar. The flavors were bright and blended together beautifully; if I had any complaint, it would simply be that I felt the salad had a bit too much dressing for my taste (however, the dressing was really delicious!).

Zaguan, Guadalajara

Tony ordered the pork rib sampling platter that came with a trio of mole sauces. We had only seen the popular mole negro at this point, so it was a thrill to taste three totally new sauces. They all had very distinct (and in the case of the peanut mole, unexpected!) flavors and the meat was perfectly cooked. The dish was very decadent and bold and completely unlike any of the Mexican food we encountered elsewhere in the city. Although Zaguan definitely constitutes a splurge, it is actually very affordable for the quality and ambitions of the food—our entire lunch came to less than $20! If you are getting a bit fatigued by Mexican street food and want something to reinvigorate your palate, we highly recommend treating yourself here!

Address: Calle Juarez 5, Colonia Centro, Tlaquepaque

Kekas el Olivo

Quesadillas and tacos, Tlaquepaque
The owners of Kekas el Olivo

One of the things we loved about our neighborhood in Tlaquepaque is that little “pop up” restaurants would crop up in locals’ living rooms and front patios—it reminded us so much of being back in our beloved Ho Chi Minh City! During our first week, one of our next-door neighbors had a late night taco stand that we adored (but unfortunately, he didn’t get enough traffic to keep doing it!) and then on the last two weeks of our stay, other neighbors a few doors down from us started up this place, which specialized in tacos, gorditas and deep-fried quesadillas. Because they were just starting out, they were only open three days a week, but I think for the six days they were open while we were there, we ate lunch there 5 times… It’s one of those super local places that you’d never find as a day tripping tourist, but obviously was one of our favorites. Not only was the food amazing, but the people running it are incredibly kind and wonderful—they would patiently talk to us and have really lovely conversations with us, allowing us to practice our Spanish and build up our confidence. We always left their place feeling happy and full.

Our favorite thing to order was the quesadillas, which were made fresh in front of you (while we would snack on pickled veggies…) and could be filled with beans, poblano peppers, chicken, chicharron (either stewed or crispy) and—on one magical day—zucchini flowers. I loved all the veggie options, but Tony was particularly partial to the chicharron. Everything was delicious and the agua fresca was always the perfect accompaniment (& they would always offer free refills too!). This is actually where we tried agua de lima for the first time, Mexican sweet lime, which absolutely confounded our tastebuds. I kept asking what was in the water, and they kept saying lima and sugar, and I kept saying incredulously, “¿Es todo?” (“That’s all?”). I just couldn’t believe it because it tasted slightly peppery with hints of cardamom and it didn’t seem possible that a fruit could taste like that on its own… but Mexican sweet lime does!

Address: Calle Republica de Argentina 87, Tlaquepaque. As of writing this, Kekas el Olivo was only Open Friday, Saturday & Sunday from about 8am – 1pm… but hopefully in the future they will be open more frequently!

Dinner

The Jardín

The Jardín at night, Tlaquepaque

It took us a while to get a handle on evening dining spots in Tlaquepaque—Mexicans tend to eat dinner much later than we normally do (many evening dining spots don’t even open until 7pm), and it is generally lunch, not dinner, that is the biggest meal of the day. Our first evening in town, we headed to the main square—the Jardín—because it seemed like it would be the likeliest candidate for street food and an obvious place to pick up a meal.

There were a lot of food options, but they were generally just late-night snack options (think French fries and deep-fried pork skin…) rather than substantial meal choices. The one exception was a torta ahogada stand, so we ordered two sandwiches and took a seat on one of the benches where they had set up tables for diners.

Torta, Talquepaque
A torta from another time, but you get the idea

Two odd things to note about tortas ahogadas (and this is true of them everywhere) are:

  • Even though they’re super messy (what with being doused liberally in a tomato sauce), locals will dig into them with their hands rather than using a knife and fork.
  • The sauce that is used is always cold, or lukewarm at best. It’s kind of unsettling and we both agreed that we would prefer if it were actually warm or hot.

Quirks aside, the sandwiches in the jardín were good, though we preferred the ones we would get at the main market. But for an affordable late night option in that area of town, it’s a good choice (and allows for excellent people watching: we saw a man get arrested (possibly for stealing a beer?) while his mother stood by wringing her hands and weeping!).

Cenaduria Los Merquetengues

Cafiaspirinas, Tlaquepaque

This is one of the most popular dinner places we visited in Tlaquepaque and for good reason. The menu is small, but it’s extremely good value and the food is excellent. They are well-known for their Cafiaspirinas, which we discovered are essentially the popular Mexican dish called sopes (pillowy discs of fried corn dough topped with meat, cabbage, sour cream and salsa… think of it like bite-sized tostadas that are chewy).

Flautas, Tlaquepaque

The cafiaspirinas are good, but for us, the real showstopper here—and the one dish you must order if you dine here—is the flautas. Named after the musical instrument they resemble (the flute), rolled tortillas are stuffed with meat or cheese, deep fried, and then covered with cabage, tomato, crema and salsa. The ones at Cenaduria Los Merquetengues are impeccably fried, bursting with flavor and became our “go to” dish. (We always ordered them with the picadillo filling—a ground beef & vegetable mixture—but I’m willing to bet any version is good.)

We never visited on Sunday, but they have a special extended menu on that day where they offer special dishes, like mole.

Address: Calle Florida No. 83, Tlaquepaque

Casa la Furia

Casa la Furia

We gave this restaurant a try based on the recommendation of our Spanish teacher. It looked slightly upscale from the outside, but the prices turned out to be very reasonable. The flautas we ordered were good, but not as delicious or substantial as the ones from Cenaduria Los Merquetengues. However, their enmoladas (which are enchiladas in a mole sauce) were incredible! The sauce had deep, complex flavors that reminded us ever so slightly of the multi-layered curries we loved from Asia—we made sure every last bit of the sauce was sopped up by the end of the meal, making these the “must order” dish when dining here.

Address: Calle Donato Guerra 136, Tlaquepaque

El Tacote

El Tacote, Tlaquepaque

Another restaurant that looks way more expensive than it actually is, El Tacote is essentially a Mexican steakhouse-cum-sports bar that is fantastic for when you are feeling carnivorous. We decided to split a molcajete, which is essentially a little cauldron of volcanic stone that is filled with meat, cheese, and a bubbling salsa verde. The portion was generous and the meats were amazingly tender (we still dream about the melt-in-your-mouth arrachera steak).

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their mindblowing guacamole. We’ve actually eaten embarrassingly little guac since arriving in Mexico (since you normally don’t find it anywhere other than slightly nicer restaurants and we tend to eat at really local places and taco stands) but we more than made up for it here. Not only was it super cheap (I think we paid the equivalent of $2US for the order), but the flavor was incredible… there was definitely more going on here than just some mashed up avocado. The portions at El Tacote are quite generous, but you definitely have to save room for their guac.

Address: Calle Reforma 263, Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepulque

We visited Tlaquepulque for the first time to celebrate a major travel milestone as we wanted to commemorate where our journey began (in Japan) and where it had brought us 1000 days later (Mexico!). It felt like this restaurant was a perfect gift as it specializes in sushi (as well as the hyper-traditional Mexican drink called pulque. The symbolism was too perfect to ignore!

Now, don’t misunderstand me: the sushi at Tlaquepulque is not at all authentic Japanese. It is definitely Mexican sushi through and through, by which I mean most rolls feature A LOT of cream cheese, some are pan fried, others have gouda cheese melted on top of them, some are drizzled in a spicy chipotle mayo, and one roll even features crunchy fried grasshoppers inside of it! This is fusion cuisine, through and through, and while it might horrify traditional Japanese foodies, we have to admit it was really tasty. Just be sure to pace yourself—start with two rolls and order as you go; they’re really decadent and quite heavy and filling. On our first visit, we ordered 4 rolls and couldn’t finish them all.

Part of that may have been due to the pulque we ordered. Made from the fermented sap of the agave plant, pulque is an alcoholic beverage that is heralded for its health-giving properties. And really, it would have to be, because it is gross! Many people claim it has the consistency of snot, and while we didn’t find it overly slimy or viscous, we did find it overwhelmingly sour… like, gut-curdlingly so. Neither of us could finish our tankards, and the next time we returned to Tlaquepulque, we opted to get a pitcher of peach juice instead. Pulque isn’t the drink for us, but if you’d like to give it a try, this is a great place to do so—it’s affordable and there are a lot of different flavor combos you can try in an attempt to mask its lip-puckering flavor!

Visit Tlaquepulque on Tuesdays to take advantage of their great sushi deal: Buy 1 roll at regular price, get the second for only $20MX ($1.30US!). They have other promotions during the week too, such as discounts on beer and pulque.

Address: Calle Independencia 336, Tlaquepaque

Our Favorite Taco Stand

Finally, no round-up of our favorite meals in Tlaquepaque would be complete without giving a shout out to our very favorite taco stand. It was, after all, the place we ate at the most, in part because the tacos here are only $7MX! That’s less than 50¢! True, they are smaller tacos than the ones we were served in La Peñita (I think these are considered Mexico City style), but since they were about half the price, it balanced out. I would normally order 3 or 4, whereas Tony would get 5 or 6.

Like most taco stands, this place was all about the meat and offered more conventional fillings like beefsteak and suadero (another cut of beef) to more adventurous ones like tripe, tongue, and eyes! Their tripa dorada absolutely blew our minds—they deep fried the tripe so that it was crispy little golden nuggets of goodness that were reminiscent of chicharrón (pork skin) and incredibly addictive. We also concluded that they had the best lengua in town, but at $15MX per taco, we didn’t indulge that often. Instead, we discovered that the suadero was a good stand-in, and their chorizo was very good too. As a nice bonus, they’d throw in grilled onions (cebollitas) and crispy little tostadas as well. We ate here so often that we could often just walk up and they would start assembling our food because they knew what we were going to order!

Address: Corner of Cinco de Mayo and Republica de Guatemala. The stand starts setting up around 7pm but doesn’t really start getting into gear until about 8pm.

Written by: Stephenie Harrison


In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I’m turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I’m going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I’m most looking forward to is whichever one we’re in right now!

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Read comments (14)

  1. July 10, 2015 at 12:28 am
    Jul. 10, '15

    My new two favorite words in English: breakfast + nachos

    • July 11, 2015 at 10:37 am
      Jul. 11, '15

      Yeah, breakfast nachos are a thing of beauty!

  2. July 10, 2015 at 10:51 am
    Jul. 10, '15

    Wow, wow, wow!! I don’t know where to start, so maybe with this – is there a way to close one’s eyes and open them to see one of these beautiful dishes on the table, ready to eat? This all looks sooooo good, and I just wish I could have tagged along and shared some meals with you two!

    I had no idea that a restaurant held the record as the fastest in the world! I’m kind of glad you didn’t go there – after living in France, super fast service freaks me out a bit and stresses me out!

    • July 11, 2015 at 10:40 am
      Jul. 11, '15

      Once we are settled somewhere longer-term here in Mexico, you and Michael will have to come visit and we will take you on a food extravaganza! 😀

      Apparently at Karne Garibaldi, the turn-around time between ordering and your food being presented to you is something like 3 seconds! We actually saw a video on YouTube and the waiter hadn’t even finished writing down the diner’s order and the food was already showing up… I think I would find that really stressful too, as I’m generally the person who spends the longest perusing the menu trying to decide what I want to eat. I’d be so worried I was holding everybody up!

  3. Cam
    July 10, 2015 at 1:21 pm
    Jul. 10, '15

    Ola Stephenie — Your photos and food descriptions are makin me hungry! So nice that you point out the veg options. Could you advise approximate accommodation costs in Tlaquepaque — I look forward to your next newsletter –Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • July 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm
      Jul. 11, '15

      Hi Cam. We actually didn’t see too many rentals for Tlaquepaque online—like most places in Mexico, you’ll have better luck once you’re on the ground. However, we did wind up finding a rental through the language school that we took classes with and that wound up being $550/month. That’s probably a little bit higher than what you might find if you found somewhere in person (or if you were looking for somewhere that was unfurnished), and we have often had to pay a bit more because we have two dogs, but we were really happy with what we got as everything was included—hot water, electricity, & WiFi (which was really fast). It all depends on what kind of place you’re looking for (is it furnished? how many bedrooms? Mexican-style or something more upscale?), but I’d say you could pay anywhere from $400-$900/month. You could also check out this website, which offers furnished rentals as well: http://oliviasapartments.com/

  4. July 11, 2015 at 2:18 am
    Jul. 11, '15

    Holy hell. That food looks absolutely incredible. How you possibly eat like that everyday without packing on the pounds? I have a serious weakness for all things starting with queso and ending in fried, but it never works out well for me in the end. Maybe if I had it on my doorstep everyday I wouldn’t feel the need to inhale at such a rate!
    Julie recently posted..An Ode to the London Bookshop

    • July 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm
      Jul. 11, '15

      HA! I’m not sure we made it out of Tlaquepaque without gaining a little bit of extra weight, but we walked a fair deal (and continue to do so… here in Oaxaca, we’re doing about 4 miles a day…) and that helped. Also, a lot of Mexican foods can be considered “antojitos” which are essentially snacks or “small bites”, so the portions are not exactly ginormous. The tacos in Tlaquepaque are definitely little—like, they fit into the palm of your hand—and I’d have maybe 3 and call it a meal. But, if you’re not careful, it’s really easy to pack on the pounds in Mexico!

  5. July 11, 2015 at 5:06 am
    Jul. 11, '15

    I’d definitely give nachos for breakfast a try! Nice to see that there are some veggie options available as the food over there sounds generally quite meaty. Great food pics, as always 🙂
    Amy recently posted..Lessons from Asia and Moving On

    • July 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm
      Jul. 11, '15

      The food in Mexico is definitely very meat-centric and most of the veggie options go heavy on the cheese, so it’s definitely not the healthiest of cuisines… still, we always do our best to eat a balanced diet, and whenever I find veggie options here, I definitely don’t take them for granted. Also, if you’re a pescetarian (i.e., willing to eat fish & other seafood), there are plenty of options, and many of them (like ceviche!) are quite light and healthy.

  6. July 15, 2015 at 11:39 am
    Jul. 15, '15

    Now this is just ridiculous! I thought I was content with burritos and such in San Diego. But now I’m on a mission to find some tortas ahogadas. They look like messy goodness 🙂
    Justine recently posted..6 Reasons I’m So Excited to Return to the US

    • July 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm
      Jul. 15, '15

      Good luck on your hunt back in SD. We never saw tortas ahogadas when we were in the States but then again, we were not specifically looking for them. Stay tuned for our post on food in Morelia because that is where we had version of this dish that I think you’ll REALLY want to try…

  7. July 22, 2015 at 1:33 am
    Jul. 22, '15

    There is so much food on this post that I hadn’t even heard of – and it all looks delicious! You guys certainly know how to eat well!!
    Tim UrbanDuniya recently posted..UrbanLegends: Simon Proudman and Yogjakarta

    • July 25, 2015 at 11:57 am
      Jul. 25, '15

      We have definitely been discovering a lot of new Mexican dishes since arriving in Mexico—it’s a world away from TexMex and what most people tend to think of as “Mexican food”, that is for certain.

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