I’ve been going to Mexico since I was a kid and like the majority of the US, tended to stick with beachside resort areas like Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta. Oh, and two unforgettable years of dancing with the devil in Acapulco.
While I love the beauty, relaxation, and massive margaritas associated with those areas (and please note that I can still appreciate a good night of whistle blowing boob pinching Jello shots at Señor Frogs) there is so much more of Mexico to see and I’m just getting started.
There’s an entire country to explore that’s filled with beauty and authenticity.
Welcome to the birthplace of tequila and mariachi – Guadalajara.
I happened to be in Cabo prior to this long weekend trip so Guadalajara was an easy direct flight. From the US, there are direct flights from Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and LA.
Demetria Hotel – One of the coolest hotels I’ve stayed in, the décor is dark and industrial with floor to ceiling steel-studded glass windows and cement flooring. The building itself is a work of art, complimented by an actual art gallery within the walls, with pieces that the owner has collected over the years. This includes various artifacts on display in the rooms and bar area. Our room had the same dark, sexy, industrial vibe and my favorite component was a massive cement bath in the center of the room. V cool vibes.
Casa Fayette – Always trusting of a Condé Nast recommendation, this appears to be another great choice. Located in the Lafayette arts district, it’s trendy and boutique with a white and modern décor.
Tomate Taquería – This authentic spot had a line out the door at the off-hour of 3pm. Filled with locals, you know it’s the jam. Order the tacos al pastor.
Restaurante Alcalde – Black and white checkered floors, a window to the kitchen, and colorful glass blown lighting led to a festive yet modern vibe. The chef studied in one of the most prestigious cooking schools in Spain and trained in some of the best restaurants in the world. European and Mexican flavors come together in his tasty dishes. Some favorites were the ceviche, octopus, and their famous traditional suckling pig.
Torta Ahogada – Guadalajara’s signature sandwich, you can’t leave without eating at least one. Funny story how this sandwich came about as it was actually a delicious accident. A vendor was selling tortas when a customer requested some spicy salsa on the torta. The vendor accidentally dropped the entire sandwich in the spicy salsa container and so the Torta Ahogada was born! Torta Ahogada is a garlic and citrus marinated pork filled goodness of a sandwich dunked in a pool of spicy salsa. Embarrassingly enough, my Super Taster husband had to ask for a mild version, which I’m assuming is unheard of around these parts. The best tortas are found at hole in the wall joints or more often, roadside stands. My favorite was at a stand around Tlaquepaque called Tortas Ahogadas Chimbombo.
Hueso – A hip space decked out in fifty shades of white, the décor could be considered barnyard chic as the walls are adorned with animal bones amongst other artifacts. But there’s something that is so incredibly glam about this look. With one long communal table, you’re invited to chat with neighbors and make new friends. The kitchen is fully open and on display for your viewing pleasure. The menu changes daily but a favorite of mine were the mussels and a stunning arrangement of a deconstructed banana split.
Tequila – Duh.
Tejuíno – Found at street vendors, drink up this local favorite made from fermented corn and cross your fingers it doesn’t give you Montezuma’s Revenge!
Architecture – A walking tour around the city will lead you to discover the many types of architecture to gaze at in awe. From gothic to art deco, private homes that double as historical buildings to beautiful cathedrals around the main square, there’s something for everyone.
Plaza De Armas – Explore the main square right in the historic city center.
Tequila Town – Tequila is often my drink of choice so I was ecstatic when I learned that the HOME of tequila was a little over an hour drive from Guadalajara. The colorful town of Tequila is enough reason for a visit, but head by the tequila distilleries to catch the stunning blue fields of flowering agave stretched out for miles and miles. Did you know that the state of Jalisco is the only place in the world that can legally produce tequila? Having been wine tasting a plethora of times in various part of the world, it was so interesting not just tasting tequila but learning how it’s made. It’s fascinating that so much of it is still a manual process. While other aspects of the process have been modernized, harvesting is still done manually with the same tool used in the past. I witnessed this manual process (and also experienced this manual process for myself) at Casa Herradura. Man, is it a tough workout! Good thing I was rewarded with a sweet sample of raw agave and some of the best sipping tequilas I’ve ever tasted.
Another must-see in Tequila is the Jose Cuervo shop right in town where you can taste tequilas you can’t buy in the US. The space is set up like a museum, with special artist editions of Jose Cuervo bottles throughout the years on display. It’s truly a beautiful display and allows you to appreciate a staple brand that you thought was more for the masses back home.
Note – we had a private tour guide from Guadalajara to Tequila. Another option is to take the Tequila Train.
Tlaquepaque – Right outside Guadalajara city center is an artistic area bustling with art galleries and furniture stores. The name Tlaquepaque means, “place above clay land” and in fact, it’s known for pottery and blown glass among other works of art. You could spend all day wandering through the streets and countless shops and galleries. One of my favorites was the playful work of Sergio Bustamante. His sculptures can be found around town but his actual gallery is a garden oasis that reminded me of a scene in Alice in Wonderland. His art is whimsical and dreamy and in fact Sergio has been quoted to ask, “Can you call inspiration to bring dreams of the past?” His work is known for sun and moon motifs along with fantasy figures with large triangular heads.
Casa Bariachi – You can’t visit the birthplace of mariachi without seeing an authentic mariachi band and this is the perfect spot to do just that. This large space is bursting with energy. Sip tequila and admire the talent.
Lucha Libre – The most shocking thing I learned in Guadalajara is that wrestling is like the theatre. Lucha Libra “fighters” are actually actors and the entire thing is fake! Laugh all you want, but I seriously had no idea it was just entertainment until mid way through the fight. Luckily, it didn’t take away from the dramatic show I was lucky enough to see and it was an absolute blast experiencing the action amongst locals. That being said, we needed to fit in. We stuck out like a sore thumb, so immediately scored some lucha libre gear to up our street cred. We purchased some masks and dumped an entire container of hot sauce into a bag of chips. Just kidding about the hot sauce part – remember the super taster issue? The energy is wild as the crowd screams out “Punta! Punta!” when the opponent enters the stage, I mean ring. My favorite part? When the girls came out. I’m all for girl power and a good old fashioned cat fight.
"My favorite thing is to go where I've never been"