GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (October 28, 2021).- For a city known for its street food, high-end restaurants are few and far between. But there are a handful of upscale offerings for a fancy night out. One of the most respected is Alcalde, set in a glass box overlooking a tree-lined avenue in the Vallarta North neighborhood, where diners experience a 10-course tasting menu with dishes like a wagyu tamale with yellow mole devised by chef Paco Ruano.
The restaurant received one of the Highest Climber Awards for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019, cementing Ruano as one of the most accomplished chefs in Guadalajara. With a number of accolades in his pocket, his plan is to now expand. “I want to explore other things and go back to the kitchen where I worked when I was very young,” he says. “[Maybe] have an open-fire cooking restaurant, as I’ve never had the pleasure of working with this kind of grill.” He has a few projects in the pipeline, which should be revealed soon.
Another chef responsible for stimulating the fine-dining scene is Alfonso Cadena, whose much loved restaurant Hueso has drawn people from all over the world—if not for the exceptional food, then for the bone-white interior, which has appeared on the pages of almost every decor magazine. In 2019, he opened Veneno, a restaurant made of earthen plaster. Cadena once again impressed with both a slick interior and a menu of detail-oriented, delicate dishes like tuna with ponzu, radish, serrano, and avocado sauce, as well as cocktails made from passion fruit and chocolate. Photos by Mary Holland The counter at Yunaites; karemelita from Karmele.
Traditional Mexican in contemporary settings
While the city is receiving a lot of global influence, there are also chefs opening spots that feel a little closer to home. At the entrance to Guadalajara’s Central Market, Fabian Delgado (from palReal) opened Yunaites, a laid-back breakfast joint that feels like an elevated take on a market stall, earlier this year. Behind a long cement counter, classic breakfasts like chilaquiles and gorditas are prepared, sweet coffee is brewed, and oranges are hand-pressed into juice.
All the while, Nirvana Unplugged plays in the background. The crowd is a mixed bag of locals: old men on their way from the market and friends and couples meeting for a quick morning meal. Go early (around 9 a.m. before it gets busy) and don’t forget to bring cash.
Also delivering a twist on all things local is Xokol, set in a simple garage-like, one-room space in the Santa Teresita neighborhood. Run by a young couple, Óscar Segundo and Xrysw Ruelas (who is only 26 and competed in the San Pellegrino Young Chef competition), the restaurant is one of the most promising spots to open in the city recently.
The menu draws on local techniques and ingredients like fish wrapped in Lengua de vaca (a Mexican herb) with blue-corn tortillas. The brilliant and complex dishes, which could honestly rival a Michelin meal, are served in a buzzy, unpretentious setting—a direct reflection of Guadalajara’s combination of beauty and grit.