EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Espen – a Swedish food expert from Kinna – shares with us 20 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Sweden.
When envisioning Swedes, you most likely think of blonde, blue-eyed, tall, and Viking-like people. Although we have ditched most of the brutal fighting, we still enjoy our feast after a long day.
But, what exactly does a traditional Swede nourish himself/herself on?
Learn about twenty of the most delicious traditional Swedish foods you must try when visiting Sweden (according to us).
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL SWEDISH CUISINE?
Swedish food ranges from savory, warm, comforting soul food to light and delicious seafood. With the biggest cities in Sweden all located next to the seas, you’ll find something to indulge in if you enjoy seafood.
Swedish cuisine is influenced by its geographical location and seasons. Harsh weather conditions forced the cuisine to make use of locally sourced ingredients and limited us to what was available in the wild. Game, meat, root vegetables like potatoes, and of course fish and shellfish are most common.
The local culture has also significantly influenced Swedish cuisine. Swedes are some of the most proficient coffee drinkers in the world. It’s largely linked to a special time of the day called fika. Enjoyed with friends, family, coworkers, or perhaps a new date, we often drink coffee served with different pastries, shrimp sandwiches, or other treats.
When discovering Swedish (and generally Nordic) food, a trend is noticeable. The historical methods for storing food during the colder months have influenced what Swedes eat now. One example is pickled herring, a delicious dish we’ll definitely cover in more detail in this article!
MUST-TRY SWEDISH DISHES
This article on traditional Swedish food has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Sides
Soups / Stews
STARTERS / SIDES
1. Raggmunk (with Fried Pork and Lingonberry Jam)
Raggmunk with fried pork and lingonberries is a delicious lunchtime meal that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.
These three simple ingredients create a magical meal. Locally sourced potatoes are grated into a batter and then fried like a pancake. Served with fried pork (or bacon) and fresh wild lingonberries, raggmunk is a great reason to skip breakfast and indulge in an early lunch, though many Swedes do enjoy this dish for breakfast as well.
As much as Swedes love them, potato pancakes aren’t unique to Sweden. Many European countries like Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Czechia, and Ireland have their own versions of fried potato pancakes. What makes raggmunk unique to Sweden is the fried pork and lingonberry jam.
Pork is plentiful in Sweden as vast open farmland allows for healthy (and delicious) pigs. Wild lingonberries grow like wildfire and are harvested fresh during the early fall season. These locally sourced ingredients aren’t just delicious, but they lower your carbon footprint as well.
Photo by Linus Strandholm
Kroppkakor is an example of husmanskost, or traditional Swedish home-cooked food. Common near Småland, Öland, or Gotland, it refers to a type of boiled Swedish potato dumpling filled with onions and finely cut fried pork.
This beloved dish, most revered in Öland – a long, small island near the southeast coast of Sweden – has traditions dating back to the 1700s. An explorer traveled to Öland and would later return after getting a taste of kroppkakor. In his words, it was “an exceptionally succulent dish”.
If you find yourself on the beaches of Öland, then you need to enjoy kroppkakor for a traditional Swedish lunch.
Photo by Rolf_52
Pitepalt is related to kroppkakor, but it’s a little different. Its name is inherited from where the dish is eaten – Piteå – way up in the cold and shivering part of northern Sweden. This is also where it’s believed to have originated.
Like kroppkakor, pitepalt are meat-filled dumplings made with grated potatoes. While the former is made with pre-boiled potatoes and wheat flour, the latter is made mostly with raw potatoes and a mix of wheat and barley flour.
Pitepalt are served with lingonberry jam and are equally delicious when eaten fresh or reheated.
Photo by Johanna K M Nilsson
4. Pytt i Panna
Pytt i panna is a staple dish in every Swedish household. It consists of cubed potatoes cooked with onions and beef, or essentially any leftovers that you have laying around in the house. It’s a classic Swedish dish that’s best served with a sunny side-up egg, sliced pickled beetroot, and lingonberry jam. If you like, you can also jazz it up with some premium steak or bacon.
Pytt i panna is a common, easy-to-make dish that’s also enjoyed in other Nordic countries like Norway, Finland, and Denmark. What makes it unique to Sweden’s culture is the lingonberry jam and pickled beetroot.
Conveniently, if you like pytt i panna, then you can easily find ready-made frozen packs at the nearest Ikea in Sweden. But never ever mistake pre-made for homemade!
Photo by Angela Kotsell
SOUPS / STEWS
5. Ärtsoppa med Fläsk och Pannkakor
Ärtsoppa med fläsk och pannkakor literally means “pea soup with fried pork and pancakes”. This comforting duo is a Thursday tradition in Swedish schools, and even in the military.
Pea soup and pancakes is another great example of Swedish husmanskost. This traditional home-cooked meal is exactly what it sounds like – a thick yellow pea soup is enhanced with small pieces of pork and then followed by thin pancakes for dessert.
Photo by Iuliia Kochenkova
Kalops is a Swedish-Finnish dish that’s commonly served during the late autumn and winter seasons. A nourishing dish, this warm and tasty delight gives us the nutrients and energy we need to endure the cold winter months.
Kalops is a type of Swedish beef stew flavored with onions, allspice, and bay leaf. It’s often served with boiled potatoes and pickled beetroot and makes for the perfect simple lunch in Sweden.
If you can, I recommend trying the more sophisticated version braised with red wine. Succulent and tender, the slow-cooked beef seemingly melts away as soon as it touches your lips.
Photo by Fanfo
7. Pickled Herring
No list of traditional Swedish food can ever be complete without pickled herring. A staple dish at the Swedish Midsummer feast, pickled herring is served with boiled potatoes, sour cream, and chives, and always with lots of Snaps and singing!
Pickled herring is also a common sight on the Swedish Christmas table. It’s a culinary favorite that’s served in different ways throughout Sweden. New recipes are developed every year, ranging from curries to sweet, to sour, and many more.
The culinary heritage of pickled herring goes back to the most efficient way of storing fish, which was by pickling it. When you didn’t have access to refrigeration, the best way to preserve herring was to pickle it.
And the best part about herring? What it’s served with of course! Aside from the usual accompaniments like potatoes and sour cream, what excites us the most are the akvavit and other spirits commonly consumed during herring feasts. Get ready to raise your glass because pickled herring is often followed by belly-warming snaps!
Photo by A. Zhuravleva
8. Stekt Strömming
Stekt stromming or fried herring has long been a favorite along the western coast of Sweden. Especially attractive for fish lovers, it’s usually served with mashed potatoes, peas, and you guessed it – lingonberry jam.
Although stekt stromming isn’t as common as it used to be in Swedish households, you can still find herring served at traditional Swedish restaurants along the country’s west coast. If you love fish, then you definitely need to try this specialty.
Photo by Linus Strandholm
9. Gravad Lax
Gravad lax (or gravlax) is a beloved traditional Swedish dish that’s made by curing salmon in dill, sugar, and salt. It’s often served with mustard dill dressing and potatoes. If you’re in the mood for a light but tasty meal (and you happen to love salmon), then this sushi-like dish will suit you well.
Gravad lax is commonly served at home and during holiday family gatherings in Sweden. For example, it’s a staple dish during Midsummer parties and is often accompanied by nubbe (snaps) and loud cheerful songs.
Photo by cheekylorns2 via Depositphotos
Gubbora is a traditional dish that’s commonly served during Easter celebrations. Made of chopped anchovies, boiled eggs, chives, and dill, it’s eaten as an appetizer and makes for the perfect snack when mingling with friends.
Gubbora is usually served with knäckebröd – a type of crisp bread comparable to crackers. The name gubbröra literally means “old man’s mess”, but don’t let that deter you since this dish has nothing to do with old men.
This dish is even more delicious when paired with a glass of cold beer. It’s the perfect social food that will have you making friends in Sweden in no time at all!
Photo by Svetlana Monyakova
Picture your dream sandwich. Now make it as big as a cake and you basically have a smörgåstårta. Commonly made with salmon and seafood, this Swedish sandwich cake is layered with mayonnaise, eggs, and other tasty ingredients that will make your taste buds sing.
Smorgastarta is often served at Instagram-worthy cafes and other establishments, usually pre-cut into perfectly sized slices. It’s a dish that’s best enjoyed with a cup of good coffee.
This tasty sandwich cake is a staple dish at birthday parties and similar gatherings. If you want to try Swedish dishes that are as pretty as they are delicious, then smorgastarta is definitely for you.
Photo by Jakub Rutkiewicz
Rakmacka may not be as impressive as a smorgastarta but it’s just as delicious and definitely worth trying. It refers to an open-faced shrimp sandwich that’s commonly served along the coast of Sweden.
Rakmacka is a simple but delicious dish that consists of a slice of bread topped with shrimp, mayonnaise, salad greens, and a squeeze of lemon. For even more richness and flavor, you can try it with slices of hard-boiled egg as well.
Photo by oussama el biad
Havskraftor or langoustines are fished from the western coastal waters of Sweden. Typically served only at crayfish parties called kräftskiva on the first Tuesday of August, family and friends gather to feast on massive plates of boiled langoustines.
The taste of this luxurious seafood dish is sweet and fresh. The langoustines are always served only a few days after being caught, so if you find yourself in Sweden in early August, then I highly recommend making your way to a kräftskiva.
Photo by SwedishStockPhotos
14. Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)
Ahh, Swedish meatballs. I get all warm and fuzzy whenever I think about this dish. Even if you’ve never visited Sweden, it’s something you’ve probably tried already if you’ve been to an Ikea.
Simply put, no list of the most popular Swedish food can ever be complete without svenska köttbulla. If you were to try just one dish from this list on your trip to Sweden, then it should definitely be Swedish meatballs.
Aside from being supremely tasty, my favorite part about this meal is that it’s readily available and fits every budget. Spend the day at Ikea and end it with some meatballs in brown sauce and a side of mashed potatoes and lingonberries. It truly is a fulfilling and delicious meal fit for all travelers.
Photo by Brent Hofacker
While korvstroganoff may have been inspired by the Russian dish beef stroganoff, they are nothing like each other.
Korvstroganoff is a popular Swedish meat stew made with falukorv, a type of sausage named after the Falu copper mine in the town of Falun. Historically, it was made by the locals in Falun and exported and sold in Stockholm. Swedish workers loved it so much that they attributed the name of the dish to its origin – Falun – and called it falukorv.
The popularity of falukorv has grown since then with dishes like korvstroganoff and more contributing to the more than 30,000 tons of falukorv consumed each year! Quite a staggering number considering the growing influence of western dishes across the country.
Photo by Fanfo
Prinskorv is a small Swedish sausage that’s commonly served during national holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Midsummer.
What makes this sausage unique is how it’s prepared. The ends are cut or sliced perpendicular to each other on both ends, giving it a unique shape after frying. It’s usually served with green beans and mustard.
Fun Fact: Instituted by the Swedish Sausage Academy, Alla Korvars Dag or “All Sausages Day” is celebrated in Sweden on the 12th of March every year.
Photo by Fanfo
Isterbrand is another type of Swedish sausage that’s most commonly served in the southeastern part of Sweden called Småland. Light and smokey, this pork and beef sausage is seasoned with allspice and white pepper and commonly served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.
Photo by Imfoto
This is the sausage from Falun that gives substance to korvstroganoff.
This comforting sausage, as common as it is, is quite hard to find in Swedish restaurants. It isn’t considered a fancy meal but you’ll find that almost every Swede has eaten it in some way or another.
On its own, it’s best when fried and served with your favorite carbohydrate-rich food – like mashed potatoes or macaroni – and of course, lingonberry jam.
Photo by Nettan C
Is there a better cake to enjoy at celebrations or parties in Sweden than a soft, brilliant spongy prinsesstarta? Well, according to Swedes, none!
A prinsesstarta or “princess cake” is a soft and creamy cake made with layers of pastry cream, raspberry jam, and whipped cream topped with a tasty and smooth layer of marzipan (usually green). Vibrant and sophisticated on the outside, prinsesstarta is known for its creamy and mouth-watering softness on the inside.
Originally, the cake was named grön tårta or “green cake”. Only after the legendary Swedish food writer and home economics teacher Jenny Åkerströms included a recipe for it in her famous Princess’ Cookbook did it become known as prinsesstarta.
The cake was beloved by the princesses Margaretha, Märtha, and Astrid, daughters to Prince Carl – Duke of Västergötland – and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Shortly after, the cake would become known as “princess cake”.
Photo by FoxglovesAndStockings
20. Smålands Ostkaka
Smalands ostkaka is a type of Swedish cheesecake that dates back to 1538, though it’s believed to have been eaten as early as the Dark Ages.
There are two distinct types of Swedish cheesecake that are not to be confused with each other as they are quite different in taste, consistency, and history. One is called hälsingeostkaka while the other is smålandsostkaka. Of the two, the latter is more popular. It’s a delicious dessert made with flour, milk, cheese rennet, almond, whipped cream, and sugar.
This Swedish cheesecake was an integral part of the farming community and was often served during larger gatherings where different groups of people brought their own dish. The småländska cheesecake was the evening’s highlight for most.
Now if you want to relive their ways, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your manners at the door because it’s a tradition to eat the cake inside out. Some believe that back then, the copper bowls where the cakes were served had a layer of tin that often cracked. The toxic copper would mix with the cheesecake so it was customary to serve the more important guests the inside of the cheesecake first.
Others believe that this inside-out eating tradition stems from the simple fact that the most delicious part of the cheesecake was in the middle, so that part was served to the most important guests first.
Whatever the reason, smålands cheesecake is delicious and something you need to try when you visit Sweden.
Photo by pingpongcat
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL SWEDISH FOOD
Swedish cuisine will give you a host of different dining experiences. Whether you’re a seafood lover or have a sweet tooth, rest assured, we have something delicious for you.
Many Swedish culinary traditions have been passed down through the generations, so you’re practically guaranteed to enjoy a meal that’s been eaten for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Ranging from simple but satisfying comfort food to expensive, locally sourced seafood, you’re guaranteed to have a delicious time in Sweden.
So, what Swedish dish from this list are you looking forward to the most?
Cover photo by Brent Hofacker. Stock images via Shutterstock.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Madeline Miller shares with us twelve traditional dishes to try on your next visit to Scotland.
There are so many reasons why you’d want to travel to Scotland. There’s the stunning landscapes and amazing cultural heritage, but one thing you must visit for is the food. There’s so much that you must try while you’re there, where do you even start?
Here are the top fifteen must-try foods in Scotland. What will be your favorite?
SCOTTISH FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning on visiting Scotland and want to learn more about Scottish cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.
Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Scotland
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH FOOD?
Traditional Scottish cuisine is simple and uses relatively few spices. Locally produced fruits, vegetables, and oats feature prominently in Scottish cooking while the country’s abundance of seafood and game has sustained its population for thousands of years.
In medieval times, meat and spices were expensive commodities and reserved only for the wealthy. Rather than feasting on the animals themselves, most people found sustenance in their milk. Dairy and eggs became an important part of the Scottish medieval diet, a practice that still carries on to this day.
Before the potato was introduced to the British Isles, bread was the main source of carbohydrates. Scotland’s damp climate made it difficult to grow wheat so bread was made from oats or barley.
Early Scottish society was largely pastoral so people needed food that wouldn’t spoil quickly. It was common to carry a bag of oatmeal that could easily be transformed into a basic meal of porridge or oatcakes.
Its exact origins are unclear but it’s believed that haggis, Scotland’s national dish, may have originated in this way. When cattle drivers left the Highlands to bring their cattle to market, the women would prepare for them a simple meal of offal or low-quality meat wrapped in the simplest bag available – a sheep or pig’s stomach.
THE BEST TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH DISHES
1. Cullen Skink (Smoked Haddock Chowder)
What’s a Cullen Skink? If you’ve ever had an American chowder or French bisque, then you’ll have an idea. A Cullen Skink is a thick Scottish soup, comprising of smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions. The dish originally came from the Moray area, but now is popular all over the country.
Many describe this traditional Scottish dish as smokier than a chowder, but heartier than bisque. Many have come to consider it as comfort food in Scotland. It’s just the thing to try on a cold and windy day, as it’s guaranteed to warm you up.
Photo by RubinowaDama
2. Scottish Porridge
Oats have been a staple in the crofter’s diet (Scottish farmers) since medieval times so it’s no surprise that porridge is synonymous with traditional Scottish food. At the time, there was no way of preserving the oats so they were often made into a thick paste to extend their shelf life.
Early versions of Scottish porridge bore little resemblance to the porridge we know today. To prepare, oats were cooked into a paste with water and a little salt. It was then left to cool in a wooden porridge drawer where it would be stored and eaten over several days.
When cold, the porridge would become thicker in consistency and more solid, allowing it to be cut into slices and eaten for breakfast or lunch.
Photo by VladislavNosick
Who hasn’t heard of haggis? An important dish in Scottish culture, it’s the national food of Scotland.
Haggis is a dish that was created to use every part of the animal. It’s made from “sheep’s pluck” – that is, the chopped liver, heart and lungs of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal, suet, and seasonings, all stuffed into a lining. Traditionally, this can be the sheep’s intestines, although artificial casings are often used too.
Yes, it sounds bizarre, but you’ve got to try it at least once. You’ll soon find out why the dish has endured through the ages. Try it with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) for the traditional experience.
Photo by food-exclusives
4. Scotch Pie
Scotch pie is a type of double-crust meat pie. About the size of an ice hockey puck, it’s traditionally filled with spiced mutton though it can be made with haggis and other types of meat as well.
Scotch pies are originally from Scotland but they’re readily available in other parts of the United Kingdom. They’re a staple snack at Scottish football matches and traditionally enjoyed with a spicy meat-flavored broth known as Bovril, hence the alternate name “football pie”.
Photo by mcdowalljh
5. Black Pudding
If you’ve heard of haggis, then you may have already heard of black pudding. They’re both Scottish delicacies that seem so strange at first glance, but once you try them you’ll see they’re one of the tastiest things out there.
Typically, black pudding is made with pork blood, mixed with pork fat or beef suet, and a cereal. This can be oatmeal, oat groats, or barley groats. The fact that black pudding has such a high cereal content, as well as the use of spices such as pennyroyal, sets them apart from blood sausages that you’ll find elsewhere in the world.
They often go well with a full Scottish breakfast, so that’s the best time to try them. Most cafes in Scotland will serve them, so you won’t have to go too far to find them. You should give them a try, you’ll be amazed at how good they taste.
Photo by robynmac
6. Full Scottish Breakfast
Hearty breakfast lovers won’t need much coaxing to get up and greet the day with a full Scottish breakfast. It’s similar to a full English breakfast but with a few notable additions.
On top of the usual components like link sausages, bacon, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and buttered toast, a full Scottish breakfast will also typically include black pudding, lorne sausages (square sausages), and tattie scones (potato griddle scones).
Some cafes may even serve them with haggis, white pudding, oatcakes, porridge, or Arbroath Smokies. It’s a heavy meal that Scots typically reserve for weekends and holidays.
Photo by dnaumoid
7. Bangers and Mash
Bangers and mash is a Scottish staple, another comfort food that you’re going to find all over the country. Whether you’re in a cafe or a pub with a roaring fire, these are bound to be on the menu.
The typical bangers and mash will use locally sourced sausages, as well as mashed potatoes mixed with milk and butter to make them fluffier. Plus, you can find other variants such as apple or venison sausages, too.
Photo by lenyvavsha
8. Cured Meat and Cheese
This Scottish appetizer will be sure to show up on many menus as you travel around the country. It doesn’t sound all that exciting at first glance, but you’ll want to consider the meats and cheeses being used in it.
You can try some amazing venison and sausages in this dish for example, as well as Mull cheddar cheese. This cheese is made from the milk of cows from the Isle of Mull, where they’re fed fermented grain from the Tobermory Whisky Distillery. This gives the cheddar a fruity tang you can’t get elsewhere.
You can make your own authentic cured meat and cheese by checking out the markets in Stockbridge. There’s a great range here, and you’ll be able to whip it up in minutes if you so wish.
Photo by studioM
9. Scottish Salmon
When it comes to salmon, you already know that Scottish salmon is the best. That’s why it’s the most prized in any supermarket or grocer’s shop. Scotland offers some of the freshest waters, making it a prime breeding ground for salmon. As such, some of the best salmon is caught here.
As you’re in Scotland, you can try the salmon as it’s freshly caught. Being able to taste the fish without it having to travel is something you don’t always get to do, so make sure you try it while you’re there.
Photo by Panmaule
10. Fish Supper
A fish supper is what fish and chips are referred to in Scotland. They’re typically sold from fish and chip shops called Scottish chippies, and are commonly made with haddock deep-fried in batter. People who don’t want chips can ask for a “single”, while customers looking for a larger portion of fish can ask for a “muckle”.
Depending on where you are in Scotland, a fish supper can be served with salt and sauce (brown sauce thinned with vinegar and water) or salt and vinegar. When in Glasgow, be sure to enjoy it with a bottle of ginger (carbonated drink) like Irn-Bru.
Photo by neillangan
11. Arbroath Smokies
Even if you’ve had haddock before, you haven’t had it quite like this. The process of creating Arbroath Smokies was created way back in the 1800s, and the method is still used to this day. The haddock is firstly salted overnight in order to preserve them, and then they’re cooked for an hour on a hot, humid, smoky fire.
The process requires you to use a hot fire and thick smoke, as that allows you to cook and smoke the haddock without burning it. It gives the fish a unique taste and smell that you won’t get anywhere else. It’s a dish that you’ve got to try at least once while you’re in the area.
Photo by fanfon
12. Hand-Dived West Coast Scallops
These are such a popular delicacy now, especially as people are more thoughtful about how their food is sourced. Scallops can certainly be trawled up by dredgers, but these are causing damage to the ecosystem off the coast of Scotland. As such, more and more people are looking for hand-dived West Coast scallops.
As the scallops are fetched by hand, this is a much more sustainable way of obtaining them. Of course, as there’s more work involved, the price is a lot higher than regular scallops. However, it’s very much worth it as they’re delicious, and you know you’re doing your part to protect the coastlines.
Photo by ildi_papp
Shortbread biscuits are a simple buttery biscuit that has been around since at least the 1700s and are a staple in Scotland. You can get a huge variety of traditional Scottish treat, so there’s a shortbread for everyone.
For example, you can try out chocolate, caramel, and even rosewater shortbreads. You’ll be able to buy shortbread pretty much anywhere you go, so you can test them out on your travels.
Shortbread is typically given as a gift at Hogmanay or Christmas, so you’ll see even more of it if you’re traveling during this time. Pair it with a tea or coffee at the end of a meal for the full experience.
Photo by agcreations
14. Sticky Toffee Pudding
If you have a sweet tooth and you’ve never tried sticky toffee pudding before, then don’t leave Scotland without giving this traditional Scottish dessert a try. The pudding is made up of a moist sponge cake, along with dates, toffee sauce, and either vanilla custard or ice cream. That’s a good excuse to try it twice, one with each.
Typically you’ll find this being served in most Scottish pubs. You’re almost bound to find yourself in one at some point during your travels, so make sure you order one after your dinner. You’ll soon see why it’s such a British classic.
Photo by monkeybusiness
15. Scotch Whisky
What better way to end the day in Scotland than with a glass of Scotch whisky? Produced by over 100 distilleries in five distinct Scottish whisky regions, this amber-hued liquid is the national drink of Scotland.
Scotch whisky, or simply Scotch, can be divided into five categories – single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, and blended. It’s typically served neat, without ice, along with a small pitcher of water that’s meant to cleanse the palate between sips.
Pro tip, try adding a few drops of water to your whisky. This can really open up its flavors.
Photo by krasyuk
SCOTTISH FOOD TOURS
Bottom line, no one knows Scottish food better than a local, so what better way to experience it than by going on a food tour? Not only can a food-obsessed guide take you to the city’s best restaurants, cafes, and markets, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food tours in Scotland.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SCOTTISH CUISINE
These are fifteen of the best dishes and drinks that you’ll find when you’re in Scotland. Make sure you try them all out, and see which ones are your favorites. There’s so much to explore when it comes to cuisine in the country, that’s for sure.
About the Author
Madeline Miller is a writer at College Paper and Academic Writing Service. She covers international food, and is also a blogger for Dissertation Writing service.
Some of the links in this Scottish food guide are affiliate links. If you make a booking or reservation, then we’ll earn a small commission at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by food-exclusives. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Mexico City is the biggest city in Mexico and one of its most delicious. If you travel to eat like we do, then you’ll be spoilt for choice with its sheer number of restaurants, bars, taquerias, street food stands, and markets. When it comes to food, Mexico City has it all.
But as much fun as it is to eat your way through Mexico City, its size and wealth of choices can be daunting. With so much good food spread out over so many interesting neighborhoods, how does a first-time visitor with limited time find the best local food in Mexico City?
Easy. Join a food tour.
No one knows Mexico City better than a local so what better way to experience the best and most authentic Mexican cuisine than by going on a food tour? Not only can a local guide take you to the most interesting restaurants, markets, and street food vendors in Mexico City, but they can explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well.
Like everything else in this massive city, you’ll be spoilt for choice with all the amazing Mexico City food tours you’ll find online. To help you decide, we’ve listed ten of the best in this guide.
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WHY SHOULD YOU BOOK A MEXICO CITY FOOD TOUR?
If you’re reading this article, then it’s safe to say that you’re interested in booking a Mexico City food tour. There are two primary reasons why you should book one – convenience and authenticity. You want a local to lead you to the best and most authentic food experiences in Mexico City so all you have to do is follow, listen, and eat.
As described, Mexico’s capital city is massive. It’s one of the biggest cities in the world so finding the best local food and navigating between restaurants and neighborhoods can be challenging. Unlike smaller cities like Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende, it isn’t something you can fully experience in just a few days.
If you have plenty of time in Mexico City, then you can do your own research and explore one, maybe two neighborhoods a day to get a good feel for the local food scene. That’s what we did. But most people will only have a few days so time will be a factor.
If that’s the case, then you should definitely book one of the many Mexican food tours available online. It’s simply the fastest and easiest way to experience the local cuisine and culture, especially in a destination as big and with as much to offer as Mexico City.
10 OF THE TASTIEST MEXICO CITY FOOD TOURS
You’ll have plenty of choices for food tours in Mexico City. To help you decide, we collaborated with our friends at Cookly and compiled this list of ten of the best food tours in key parts of the city like Roma-Condesa, Centro Historico, and Polanco. If it’s your first time in Mexico City, then I suggest choosing a tour in Colonia Roma or Centro Historico.
All tours featured in this article are small group tours. If you’d rather go on a private tour, then you can try requesting for a private booking via the link provided under each tour. Just click on the “Support” button in the lower right corner of the tour description page.
We’ll describe each tour in more detail but we’ve created the quick comparison chart below for your convenience. Click on a link to go to the tour booking page. All food tours featured here offer free cancellation as long as the booking is canceled at least 48 hours prior to the activity.
Name of Tour
Length of Tour
1. Taste Colonia Roma with Local Foodies
2. Centro Histórico Food Tour
3. Mexico City Street Food Scene
4. Ultimate Market Experience in Mexico City
5. Daily Food Tour in Polanco
6. Colonia Narvarte at Night: Tacos, Chelas, and Mezcal!
7. Mexico’s Flavors Bike Tour
8. Mexico’s Spirits: Pulque, Mezcal, Bacanora, and Tequila
9. Mezcal Tasting + Lucha Libre Experience
3PM, 5:30PM, 6:30PM
10. Gastronomic Tour Along the Canals of Xochimilco
1. Taste Colonia Roma with Local Foodies
If you were to go on just one Mexico City food tour, then I’d recommend going on this one. It takes you through the Colonia Roma neighborhood which is one of the coolest areas in Mexico City.
Colonia Roma, along with neighboring La Condesa, is a trendy upscale area with many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, and street food vendors. It’s one of our favorite neighborhoods in Mexico City and an area that food lovers should definitely explore.
The beautiful salad pictured below is made with Mexican vegetables, herbs, and nopales or edible cacti. It’s one of the many interesting and tasty examples of elevated Mexican cuisine you’ll get on this Colonia Roma tour.
If I remember correctly, this beautifully plated dish is a mole taco served on a lettuce leaf. As you already know, the humble taco is one of the most iconic examples of Mexican food. You’ll experience it in many forms on any Mexico City food tour.
If you’re a fan of tacos, then be sure to check out our guide on the best tacos in Mexico City.
This was one of my favorite dishes from this Colonia Roma tour. It consists of a grilled shrimp served on a bed of huitlacoche risotto. Huitlacoche or “corn smut” is a type of fungus that grows on maize. It’s a tasty mushroom-like ingredient that’s commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
As previously described, Colonia Roma is one of the trendiest areas in Mexico City so this tour features more elevated examples of Mexican food and drinks. If you’re interested in the finer aspects of Mexican gastronomy, then you should definitely book this tour.
Taste Colonia Roma with Local Foodies
Schedule: Sunday-Friday Start Time: 12NN Duration: 4 hours Capacity: 10 people Food Tastings: 13+ Cost: USD 75 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
2. Centro Histórico Food Tour
Most if not all major cities in Mexico will have a central zocalo or public square. It’s the heart of the city and where you’ll find many of its most important historical attractions, including its biggest church. In Mexico City, the historic center is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They say that any first-time visit to Mexico City should begin in its historic center, and so should your quest for the best local food. There are many food tours in Mexico City that focus on the zocalo so if you’d like to get an insider’s look at the city’s local culture, then this is the tour for you.
This Centro Histórico tour is a 3-hr walking tour that takes you to San Juan Mercado de Especialidades and Mercado de Artesanías La Ciudadela. San Juan Market is one of my favorite markets in Mexico City and where you’ll find some of the city’s best produce and food stalls.
On this walking tour, you’ll interact with market vendors and sample different regional offerings like cheeses, seafood, and edible flowers. You’ll get to try some of the very best Mexican coffee as well.
If you’re interested in traditional Mexican souvenirs, then La Ciudadela is one of the best places you can go to in Mexico City. It’s a large market that’s home to dozens of vendors selling Mexican textiles, calaveras (skulls), dolls, and handcrafted jewelry.
A market visit is high on many people’s list of priorities. If you’d like to go on a Mexico City food tour that includes a market visit, then this is one to consider. I went to both of these markets on my own and enjoyed them tremendously.
Centro Histórico Food Tour
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 11AM, 5PM Duration: 3 hours Capacity: 1-8 people Food Tastings: Not specified Cost: USD 69 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
3. Mexico City Street Food Scene
If you enjoy tacos and Mexican street food as much as we do, then you’ll probably want to go on this tour. It’s a small group walking tour that takes you to some of the best local street food stalls in the Centro Histórico area. You’ll sample different types of tacos, antojitos (snacks), and traditional Mexican drinks.
Pictured below is a street food vendor making tlacoyos, a pre-Hispanic Mexican dish made with fried or toasted corn tortillas stuffed with a variety of ingredients like cheese, beans, and chicharron (fried pork skin). It’s delicious and interesting and one of our favorite street foods in Mexico.
We could honestly survive on tacos alone in Mexico City. It’s the taco capital of Mexico, which pretty much makes it the taco capital of the world. The tacos here are seriously delicious and there are so many you can try like tacos al pastor, tacos de suadero, tacos de canasta, and tacos de guisado.
Some of our favorite food stalls are in the historic center so you know you’ll be in good hands when you join this tour.
Tacos are terrific, but so are quesadillas. Pictured below are quesadillas which are basically larger versions of tacos made with flour tortillas and the addition of quesillo or Mexican cheese. If street food like tacos, tlacoyos, and quesadillas is your priority, then this is definitely the tour for you.
Mexico City Street Food Scene
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 2PM Duration: 2.5 hours Capacity: 1-5 people Food Tastings: 10+ Cost: USD 35 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
4. Ultimate Market Experience in Mexico City
As previously mentioned, a local market visit is high on many people’s list of priorities in Mexico City. If you’re one of those people, then you’ll probably want to join this small group tour. It’ll take you to La Merced Market, Sonora Market, and San Juan Market which are three of the best and most popular local markets in Mexico City.
Mexican markets provide a gritty and unfiltered look at local culture. It’s a fantastic experience though some mercados like La Merced Market have a reputation for being chaotic, dirty, and even unsafe (pickpockets). I had no reservations about visiting San Juan Market on my own but I skipped La Merced Market because of those negative reviews.
If you have the same reservations, then joining small-group food tours like this one is a great way to experience a market in Mexico City. Not only will you feel safer, but you’ll also learn about the market’s history and be taken to the best market stalls.
Aside from more conventional fare like tacos and quesadillas, you’ll also get to sample exotic dishes like chapulines (grasshoppers), huitlacoche (corn smut), and sesos (cow brains). Try to keep an open mind on this tour because the most memorable experiences often happen outside of your comfort zone!
You’ll also get the opportunity to buy some of the best and freshest fruits, vegetables, snacks, and spices in Mexico City.
If visiting a local market is a top priority for you, then I highly recommend booking one of these market food tours. Not only will you feel safer and more comfortable, but you’ll learn a lot more as well. There’s no better guide than a local who buys produce from these markets on a regular basis.
Ultimate Market Experience in Mexico City
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 9AM Duration: 4 hours Capacity: 1-6 people Food Tastings: Not specified Cost: USD 50 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
5. Daily Food Tour in Polanco
Polanco is often referred to as the “Beverly Hills of Mexico City”. It’s a swanky area that’s home to luxury boutiques and some of the city’s best restaurants. It isn’t exactly the first neighborhood that comes to mind when you’re choosing between food tours but you’ll be surprised by how much good street food you can find here.
We explored Polanco on our own and were genuinely surprised by the number of taquerias and street stalls we found in the area. Like any other neighborhood in Mexico City, Polanco is a food lover’s paradise that caters to any budget.
On this Polanco tour, you’ll get to try regional favorites like mole, tlayudas, Mexican chocolate, and mezcal. Many are specialties from known food destinations in Mexico like Oaxaca and the Yucatan peninsula.
Not as many Mexico City food tours take you to Polanco which is what makes this one so interesting. If you’d like to experience traditional Mexican cuisine in one of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods, then this Polanco tour is for you.
Pictured below is a hearty bowl of pozole rojo de pollo, another dish that pre-dates the Hispanic period. They say you can get a glimpse of Mexico’s history through its food and traditional dishes like pozole, tamales, tlacoyo, mole, and chapulines are proof of that.
Daily Food Tour in Polanco
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 11AM, 5PM Duration: 3 hours Capacity: 1-9+ people Food Tastings: Not specified Cost: USD 69 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
6. Colonia Narvarte at Night: Tacos, Chelas, and Mezcal!
People looking to eat their way through a more local and less touristy part of Mexico City may be interested in this tour. It takes you to Colonia Navarte, a middle-class residential neighborhood with dozens of family-style taquerias and local gems.
Not only does this tour take you to a less-visited part of Mexico City with many hidden gems, but it’s also a night tour that starts at 7:30PM or 8PM. From our experience, the best tacos come out only at night in Mexico so going on one of these night tours is a great way to experience some of the best local food in the city.
Aside from feasting on street food favorites like tacos al pastor and tacos de suadero, you’ll also experience traditional cantina culture and try Mexican drinks like mezcal and chela (slang for cold beer).
There are many Mexico City food tours that take you to Roma-Condesa or Centro Histórico, but not nearly as many take you to neighborhoods like Colonia Narvarte.
When Cookly offered to send me on their food tours, this was one of my top choices. However, walking around at night may not be a comfortable experience for many first-time visitors to Mexico City so I chose other tours instead.
But if you’re interested in getting a taste of Mexican culture and food in an area rarely seen by tourists, then this Colonia Narvarte walking tour is an excellent choice.
Colonia Narvarte at Night
Schedule: Monday-Friday Start Time: 7:30PM, 8PM Duration: 3.5 hours Capacity: 2-8 people Food Tastings: Not specified Cost: USD 98 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
7. Mexico’s Flavors Bike Tour
Walking tours are fun. So are bike tours. We haven’t done it in Mexico City but we’ve gone on many biking tours in different cities around the world. And when you get to combine biking with some of the best local food a city has to offer, then you’ve got a perfect combination.
This Mexico City bike tour includes stops at a tortilla shop, a chocolate museum shop, a centuries-old candy shop, and San Juan Market. You’ll work up an appetite after all that pedaling so you’ll be fed tasty Mexican dishes like tamales, atole (corn and masa drink), dulces (sweets), tacos, and tostadas.
Some vendors at San Juan Market sell an assortment of edible insects like scorpions, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, leaf-cutter ants, and grasshoppers. I visited San Juan Market on my own and enjoyed a chocolate- and sesame-covered scorpion on a stick. Try some if you dare!
If you enjoy exploring a new city on a bicycle, especially one as big as Mexico City, then this bike tour is for you. You’ll cover more ground and you’ll work up an appetite while doing so.
Just be sure to get travel insurance if you do. Safety measures will be enforced but you never know what can happen. Best to be safe than sorry!
Mexico’s Flavors Bike Tour
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 10AM Duration: 4 hours Capacity: 2-8 people Food Tastings: 5+ Cost: USD 65 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
8. Mexico’s Spirits: Pulque, Mezcal, Bacanora, and Tequila
Mexican spirits are just as interesting as Mexican food. If you enjoy a good drink as much as a tasty taco, then I’m pretty sure you’ll want to go on this drinking tour. It’ll take you to several local spots where you’ll have multiple tastings of traditional Mexican spirits made from the agave plant like mezcal, tequila, pulque, and bacanora.
We didn’t go on this tour but I did do a food and drinking tour in Puerto Vallarta where I got to try traditional spirits like tequila, raicilla, mezcal, and pulque. Aside from being fun to drink, it was interesting to learn (and taste) the differences between the different spirits derived from the agave plant.
This 2-hr drinking tour ends before nightfall, at 5:30PM. I’m pretty sure they do this as part of their safety measures. You won’t get to experience Mexico City nightlife on this tour but at least you won’t have to stumble back to your hotel after dark.
Mexico’s Spirits: Pulque, Mezcal, Bacanora, and Tequila
Schedule: Monday-Sunday Start Time: 3:30PM Duration: 2 hours Capacity: 1-6 people Number of Drinks: 10 Cost: USD 50 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
9. Mezcal Tasting + Lucha Libre Experience
This was another tour that I really, REALLY wanted to do. I’m fascinated with lucha libre but this isn’t your typical food tour so I chose other tours instead. If you’re a fan or at least curious about the colorful world of Mexican wrestling, then you need to book this tour.
This lucha libre experience will load you up with shots of mezcal before taking you to Arena Mexico to root for your favorite wrestlers. You’ll be hiding behind your own souvenir mask so feel free to cheer (or heckle) as loudly as you want!
I have no interest in American pro wrestling but like many people, I find lucha libre to be incredibly fascinating. It’s hugely popular in Mexico so you’ll often find entire families in attendance, cheering for their favorite wrestlers. Based on people’s reviews, the energy in the stadium is through the roof.
If you’d like to catch a lucha libre event in Mexico City and don’t mind going with a bunch of like-minded strangers, then you may want to book this tour. Just look at these guys below. Don’t they look like they’re having a blast?!
Mezcal Tasting + Lucha Libre Experience
Schedule: Monday, Thursday, Saturday Start Time: 3PM, 5:30PM, 6:30PM Duration: 4 hours Capacity: 1-9+ people Number of Drinks: Not specified Cost: USD 48 for adults, USD 37 for children ages 3-10 Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
10. Gastronomic Tour Along the Canals of Xochimilco
Xochimilco refers to a network of canals in southern Mexico City. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s what’s left of an ancient water transport system that was built by the Aztecs. Today, it’s a popular attraction famous for its colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras that tourists can ride to explore the canals.
You can visit Xochimilco on your own but on this tour, you’ll be served a traditional Mexican lunch while exploring the canals.
Lunch menus may vary but expect to be fed traditional Mexican dishes like tamales Oaxaqueños, salad with chinampa vegetables, Mexican cheeses, guacamole, totopas (tortilla chips), and Mexican coffee.
Aside from lunch and a boat ride through the canal system, you’ll also learn about chinampas. Sometimes referred to as “floating gardens”, chinampas are small, rectangular areas of arable land that are built up on wetlands to grow crops like lettuce, cilantro, squash, chard, and cauliflower. It’s an ancient agricultural technique that predates the Hispanic period.
The canals of Xochimilco are among the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico City. If you have an interest in the canals, then you may want to book this tour.
Gastronomic Tour Along the Canals of Xochimilco
Schedule: Tuesday, Thursday-Sunday Start Time: 11AM Duration: 3 hours Capacity: 1-9 people Food Tastings: 8+ Cost: USD 203 per person Book This Tour: CLICK HERE for more information and to book this food tour.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MEXICO CITY FOOD TOURS
As previously described, going on a food tour is one of the easiest ways to find the best local food in an unfamiliar city. We do it in almost every new destination we visit and Mexico City was no exception.
In fact, I think it’s almost a necessity in Mexico City if you have a keen interest in food and don’t have much time. This city is massive and a little daunting so going on a highly-rated tour assures that you’ll be getting great food in a safe, structured environment. Plus, there are simply some things that you cannot find or learn about on Google.
All the tours featured in this guide are small group tours so you’ll be breaking bread with no more than 5-10 people. If you’d rather book a private tour, then you can make an inquiry via the links posted under each description.
And with that, I’ll wrap up this guide on the best Mexico City food tours. If you have any questions, then feel free to let us know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating your way through Mexico City!
This article was written in partnership with Cookly. They offered me complimentary tours in exchange for an honest account of the experience. As always, all words, thought, and opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.
Some of the links in this aticle are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking or purchase at no extra cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves. We truly appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
Guanajuato City is gorgeous. This former silver mining town in central Mexico is famous for its colonial architecture, its narrow streets, and its labyrinthine network of alleyways and tunnels. The view from Monumento al Pípila is second to none and the callejoneadas serenading the town was something we looked forward to every night.
But as captivating as Guanajuato is, one thing it isn’t really known for is its food. At least not in the same way that Oaxaca, Puebla, Mexico City, and Guadalajara are. Walk around Plaza de la Paz and most of the restaurants you’ll find are of the touristy variety, similar to San Miguel de Allende. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find great food in this city.
If you stray from the main tourist areas, I think you’ll find that Guanajuato has many hidden gems, local places that offer authentic versions of Mexican classics like enchiladas mineras, tacos al vapor, guacamaya, and tacos de cabeza. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.
To help you in your search, we’ve come up with this list of 18 of the best restaurants and roadside stalls in Guanajuato. If finding authentic local food is what excites you most about a new city, then this list is definitely for you.
FOOD IN GUANAJUATO QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your visit to Guanajuato, we’ve put together links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro Historico, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Guanajuato.
Luxury: 1850 Hotel Boutique
Midrange: El Meson de los Poetas
Budget: El Viejo Zaguan by Lunian
Cooking Classes: Guanajuato Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT FOOD IS GUANAJUATO KNOWN FOR?
As described, Guanajuato isn’t really known to be a foodie destination like Oaxaca, Mexico City, Merida, or Puerto Vallarta, but there are a couple of regional Mexican specialties that you absolutely must try.
This is the most famous regional Mexican dish from Guanajuato City. Being a former mining town, it only follows that its most famous dish is named after the people who used to work in those mines. Based on what I’ve read, the miners’ wives would often make them this dish at the end of each work day.
Enchiladas mineras translates to “miner’s enchiladas” and refers to a type of enchilada filled with cheese, onions, and a stew-like mix of potatoes and carrots. Typically served in portions of four, the enchiladas are baked and then served with a piece of grilled chicken, lettuce, salsa, cheese, and jalapeño peppers.
Gucamaya is a type of torta or Mexican sandwich. Originally from the neighboring city of León, it’s sold as street food in Guanajuato City, usually from roadside stands or market stalls. It’s a beast of a sandwich made with a bolillo bread roll stuffed to the hilt with roast pork, chicharron, avocado, salsa, and lime juice.
THE BEST GUANAJUATO RESTAURANTS
To help organize this list of the best Guanajuato restaurants, I’ve arranged them by category. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Guanajuato Specialties / Traditional Mexican Food
Tacos / Street Food
Snacks / Desserts / Drinks
GUANAJUATO SPECIALTIES / TRADITIONAL MEXICAN FOOD
In this section, you’ll find suggestions on where to find the best enchiladas mineras and guacamaya in Guanajuato. Restaurants that specialize in just one or two dishes aren’t as common in Guanajuato so most of these restaurants also serve traditional and authentic Mexican dishes like tlacoyos, gorditas, chilaquiles, and pozole.
1. Enchiladas de Lupe
Restaurants and roadside stalls that specialize in just one dish are my favorite places to eat. With so much experience making just that one dish, you’re almost guaranteed they’re going to be good. It’s for that reason why Enchiladas de Lupe, for me, is one of the best restaurants in Guanajuato.
As its name suggests, Enchiladas de Lupe is a Mexican restaurant that specializes in enchiladas mineras. It’s a small family-owned restaurant where one elderly woman – Doña Lupe I presume – does all the cooking. She does it in the room before the dining area so you can watch her make the enchiladas by hand. I don’t know when this restaurant opened but clearly, she’s been at this a long time because her enchiladas mineras are absolutely delicious.
Underneath this mound of deliciousness are four of the tastiest enchiladas in Guanajuato. This may have been the single best meal I had in the city. You can get their enchiladas mineras with or without chicken.
Enchiladas de Lupe is my absolute favorite restaurant in Guanajuato, largely because they make the best version of the one dish that this city is known for. Located near Callejón del Beso, it’s open nightly from 6-11PM. Don’t miss it.
Enchiladas de Lupe
Address: Antigua Pl. de Gallos, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 6-11PM, daily What to Order: Enchiladas mineras
2. An’ca Carmen
Enchiladas de Lupe may have been my favorite, but for Ren, the enchiladas mineras at An’ca Carmen were the best. This family-owned restaurant near the Basilica serves tasty examples of Mexican classics like chilaquiles, molletes, flautas, and tetelas.
To be honest, we didn’t come here for the enchiladas mineras. We asked our server for recommendations and this was the first dish he recommended. Their version of Guanajauato’s famed regional dish is just as good as the enchiladas mineras at Enchiladas de Lupe so it’s all a matter of personal preference.
This may sound cheesy, but it’s clear that both versions of enchiladas mineras were made with love. It’s that one unquantifiable ingredient that makes good food great. You can’t measure or describe it but you know it when you taste it. I recommend trying both to see which you prefer.
The other dish our server recommended was this breakfast platter of chilaquiles. An’ca Carmen has an entire page of chilaquiles dishes on their menu but our server picked this one out for Ren, maybe because it’s called “Lady Chilaquiles“? Ha! Who knows. Whatever the reason, it was delicious.
If you’ve never had it before, chilaquiles is made with corn tortillas cooked in salsa and topped with cheese and other ingredients. An’ca Carmen offers over ten variations of this popular Mexican breakfast dish. This version was topped with the house salsa and served with a side of grilled chicken and refried beans.
Pro tip when ordering at restaurants in Mexico: One dish per person is usually enough. In our experience, servings at Mexican restaurants are fairly large and filling so there’s no need to order appetizers or anything else to go with your entree.
These tlacoyos go for just MXN 20 so I thought they’d be small, like tacos, but they turned out to be pretty big! If you have a taste for traditional food, then you need to try tlacoyos. Thicker than corn tortillas, it’s a pre-Hispanic Mexican dish made with masa stuffed with a variety of fillings like cheese, beans, mushrooms, and chicharron.
At An’ca Carmen, you’ll have several fillings to choose from. We went with mushroom and ropa vieja. Both were very good.
An’ca Carmen serves great food at very reasonable prices. When we were there, the restaurant was filled almost entirely with local Mexican families. It had that authentic local feel which we always look for when seeking out restaurants on trips.
In the picture below, you can see a table near the entrance of the restaurant where a woman, presumably the family’s matriarch, does some of the cooking. There are several pots with different fillings which she uses to stuff tlacoyos and other freshly made corn dishes. It was interesting to watch her work.
Address: Calle de Alonso 53, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily What to Order: Enchiladas mineras, chilaquiles
3. Los Huacales
Based on ratings alone, Los Huacalaes has to be one of the best restaurants in Guanajuato. It’s a traditional Mexican restaurant that serves good food in a relaxed, casual space.
I was here for the enchiladas mineras, which our server was quick to describe as an “excellent choice”, but they do offer an extensive menu of traditional Mexican dishes like molcajete, milanesa, chile relleno, and enfrijoladas.
These beautifully plated enchiladas mineras are what turned us on to this Guanajuato specialty. The flavor from the stewed potatoes and carrots is what makes this rather iconic dish truly special.
Remember what I said about not overordering at Mexican restaurants? They always give you filling portions like this hearty bowl of sopa azteca.
Sopa azteca refers to a type of Mexican tortilla soup. It’s made with fried corn tortilla shreds served in a broth flavored with garlic, onion, tomato, chile de árbol, and epazote. Depending on the cook, it can be made with additional ingredients as well like chicharron, avocado, cubes of cheese, and sour cream.
As described, Los Huacales is one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Guanajuato, Mexico. It’s an unassuming little space tucked away behind the Basilica.
Address: Subida de San José, Baratillo 14, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Enchiladas, molcajete, desayuno (breakfast)
4. Mercado Hidalgo
I was eavesdropping on a conversation between a cook and his customer and he was telling her that the best guacamayas in Guanajuato can be found at Mercado Hidalgo. It doesn’t matter which particular stall you visit because they’re all good.
When I first read about guacamaya, I was expecting something that looked like a typical submarine sandwich but what I got was something I had never seen before. The lady making our sandwich took a Mexican bolillo roll and stuffed it to the point of explosion with roast pork, chicharron, avocado, and salsa. It was incredible!
You can’t really tell just how big it is from this picture but keep scrolling to get a better sense of its size.
This picture gives you a better sense of how big this sandwich is but it still doesn’t do it justice. I’m not even sure it still qualifies as a sandwich since the filings looked like they were erupting out of the bread! The guacamaya is an absolute beast of a sandwich, and you can get one for just MXN 75.
Our favorite ingredient in the guacamaya is the chicharron. We’re used to eating deep-fried pork rinds in our home country but never like this. I didn’t take a picture but the lady was breaking off pieces from surfboard-sized sheets of chicharron that were crispy and much more delicate than regular chicharron.
We enjoyed it so much that we wanted to buy a whole chicharron surfboard to enjoy as a snack with beer. Ha!
If you’re looking for cheap authentic food in Guanajuato, then Mercado Hidalgo is a great place to go. It’s home to dozens of stalls selling prepared food, snacks, souvenirs, clothing, bags, and other Mexican knick-knacks.
I couldn’t find a name but we bought our guacamaya from this stall. It’s located right by one of the entrances to the market.
I don’t know if it’s part of the market but right next to Mercado Hidalgo is this separate building with two or three floors of food stalls. If you’re looking for cheap local food, then this would be a great place to explore as well.
Address: Interior del Mercado Hidalgo local No. 145, Centro, 36000 Guanajuato Operating Hours: Around 10AM-7PM, daily
5. Santo Café
We rarely eat breakfast but we’re always happy to make an exception if a restaurant offers something unique or special. Santo Café is that kind of restaurant in Guanajuato.
Santo Café offers a huge menu of both Mexican and international dishes, including good breakfast platters with eggs, pancakes, and omelettes. Normally, we’d steer clear of a place like this but we read about its unique bridge seating that offers overhead views of passing pedestrians. You’ll see what I mean in the following pictures.
For breakfast, I had this delicious plate of huevos aztecas. It consists of scrambled eggs served with spinach, onion, tomato, red bell pepper, ham, fried tortilla, and refried beans. All of Santo Café’s breakfast platters come with a cup of freshly made coffee and either a glass of orange juice or a fruit plate.
Ren had this equally delicious plate of huevos al gusto with chorizo and refried beans.
Santo Café serves good breakfast food but what makes this place truly special is that bridge. To get to Santo Café, you walk up this side ramp and cross a short bridge into the restaurant.
Isn’t this nice? If you’re lucky enough to be seated at one of Santo Café’s bridge tables, then you’ll have an overhead view of pedestrians walking under the bridge. It was a little chilly this early in the morning but the view and atmosphere were worth it.
If you’re looking to enjoy a nice breakfast with unique views in Guanajuato, then Santo Café is one of the best places to go. I suggest arriving early if you want to be seated on the bridge since there are just two small tables available.
Address: Campanero, Del Campanero 4, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 9AM-9:30PM, Wed-Mon / 2-7PM, Tue What to Order: Breakfast
TACOS / STREET FOOD
Our very first meal in Guanajuato was at a decently rated restaurant around Plaza de San Fernando. We didn’t know it at the time but it turned out to be one of those touristy restaurants that serves a little bit of everything, both Mexican and international. Many restaurants in the central part of Guanajuato are like that. We hated it and vowed to avoid those types of restaurants for the remainder of our trip.
That night, I redid our eat-inerary and did my best to find the best local eateries and street food stands in Guanajuato. If you want all the tacos – all the BEST tacos in Guanajuato – then this section is for you.
6. Taquería Chela & Chuchita
Chela & Chuchita is one of the nicer taquerias on this list. Located just off the main plaza, it’s a small restaurant that serves traditional Mexican comfort food like tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and volcanes.
Chela & Chuchita offers daily promos. We ate here on a Monday so I got this tacos al pastor set with an agua fresca for just MXN 55.
As their name suggests, this taqueria specializes in chuchitas. According to their menu, a chuchita is a type of quesadilla made with flour tortillas, so I guess that makes it similar to gringas?
This is the only time we’ve encountered chuchitas thus far in Mexico so I don’t know if it’s a dish they came up with. In any case, it’s delicious. You can have it with different fillings like fish, beef, pork, or chicken.
What you’re looking at is a dish called papas asadas or roasted potatoes mixed with meat, cheese, and grilled onions. It’s served with corn tortillas and you can get it with fish, beef, chicken, pork, or just vegetables.
To eat, you fill a tortilla with the meat and potato mixture together with some cilantro, raw onions, salsa verde, and lime juice.
If you want to have tacos in Guanajuato but don’t want to eat at a roadside stall, then Taquería Chela & Chuchita is a good alternative.
Taquería Chela & Chuchita
Address: Calle de Alonso 29, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 3-10PM, Sun-Wed / 11AM-12MN, Thurs-Sat What to Order: Tacos, chuchitas, volcanes, papas asadas
7. Tacos Tony
Located down the street from Chela & Chuchita is another taqueria – Tacos Tony. Like its neighbor, it’s a small restaurant that offers standard Mexican comfort food like tacos and quesadillas filled with different meats like pastor, bistec, chorizo, and costilla. Their menu lists taco de cabeza as well but unfortunately, they were sold out at the time.
Pictured below are four different types of tacos livened up with raw onions, cilantro, and a nice spicy salsa.
Like Chela & Chuchita, Tacos Tony is a good choice for people wanting to sink their teeth into authentic Mexican tacos without going to a true taco stand.
Address: C/ Galeana 379, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Birria
8. La Vela
Most of the taquerias we went to in Guanajuato only offered tacos filled with meat. If you want seafood tacos, then the best place to go to is La Vela. It’s a fun seafood restaurant that offers Mexican dishes like tacos, tostadas, cocteles, and antojitos made with different types of seafood.
On my plate below is a delicious shrimp taco and an equally tasty marlin gordita. A gordita is a traditional Mexican dish made with masa stuffed with meat, cheese, and other fillings. Gordita stems from the word gordo, meaning “fat”.
Everything we ordered at La Vela was delicious, but our favorite dish may have been this empanada. They offer empanadas filled with cheese, marlin with cheese, shrimp, or octopus.
An inside look at our octopus empanada. La Vela’s empanadas are large and airy and filled with just the right amount of seafood. This was delicious.
The Instagrammers in us couldn’t resist this bottle of Dos Equis embellished with a skewer of shrimp, cucumber, and cocktail sauce. You can get it with a bottle or can of beer. La Vela serves fun versions of micheladas as well.
La Vela is a colorful, surfer-themed restaurant near the entrance to the funicular.
Address: 36000, Constancia 6, Zona Centro, Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 11AM-7PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Tacos, tostadas, empanadas
9. Tacos “El Paisa II”
Walk farther away from the main plaza and you’ll notice something magical start to happen – the tacos get better. Tacos “El Paisa II” is a humble Mexican restaurant located just past Mercado Hidalgo, in an area of town that starts to feel more local and less touristy. In my opinion, this is where the real food in Guanajuato begins.
Tacos “El Paisa II” offers Mexican favorites like tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tortas. You can get them filled with different types of meat like bistec, chorizo, costilla, and our all-time favorite – cabeza. Tacos de cabeza refers to tacos made with meat from the head.
If you’re feeling daring and want to dive into real Mexican cuisine, then you need to try tacos made with what Western society deems as the “less desirable” parts of the animal. Less desirable mi culo. Tacos de cabeza are seriously delicious.
I don’t remember exactly what this was, but it may have been the taco de adobada, or taco filled with pork marinated in spicy red chilis.
As much as I love the tacos in Mexico, I think I may enjoy quesadillas even more. The soft, gooey, and stringy cheese goes so well with the marinated meats. This incredibly delicious quesadilla was filled with a combination of chorizo and bistec.
We ate at Tacos “El Paisa II” but to its immediate left is Tacos “El Paisa I”. I don’t know what the story is but you can probably get the same food from either place.
Tacos “El Paisa II”
Address: Av. Benito Juárez 99, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 11AM-1AM, daily What to Order: Tacos, quesadillas, tortas
10. Tacos al Vapor El Jaguar
This humble taco stand is one of the best places to try tacos al vapor in Guanajuato. Also known as tacos de canasta (“basket tacos”) or tacos sudados (“sweaty tacos”), tacos al vapor refers to a type of street taco filled with various meat stews and bathed in oil or melted butter.
Unlike regular tacos that are made to order, tacos al vapor are pre-made and kept in a basket or container to keep them moist and warm. Texturally, they’re softer and much more moist than freshly made tacos. They’re also cheaper. We’d typically pay between MXN 14-18 for a freshly made taco but these tacos al vapor went for just MXN 9 apiece.
On this plate are five tacos al vapor smothered in shredded cabbage, pickled vegetables, and salsa. The tacos are too moist to eat with your hands so they’ll give you a spoon. They’re delicious.
Tacos al Vapor El Jaguar is a humble but exceedingly popular stand located in a more residential part of Guanajuato. Click on the link to see exactly where it is on a map. They’re only open till 1PM from Monday to Saturday.
Tacos al Vapor El Jaguar
Address: Barrio de la Griteria, 36000 Guanajuato Operating Hours: 8AM-1PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Tacos al vapor
11. Taqueria Rinconcito Mixe
I’ll never forget this taqueria. I thought I had to wait till Mexico City to try tacos de suadero but to my surprise, it was available here!
Rinconcity Mixe is a taqueria that offers tacos, quesadillas, alambres, and papas asadas filled with different types of meat like pastor, chorizo, costilla, and arrachera. When I saw the word “suadero” on their menu, I knew exactly what I was having.
Suadero refers to a thin cut of meat that’s sliced from the area between the animal’s belly and leg. It’s a fattier portion of meat that’s smoother and less stringy in texture. It’s absolutely delicious and one of my favorite cuts of meat for tacos.
I was so impressed with their tacos de suadero that I decided to follow them up with some tacos al pastor. These were delicious as well and one of the cheapest I had in Guanajuato. Each pastor taco at Rinconcito Mixe goes for just MXN 12 apiece.
If you’d like to go on a DIY street food tour, then you can start with Taqueria Rinconcito Mixe and visit the next four taquerias on this list. Visiting these five nighttime taquerias will give you a taste of the real Guanajuato.
Taqueria Rinconcito Mixe
Address: Plazuela del baratillo ext.#18 zona centro 36000, C. Alhóndiga #33a, Zona Centro, 36000 Mexico, Gto. Operating Hours: 4PM-1AM, daily What to Order: Tacos, quesadillas, alambres, papas asadas
12. Tacos El Campeon
I’ve read that the best tacos come out only at night in Mexico. If that were true, then these next four taco stands are definitely proof of that.
Tacos El Campeon is perhaps the most local taco stand I visited in Guanajuato. Located about a 5-minute walk from Taqueria Rinconcito Mixe, it’s located in a residential area rarely visited by tourists. By the time they opened at 8PM, the stand was already swarming with locals. If you want a true local taco experience in Guanajuato, then you need to make the trek to Tacos El Campeon.
I asked the server what they had and he started rattling off the usual meat fillings like bistec, costilla, and chorizo. When I heard him say “cabeza”, I knew exactly what to get. Pictured below is a scrumptious pair of tacos de cabeza smothered in red and green salsa. This is what Mexican street food is all about!
Tacos El Campeon is located at the mouth of Santa Fe Tunnel. Click on the link to see exactly where it is on a map.
Tacos El Campeon
Address: Sta. Fe Tunnel 76, San Clemente, 36010 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 8PM-1AM, daily What to Order: Tacos
13. Tacos Juan
Tacos Juan is another late night roadside stall that offers Mexican comfort food like tacos and quesadillas. If I remember correctly, this was the only stall we visited that offers tacos de lengua or tacos made with beef or pork tongue. Lengua is one of my absolute favorite cuts of meat and something that you need to try while in Mexico.
Lengua tacos are typically more expensive than tacos made from other parts of the head. While other types of head meat tacos go for about MXN 15 per piece, tacos de lengua sell for about MXN 20 per piece. They’re a little harder to find but definitely worth it.
Tacos Juan is located just a stone’s throw from Tacos al Vapor El Jaguar. While the latter is open only in the morning till 1PM, Tacos Juan opens only at night. Click on the link to see exactly where it is on a map.
Address: Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato Operating Hours: Nighttime only What to Order: Tacos, quesadillas
14. Tacos El Chino
How lucky were we? We stayed at an AirBnB within sniffing distance of these last two late night taco stands. Every night from 8PM, we’d get the irresistible aroma of grilled meats wafting into our apartment. Hungry or not, it was impossible to resist!
Located on the slope leading up from Plaza de Los Angeles, Tacos El Chino is known for serving tacos de tripa frita, or tacos filled with fried small intestines. I’m all about texture and these tacos were some of the best tacos I had in Guanajuato. They’re seriously delicious and not that easy to come by so don’t miss them.
Tacos El Chino is run by this cute elderly couple. It’s amazing how they can still manage to do this every night. Click on the link to see the stand’s exact location on a map.
Tacos El Chino
Address: 36000, Subida de La Mula 30, Zona Centro, Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 8PM-12MN, daily What to Order: Tacos de tripa frita
15. Taqueria Sugar Daddy
This taqueria is located just a few meters up the slope from Tacos El Chino. They offer the usual Mexican comfort fare like tacos, quesadillas, and tortas filled with pastor, chorizo, bistec, or costilla. If I remember correctly, they also offer tacos de tripa.
These tacos al pastor were the very reason why we were often enticed out of our AirBnB at night. The smell of that grilling cone of meat was irresistible!
This taqueria looks to be relatively new since it isn’t on Google Maps yet. I couldn’t find a name for the place so I asked the waitress. She said something that sounded like “Taqueria Xiura Dary”.
I couldn’t find anything about a Taqueria Xiura Dary online so Ren asked the al pastor cook. He said “Taqueria Sugar Daddy” and jokingly pointed to the callejoneadas enjoying his tacos. “Like them, sugar daddy”, he said. Ha!
Whatever its real name is, just look for this stall a few meters up from Tacos El Chino. You can easily eat at both stands on the same night.
Taqueria Sugar Daddy
Address: Just a few meters from Tacos El Chino Operating Hours: Around 8PM-12MN What to Order: Tacos, quesadillas
SNACKS / DESSERTS / DRINKS
16. Empanadas MiBu
If you’re looking for a filling snack in Guanajuato, then you may want to try these empanadas from MiBu. They make savory and sweet empanadas filled with a variety of ingredients like mole rojo, tinga, salchicha, arroz con leche, and Nutella.
The mole rojo empanada filled with pollo deshebrado or shredded chicken was delicious. The pastry was flaky and oozing with that tasty chicken with mole rojo filling.
Empanadas MiBu receives high praise from locals. To translate one person’s review: “Delicious!! Whenever we are in Guanajuato, it is a special stop. 100% recommended.”
Address: C. Pedro Lascurain de Retana #14 B, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Empanadas
17. Nieves Aguilar
We’ve been enjoying nieves de garrafa throughout central Mexico. Named after the big wooden bucket it’s made in (garrafa), it refers to a type of hand-churned Mexican ice cream made with fruit, sugar, and water. Similar to sorbet, it’s a deliciously light ice cream that isn’t excessively sweet.
You can have nieves de garrafa at large ice cream chains like La Michoacana, but in Guanajuato City, we recommend trying it at Nieves Aguilar. It’s a local shop that’s been churning out this delicious Mexican ice cream for over thirty years. They offer interesting flavors like guayaba (guava), taro, mamey (sapodilla), elote, and rompope (eggnog).
I believe there are two or three Nieves Aguilar branches in Guanajuato City. We regularly went to this one at Plaza de Los Angeles.
Address: Plaza de Los Angeles, Subida de La Mula, Zona Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: Around 12NN-7:30PM, daily What to Order: Nieves de garrafa
18. La Clave Azul
If you’re looking for good happy hour deals, then look no further than La Clave Azul, a hidden gem just off Plaza de San Fernando. It’s a quirky bar/restaurant that offers free tapas with your drinks from 2-5:30PM, Tuesdays to Saturdays.
With our first round of margaritas, they gave us these roasted potatoes along with cucumbers and turnips seasoned with chili pepper. We went here shortly after arriving in Guanajuato so what a warm welcome this was! The owners are incredibly friendly as well.
We ordered palomas for our second round and with our cocktails came this plate of taquitos or flautas. Taquitos are crispy rolled-up tortillas filled with meat or cheese and topped with condiments like sour cream or guacamole. ¡Salud!
La Clave Azul has an interesting interior filled with old posters and photos. It’s a fun place to just kick back and enjoy a few drinks and tapas after a day of sightseeing in Guanajuato.
If you didn’t know to look, then you’d probably never know that through this alleyway off Plaza de San Fernando is one of the best happy hour deals in Guanajuato.
True to its name, at the end of the alleyway is this blue wall and La Clave Azul. La clave azul means “the blue key”. I believe one of the owners is a musician so you can expect good music to be playing here as well.
La Clave Azul
Address: Segunda De Cantaritos 31, Centro, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto. Operating Hours: 1:30-9PM, Tue-Thurs / 1:30-11PM, Fri-Sat (closed Sun-Mon)
To help you navigate to these Guanajuato restaurants, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. It includes a few other restaurants we had on our list but didn’t go to. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST GUANAJUATO RESTAURANTS
This guide on Guanajuato restaurants focuses on local food but that doesn’t mean you can’t find upscale restaurants or international food in this city. On the contrary, the majority of restaurants around the main plaza are like that. However, none seem to be all that great based on their reviews. Restaurants near major tourist attractions usually aren’t.
One highly-rated restaurant we considered going to is La Virgen de la Cueva. About a 10-minute taxi ride from downtown Guanajuato, it may be worth the trip if you’re looking for a restaurant that serves gastronomic Mexican cuisine. Another option is Casa Mercedes. These are the two top-rated upscale restaurants in Guanajuato, and not coincidentally, neither is anywhere near the main plaza.
As for cocktails and coffee, Mezcalito has been described as a “really fantastic mezcal bar“ while Café Conquistador is said to roast some of the best coffee beans in Guanajuato. Personally, we didn’t experience amazing coffee in Guanajuato (San Miguel de Allende is better) but Conquistador (or Café Tal) is probably your best bet for a good cup of joe in this city.
And with that, I shall end this already lengthy guide and hope that it leads you to many memorable meals in Guanajuato. If you have any questions, then please let us know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating your way through the beautiful city of Guanajuato!
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When non-Mexicans think of the best food cities in Mexico, Guadalajara may not be foremost on many people’s minds. That distinction usually goes to Mexico City or Oaxaca. It’s hard to compete with those two cities when it comes to good food, but Guadalajara should at least be in the conversation.
The capital of Jalisco in western Mexico, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city. In spite of its size, it doesn’t seem to have quite as much in the way of tourist attractions but where it does shine is in its regional Mexican cuisine. Home to Mexican food favorites like birria and torta ahogada, it’s a must-visit destination for food lovers, much like Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puebla, Merida, and Puerto Vallarta.
We’re fresh off our trip and still buzzing from all the great Mexican food and drink we enjoyed in Guadalajara. If you’re planning a trip to this deliciously gritty city, then check out these 18 Guadalajara restaurants to learn why it should be on every Traveleater’s wish list.
GUADALAJARA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Guadalajara trip planning, we’ve compiled links to popular hotels, tours, and other travel services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro, one of the best areas to stay for people on their first trip to Guadalajara.
Luxury: Hotel Morales Historical & Colonial Downtown Core
Midrange: Hotel Real Maestranza
Budget: Hotel Gallo
Sightseeing Tour: Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque Sightseeing Tour
Tequila Tour: Tequila Trail Tour with Tasting
Cooking Classes: Guadalajara Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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No time to read this guide on the best Guadalajara restaurants? Click on the save button and pin it for later!
WHAT TRADITIONAL FOODS IS GUADALAJARA, JALISCO KNOWN FOR?
Guadalajara is known for a few regional dishes but its two most famous local food specialties are birria and torta ahogada. Visiting Guadalajara without trying these two iconic dishes would be like going to Oaxaca for the first time and not trying mole!
As a quick primer, listed below are a few of the most important dishes you should look for on your next food trip to Guadalajara.
Birria refers to a type of stew in Mexican cuisine made from spicy goat meat adobo, garlic, cumin, thyme, and bay leaves. The meat is slow-cooked in a pot till tender before being served with handmade corn tortillas, chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges, refried beans, and one or more salsas. It’s a Mexican food favorite that in recent years has become increasingly popular outside of the country.
Torta refers to a type of sandwich in Mexico. Torta ahogada is a specific type of sandwich that’s popular in Jalisco, especially in Guadalajara. It literally means “drowned sandwich” and refers to a meat-filled submarine sandwich drenched in a tomato- or chili-based sauce.
Carne en su Jugo
Carne en su jugo literally means “meat in its juices”. It refers to a traditional Guadalajara dish of sliced beef steak cooked in its own juices and then mixed with beans and pieces of crispy bacon. Like birria, it’s typically served with corn tortillas, onions, refried beans, cilantro, and salsa.
Pozole refers to a traditional stew in Mexican cuisine made from hominy. It often contains meat – usually pork or chicken – and is usually garnished with shredded cabbage or lettuce, onions, garlic, chili, radish, avocado, lime, and salsa. It’s a popular dish in several Mexican states like Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Sinaloa, and Guerrero.
There are three main types of pozole – blanco (white), verde (green), and rojo (red). White pozole is served as is while green and red pozole are served with rich sauces made from green or red ingredients, typically tomatillos, cilantro, and jalapeños for green pozole and different types of red chili peppers for red pozole.
Jericalla is a type of Mexican flan that originated in Guadalajara. Made from eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar, it’s said to have been prepared by nuns for orphaned children staying in the Hospicio Cabañas (now an art museum) in downtown Guadalajara.
Popular in Jalisco and Chihuahua, tejuino is a type of Mexican drink made from fermented corn. It’s made with masa (corn dough) mixed with water and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar). The mixture is boiled till thick and allowed to ferment slightly before being served cold with lime juice, salt, and lime sorbet.
THE BEST GUADALAJARA RESTAURANTS
Be sure to visit these Guadalajara restaurants for some of the best examples of birria, torta ahogada, jericalla, tejuino, and more. You can click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
More Guadalajara Specialties
Other Mexican Dishes and Drinks
1. Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas
Google “best birria in guadalajara” and this restaurant will surely pop up. Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas is one of the most famous Guadalajara restaurants and a great choice to try this iconic dish.
Before our trip to Mexico, we had only tried birria served in crunchy tacos. In Guadalajara, you can get them in taco form but it’s best to have them served as a stew with soft corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and salsa on the side. That way you can taste the broth on its own and assemble the birria tacos yourself.
Most birrierias will offer at least two sizes for the meat portion – small or large. The price difference is often minimal so it’s a good idea to go with the large.
Since we’re on the topic of tacos, if you plan on visiting CDMX, then be sure to check out our article on the tastiest tacos in Mexico City.
As described, you can order birria tacos but it’s more fun to assemble them yourself. Here’s my incredibly tasty goat birria taco with chopped onions, pickled onions, cilantro, salsa verde, and hot chili sauce.
We ate at six birrierias in Jalisco and Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas was arguably our favorite. Their birria de chivo (goat) is so incredibly tasty.
Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas is located just a few blocks south of Guadalajara’s historical center. It was one of the restaurants featured on the Taco Chronicles series on Netflix.
Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas
Address: C/ Galeana 379, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Birria
2. Birrieria El Paisano
Located just a stone’s throw from Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas is Birrieria El Paisano, another birria restaurant featured on Taco Chronicles. It’s also one of the better-known Guadalajara restaurants to enjoy birria in the city.
Birrieria El Paisano offers combo deals so for just MXN 130 (about USD 6.35), we each got a small order of birria stew with a quesadilla and a drink. Not bad!
Tasty goat birria taco with cilantro, chopped onions, and a spicy salsa. The birria at Birrieria El Paisano was delicious and comparable to the offerings at Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas. Based on local reviews, the birria here is as traditional as it gets.
These quesadillas were delicious. The cheese was rich, creamy, and gooey and went so well with the much more flavorful birria. We highly recommend getting this combo platter as well as it provides nice contrast in flavor.
Founded in 1930, Birrieria El Paisano is located across the square from Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas. You’ll find around four or more birrierias in this area. Unless I’m mistaken, these two are the most highly rated.
Birrieria El Paisano
Address: C. Leandro Valle 889, Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Birria
3. Birrieria La Victoria
Birrieria La Victoria is a birria restaurant located in the Santa Teresita neighborhood of Guadalajara, right in front of Mercado Santa Tere. Unlike the two previous birrierias which feel a bit more upscale, this is clearly a neighborhood restaurant that caters mostly to locals. And you know how it goes, where the locals eat is exactly where you want to be!
Birrieria La Victoria has been serving up their tasty birria since 1948. People looking for the best Guadalajara restaurants for birria should definitely try this place.
Some online reviewers complain that the portions at Birrieria La Victoria are a bit small. While that may be true, it was also one of the cheaper birrierias we went to so I believe the portions match the price. Either way, their goat birria is delicious and definitely worth trying.
Birrieria La Victoria is listed as “Birrieria 2da Victoria” on Google Maps. I thought that was an odd name for a Guadalajara restaurant until I saw the sign. Ha!
Birrieria La Victoria is located in a much more local part of town so it’s definitely worth going to this restaurant and exploring the area.
Birrieria La Victoria
Address: C. Manuel Acuña 1511, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily What to Order: Birria
4. Tacos Don José
If you enjoy the street food atmosphere like I do, then you’re going to love Tacos Don José. Located in a gritty, working-class neighborhood, it’s a hugely popular birria stand frequented mostly by Guadalajara locals. I arrived around lunchtime and the place was swarmed by hungry locals waiting to get a plate of their tasty birria.
Like the previous three birrierias, Tacos Don José offers plates of birria and tacos de birria. Considering the lack of seating, I went with a trio of tacos because they were easier to eat. This was my only time eating birria tacos so I don’t know how the other places make them, but Tacos Don José serves them with a good amount of a Mexican white cheese. They were mild in flavor and added welcome creaminess to the tacos. ¡Muy rico!
Tacos Don José is popular and has limited seating so be prepared to eat while standing or sitting on the curb. Trust me, it’s worth it. Eating tacos de birria on the sidewalk with Guadalajara locals was one of my favorite food experiences in Jalisco. This is what traveling for food is all about!
Tacos Don José
Address: Calle Argentina 595, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-4:30PM, Mon-Fri / 8:30AM-2:30PM, Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Tacos de birria
5. Super Tortas Ahogadas Rober’s
I went on a food tour in Puerto Vallarta led by a Guadlajara native and he described the torta ahogada as a “sexy Mexican sandwich”. Drenched in a spicy tomato sauce, he’s absolutely right. This is indeed a sexy Mexi-licious sandwich, one that you absolutely need to try while in Guadalajara.
The torta ahogada is too messy to eat with your hands so they give you a spoon to cut it up and scoop up all that delicious chili- and tomato-based sauce. No matter how many sandwiches you’ve enjoyed in your life, I bet you’ve never eaten one with a spoon before! Tucking into a sexy soppy torta ahogada is definitely one of the best things you can do in Guadalajara.
When searching for the best Guadalajara restaurants to try this messy but delicious sandwich, Rober’s often came up. People said they serve some of the best tortas in Guadalajara and they may be right. I tried it at four different restaurants and this one was definitely one of my favorites.
Unlike the other places I visited, Rober’s was the only restaurant that offered different types of meat with their torta. My server offered me different types of meat like pork belly and shoulder but I went with one of my all-time favorites – lengua or pork tongue. My god was this good!
Rober’s is located in a residential neighborhood, about a 25-30 minute walk from Guadalajara Cathedral. It’s a bit of a trek to get there but their tortas are definitely worth it.
Rober’s is also the nicest torta restaurant I went to. I believe tortas ahogadas are regarded mostly as street food. This was the only torta place I went to that was in an actual restaurant.
Address: López Portillo 745, La Perla, 44360 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-4PM, daily What to Order: Tortas ahogadas
6. Tortas Ahogadas El Principe Heredero
Like Rober’s, El Principe Heredero has been described by many locals as one of the best torta restaurants in Guadalajara. But unlike Rober’s, it’s a true roadside food stand. They have just two or three tables on either side of a humble stand that gets swarmed by locals at lunchtime.
According to locals, El Principe Heredero serves some of the best and most authentic tortas in Guadalajara. They make it with the traditional tomato sauce along with a spicy chili sauce that packs a pretty good punch. In the words of one reviewer, their torta is the “best of Guadalajara!”
This isn’t the type of sandwich you can easily eat while standing so I suggest going before or after lunchtime to get a better chance for a seat. This was definitely one of the busiest Guadalajara restaurants I went to during our trip.
As described, El Principe Heredero is a true roadside food stand. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this!
El Principe Heredero
Address: Epigmenio González 200, Mexicaltzingo, 44180 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-2:30PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Tortas ahogadas
7. Tortas Ahogadas El Profe Jimenez
I don’t have enough experience to speak with authority but this devilish-looking sandwich was one of the best tortas I had in Guadalajara. Like El Principe Heredero, El Profe Jimenez is a humble roadside stall that puts together some of the tastiest sandwiches in the city, not to mention the spiciest!
This torta was every bit as hot and delicious as it looks. I have a high tolerance for spicy food but this one had me sweating more than any other torta I had in Guadalajara. It was so damn good.
Like El Principe Heredero, El Profe Jimenez has limited seating so it may be best to go during off-hours. Either way, the wait is definitely worth it. I absolutely loved their torta.
El Profe Jimenez
Address: C. Andrés Terán 841, Villaseñor, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-3PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Tortas ahogadas
MORE GUADALAJARA SPECIALTIES
8. Kamilos 333 (best carne en su jugo!)
Google “best carne en su jugo in guadalajara” and two places will dominate the search results – Karne Garibaldi Santa Tere and Kamilos 333. Luckily for us, they’re located right next to each other in the Villaseñor neighborhood of Guadalajara. With tens of thousands of positive reviews on multiple platforms between them, they’re clearly two of the most popular restaurants in Guadalajara.
Go through the reviews and it becomes clear that locals can’t get enough of this beef steak dish cooked in its own juices. The meat is thinly sliced – similar to a Philly cheesesteak – and mixed with beans and crispy fried bacon before being topped with onions and cilantro. Like birria, they serve it to you with handmade corn tortillas and one or more salsas.
Based on local reviews, these are the two best Guadalajara restaurants for carne en su jugo. There was a slightly longer wait at Karne Garibaldi Santa Tere so I went with Kamilos 333, but you really can’t go wrong with either one.
Carne en su jugo is a delicious must-try dish in Guadalajara. The meat isn’t as flavorful as birria but it’s just as enjoyable, especially with the pieces of crispy bacon adding flavor and texture. Don’t miss this!
Both Kamilos 333 and Karne Garibaldi Santa Tere are big, family-style restaurants so you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a table. Karne Garibaldi is that yellowish restaurant on the corner. It took about 15-20 minutes for me to be seated at Kamilos 333.
Address: C. José Clemente Orozco 333, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-10PM, daily What to Order: Carne en su jugo
9. La Chata
Like the previous two restaurants, La Chata is one of the most popular places to eat in the Guadalajara restaurant scene. They aren’t specialists but they do serve an extensive menu of traditional foods like tortas ahogadas, pollo frito, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, and flautas.
I heard La Chata serves a mean pozole so that’s exactly what I was here to try. I love spicy food so I wanted to try pozole rojo but unfortunately, all they had was pozole blanco. You can get it plain or served with chicken, pork, or a mixture of both.
Pictured below is my delicious bowl of white pozole with chicken. The strips of chicken breast were so incredibly juicy and tender. To eat, you add the various garnishes to your bowl and mix them all together. I suggest trying it with some type of meat to impart more flavor and texture to the dish.
Here’s a closer look at the hominy. If you’ve never had it, it refers to nixtamalized corn or dried corn kernels treated with an alkali like lye.
Open since 1942, La Chata is one of the busiest and most beloved Guadalajara restaurants. There’s always a line of people waiting to get in so I suggest going at off-hours if you can. It’s located in the Historic Center, making it an easy place to have a late lunch or early dinner.
Address: Av. Ramón Corona 126, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 7AM-12MN, daily What to Order: Pozole blanco
10. Pasteleria Santa Teresita
Pasteleria Santa Teresita is a local pastry shop near Mercado Santa Tere. They sell many different types of Mexican cakes, pastries, and cookies, but I was here to try their jericalla, a regional Guadalajara dessert similar to creme caramel. If you enjoy flan-like desserts, then you need to try this.
Smooth and silky custard desserts exist in many countries like Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and the Philippines. This Guadalajara version is similar to those, except its less syrupy and perhaps more gelatin-like in its consistency. It also has a good punch of cinnamon flavor which I enjoyed.
Pasteleria Santa Teresita doesn’t have any restaurant seating so you can get your jericalla to go and eat it on a nearby bench, which is what I did.
Pasteleria Santa Teresita
Address: C. Juan Álvarez 1558, Villaseñor, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 7AM-7:30PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Jericalla
11. Tejuino Marcelino
I had tejuino a few times in Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara and this one was my favorite. Tejuino Marcelino doesn’t serve anything but this fermented corn drink so you know they’re good at it.
Made from fermented corn, water, unrefined cane sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime sorbet, it’s a tangy and sweet drink that’s sure to refresh you after a day of sightseeing under the hot Guadalajara sun. Tejuino Marcelino offers their tejuino in multiple sizes, from small to tub-sized.
Tejuino Marcelino is a small shop about a 20-minute walk from Guadalajara Cathedral.
Address: C. Joaquín Angulo 817, Artesanos, 44200 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 11AM-4PM, daily What to Order: Tejuino
OTHER MEXICAN DISHES AND DRINKS
The dishes and drinks served by the restaurants in this section aren’t specific to Jalisco but you’ll definitely want to check them out while in Guadalajara.
12. Tacos de Barbacoa Arthuro
When I think of Mexican breakfast, two dishes usually come to mind – chilaquiles and barbacoa. We didn’t have chilaquiles in Guadalajara but we did have barbacoa, that ridiculously delicious dish of whole lamb or goat slow-cooked in a pit covered with agave leaves.
Barbacoa is enjoyed throughout Mexico in various forms. In northern Mexico, it’s typically made with goat meat (cabrito) or beef head. In the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s made with pork while in central Mexican cities like Guadalajara, it’s usually made with lamb.
From what I understand, barbacoa is a dish usually reserved for breakfast over the weekend but specialty restaurants like Tacos de Barbacoa Arthuro do offer it every day. Many places will serve it in the early morning until only around noon but at Arhturo, you can have it till 5PM almost every day.
Served in corn tortillas, you can enjoy tacos de barbacoa in one of two ways – blando or dorado. Blando means “soft” while dorado refers to tacos that have been lightly toasted till crunchy. I suggest trying them both to see which you prefer. Personally, I prefer dorado but both are delicious.
Google “best barbacoa in guadalajara” and Tacos de Barbacoa Arthuro will surely come up. Judging by its many positive online reviews, it has to be one of the best Guadalajara restaurants for barbacoa.
Tacos de Barbacoa Arthuro
Address: C. Morelos 957, Col Americana, Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, Mon-Sat / 8AM-3:30PM, Sun What to Order: Tacos de barbacoa
13. Tacos Juan Santa Teresita
Tacos Juan rivals Arthuro for some of the best tacos de barbacoa in Guadalajara. Between the two, Tacos Juan seemed to be the more popular restaurant with dozens of hungry breakfast goers waiting patiently for their barbacoa tacos. I had to wait around 20-25 minutes to get this deliciously golden trio of dorado tacos. Trust me, they’re worth the wait.
Like other Mexican tacos, tacos de barbacoa are typically garnished with chopped onions, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa.
Tacos Juan is essentially a roadside stand. They prepare the food outside but they do offer plenty of seating indoors.
Tacos Juan Santa Teresita
Address: C. José Clemente Orozco 465, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-2PM, daily What to Order: Tacos de barbacoa
14. Ponte Trucha Negro (Best Seafood Tacos!)
If you’re in the mood for seafood, then this is the place to go. According to one local, Ponte Trucha Negro is THE place for seafood in Guadalajara. Luckily for us, we stayed at an AirBnB a block away from this restaurant so we found ourselves here more than once during our trip. Their seafood tacos are so incredibly delicious.
Ponte Trucha Negro offers a wide variety of seafood dishes prepared in a number of ways like fish ceviche, octopus tortas, and grilled oysters, but looking at their menu, shrimp is clearly a specialty. On one visit, we had three different types of shrimp tacos and one fish taco. They were all delicious but this taco negro with black beans and shrimp on a wheat tortilla was out-of-this-world good.
I believe this is what they call the presidente, a pressed shrimp and cheese taco in a corn tortilla.
Pictured below is the taco ajo, a fillet of fish seasoned with garlic and served in a corn tortilla.
This one tastes very similar to the president. They call it chuza and it’s made with shrimp and cheese served in a wheat tortilla.
Located in the Sta Teresita neighborhood, Ponte Trucha Negro is clearly one of the best Guadalajara restaurants for seafood. Go here if you ever have a hankering for seafood tacos, grilled octopus, and anything made with shrimp in Guadalajara.
Ponte Trucha Negro
Address: C. Ignacio Ramírez 646, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 10:30AM-6PM, Mon-Thurs / 10:30AM-6:30PM, Fri-Sun What to Order: Seafood
15. Pastes Mineria
If you have a craving for flaky, meat-filled pastries in Guadalajara, then head over to Pastes Mineria, home to one of the best pastes in Guadalajara.
The paste is a type of Mexican pastry derived from the Cornish pasty. It originated in Hidalgo and dates back to the miners of Cornwall, England who worked in Mexican mines during the 19th century. They introduced the Cornish pasty to the region which was adapted and modified through the years to become the paste Mexicans know and love today.
Pastes Mineria offers several types of savory and sweet pastes filled with a variety of ingredients like papas con carne (potatoes with meat), champiñones con queso (mushrooms with cheese), and mole rojo (red mole).
Here’s an inside look at the filling of my delicious papa con carne paste. This is a hefty pastry and might be big enough for lunch for some people. It was flaky and loaded with meat and potatoes.
Pastes Mineria is a great place to try this delicious Mexican pastry in Guadalajara. You’ll find pastes sold at many shops in downtown Guadalajara but based on what I’ve read, this place is one of the best. It’s also much cheaper compared to the more polished-looking chains in the Historic Center.
Address: Av. de las Américas 136 A, Ladrón de Guevara, Ladron De Guevara, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-8PM, Mon-Fri / 8AM-3PM, Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Paste
16. Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita
Walk around central Mexican cities like Guadalajara and Guanajuato and you’ll find nieves de garrafa shops everywhere. I don’t know exactly where it originated from but nieves de garrafa refers to a type of hand-churned Mexican ice cream named after the big wooden bucket it’s traditionally made in (garrafa).
Nieves de garrafa is often prepared mechanically these days but it’s traditionally made by mixing fruit, sugar, and water or milk in a steel tub. The tub is lined with ice and salt and placed in the wooden bucket where its churned by hand. The result is a light and creamy ice cream that isn’t excessively sweet.
This highly addictive Mexican ice cream is available at many shops but according to many locals, one of the best is Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita. They offer many different flavors from the standard to the unconventional.
I asked my server for recommendations and he suggested I get the mamey (sapodilla or chico) and tequila. They were delicious and went so well together! We’ve tried their Bailey’s and red velvet cheesecake and those were superb as well.
This Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita branch is located across the street from Karne Garibaldi Santa Tere and Kamilos 333, making it a great place to have dessert after a heavy meal of carne en su jugo.
Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita
Address: Calle Garibaldi 1325, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Ice cream
17. La Michoacana
La Michoacana is a hugely popular chain of ice cream shops that sells many types of ice cream, gelato, popsicles, and drinks. Their nieves are delicious but I highly recommend trying their agua de horchata rosa as well. It’s a variation of horchata turned a bright neon pink, usually with strawberries or strawberry ice cream. It’s delicious and incredibly refreshing.
I had agua de horchata rosa from their branch along Colonia Americana but La Michoacana has over a dozen outlets throughout Guadalajara.
Address: Many branches Operating Hours: Varies per branch What to Order: Agua de horchata rosa
Mexico City is tough to beat when it comes to fine dining restaurants but Guadalajara is no slouch either. Its most famous restaurant is probably Restaurante Alcalde, last seen at number 32 on the list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America.
Many traveling gourmands know about Alcalde but if you want to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city, one that’s not as well-known in the Guadalajara restaurant scene, then you need to go to Xokol, a tiny restaurant in the gritty Sta. Teresita neighborhood. This hidden gem serves creative delicious food and has to be one of the best Guadalajara restaurants you’ve never heard of.
Unlike many fine dining restaurants, Xokol doesn’t have a tasting menu but they do change their offerings every two weeks or so. Pictured below is their tamal de cangrejo y mole de pixtle. If my Spanish is correct, that translates to crab tamale and pixtle mole. I believe pixtle refers to the seed of the mamey or sapodilla fruit.
This is what the inside of the tamale looks like. That brownish-orange sauce was redolent with crab flavor. It was so damn good.
For our second dish, we had we they call this taco ceremonial mazahua. Based on my research, the Mazahuas are an indigenous people living mostly in northwestern Mexico state and in small parts of Michoacán and Querétaro. It’s safe to assume that the stamp on the tortilla has something to do with Mazahua culture.
If I remember correctly, this tasty taco was filled with mostly non-meat ingredients. It had some type of green leafy vegetable and a mix of different beans. I guess these are local ingredients commonly used in Mazahua cooking.
As delicious as the previous two starters were, this main dish was clearly the star of tonight’s meal. What you’re looking at is molleja de res con lentejas y tocino, or beef sweetbreads with lentils and bacon.
Garnished with avocado and baby cilantro, this was easily our favorite dish from this fantastic meal. Seriously, we were wide-eyed from the very first bite. The beef sweetbreads had a taste and texture reminiscent of perfectly cooked lobster meat! Wow!
Xokol is a small restaurant in the Sta Teresita neighborhood. You’d never think to find a restaurant of this caliber in a neighborhood like this so we feel very fortunate to have found this place.
As good as the food was, what made the experience even more special was the service. We enjoyed some of the best service at any Guadalajara restaurant, and to top it off, our meal amounted to just MXN 600 (about USD 30) with drinks (non-alcoholic)!
Xokol is truly a hidden gem and a restaurant you need to visit in Guadalajara.
Address: C. Ignacio Herrera y Cairo 1392, Sta Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal. Operating Hours: 6-11PM, Tue-Sat (closed Sun-Mon)
To help you navigate to these Guadalajara restaurants, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. It includes many other restaurants we had on our list but couldn’t get to. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN GUADALAJARA
We’re fans of the Taco Chronicles series on Netflix so we considered going to Café palReal. It’s a popular breakfast spot helmed by Chef Fabian Delgado, one of the experts featured on the show. We don’t eat breakfast often so we didn’t wind up going, but if you’re looking for a good brunch place in Guadalajara, then Café palReal is one to consider. It’s located in the Arcos Vallarta neighborhood.
With that, I’ll conclude this article and hope that it leads you to some truly memorable Mexican food in Guadalajara. With so many interesting regional dishes to experience, Guadalajara is without a doubt one of the best food cities in Mexico. You should definitely add it to your Mexico itinerary along with Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Morelia, Merida, and Puerto Vallarta.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time food tripping in Guadalajara!
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Japan is endlessly fascinating. It’s our favorite country in the world to visit but like many people, we tend to go back to the most popular cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Sapporo.
Ignored by many travelers is the Chubu region. Located in the central region of Japan’s main island, it consists of nine prefectures, many of which you’re probably never heard of. The Chubu region is a geographically diverse area that’s home to major cities like Nagoya and interesting tourist attractions like the Japanese Alps, the Sea of Japan coast, natural hot springs, ski resorts, and national parks.
If you’ve been to Japan many times and are looking to experience something new on your next visit, then the Chubu region is a great area to consider. Thanks to the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass and Japan’s highly efficient rail system, you can explore as much of the Chubu region as you like for five consecutive days.
There are many ways to spend five days in Central Japan but I’ve created this Chubu itinerary to highlight some of the most interesting destinations in the Chubu region. Keep reading to learn more about the central region of Japan and the Takayama-Hokuriku Pass.
CHUBU ITINERARY QUICK LINKS
You can purchase a Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass in Japan but it’s cheaper to get it before your trip. Listed below are authorized travel agents that offer the pass.
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WHAT IS THE CHUBU REGION?
Chubu is a region in Central Japan. It’s located in the central region of Honshu, Japan’s main island, between the Kanto and Kansai regions. It consists of nine prefectures – Aichi, Gifu, Fukui, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Nagano, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Niigata.
The Chūbu region is a geographically diverse area that’s bordered by the Sea of Japan to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It’s home to the Japanese Alps and Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain and the most iconic landmark in Japan.
TAKAYAMA-HOKURIKU AREA TOURIST PASS
The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is a JR Pass (Japan Rail) that gives you unlimited travel in the Chubu region for five (5) consecutive days. You can use it to travel by JR train (and participating bus lines) between major cities and tourist destinations in the region like Nagoya, Takayama, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, and Gokayama.
If you’re entering Japan through the Kansai region, then you’ll be pleased to know that the pass is also valid for travel to the Chubu region from Osaka, Kyoto, and Kansai airport. You can refer to our article on the Takayama-Hokuriku Pass for more information and to purchase a pass.
HOW TO SPEND 5 DAYS IN THE CHUBU REGION
There are many ways to explore Central Japan. This 5-day Chubu itinerary focuses on the western half of the Chubu region and takes you to some of the top destinations and restaurants in Aichi, Gifu, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this article to get a better feel for the region.
CHUBU ITINERARY QUICK GLANCE
DAY ONE: Nagoya, Gifu, Mino (Aichi and Gifu prefectures) • Nagoya Castle • Kawaramachi Izumiya (Lunch) • Kawara-machi Historic Street • Udatsu Wall Historical District
DAY TWO: Shirakawa-go (Gifu prefecture) • Shirakawa-go • Irori (Lunch)
DAY THREE: Toyama (Toyama prefecture) • Toyama Port • Iwasehama Beach • Shiroebi-tei or Shinminato Kittokito Fisherman’s Wharf (Lunch) • Tonami Tulip Park
DAY FOUR: Kanazawa (Ishikawa prefecture) • Kenroku-en • Kazuemachi Chayagai • Higashi Chayagai • Hakuichi • Omicho Market (Lunch) • Nagamachi Samurai District • Rojo Park
DAY FIVE: Fukui (Fukui prefecture) • Asuwa River Cherry Blossom Row • Tojinbo • Awara Onsen • Yukemuri Yokocho (Dinner)
CHUBU ITINERARY DAY 1: Nagoya, Gifu, Mino
The easiest way to explore the Chubu region is to enter Japan through Chubu Centrair International Airport (Central Japan International Airport) in Nagoya City. Located in Aichi prefecture, Nagoya is one of the largest cities in Japan. It doesn’t get as much attention as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto but curious travelers will find many interesting tourist attractions in Nagoya like Toyota Techno Museum, Nagoya Castle, and Atsuta Shrine.
What better way to start your trip to the Chubu region than by visiting a Japanese castle? Built during the Edo period, Nagoya Castle was at one point one of the biggest castles in Japan. Unfortunately, much of it was destroyed during the air raids of World War II.
The good news is that Nagoya Castle has been undergoing total reconstruction. Much of it will be closed till its unveiling but the castle grounds and Honmaru Palace remain open to visitors.
Operating Hours: 9AM-4:30PM, daily Admission: JPY 500 Closest Station: Sengencho Station or Shiyakusho Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-1.5 hrs
Kawaramachi Izumiya (LUNCH)
After visiting Nagoya Castle, use your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass and take a JR train to Gifu station. From the station, you can walk or take a local bus to Kawara-machi. But before you explore this historical district in Gifu City, we recommend having lunch first.
Kawara-machi is situated by the Nagara River and is famous for its cormorant fishing. One of their most famous local catches is ayu or sweetfish, which you can enjoy at one of the many restaurants in town. One of the best places to try this local specialty is at Kawaramachi Izumiya.
For the full ayu experience, then you may want to go for a full course meal. If you aren’t that hungry, then you should at least try the charcoal-grilled ayu.
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-2PM, 5-9PM, Thurs-Tue (closed Wednesdays) Expect to Spend: Starts at JPY 3,240 for the course meal Nearest Bus Stop: Zaimoku-cho
Kawara-machi Historic Street
After lunch, you can spend the afternoon exploring Kawara-machi. Kawara-machi is an historic district known for its traditional wooden houses and shops. It’s an atmospheric area that’ll make you feel like you had just stepped into Japan’s Edo period.
Many of the houses in Kawara-machi district have been converted into restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops. You can easily spend a few hours here admiring the architecture and perusing all the interesting items for sale.
Here’s a look at Kawara-machi at night. Pretty right?
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs
Udatsu Wall Historical District
After exploring Kawara-machi, you can use your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass and take the JR train from Gifu to Mino-Ota station. From Mino-Ota, you can then take a local train to Udatsu wall historical district in Mino City. Similar in feel to Kawara-machi, Udatsu wall historical district is an atmospheric area that was once a lively merchant district during Japan’s Edo period.
Mino City flourished during the Edo period from the sale of washi, a traditional type of Japanese paper. It’s for this reason why udatsu walls can still be found in this area. Washi raised the risk of fire so udatsu walls were built to help prevent the spread of fire from house to house.
Here’s a shop selling Japanese lanterns made from Mino washi paper.
Udatsu wall historical district at night. So lovely!
Closest Metro Station: Umeyama Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs
CHUBU ITINERARY DAY 2: Shirakawa-go
On your second day in the Chūbu region, use your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass to travel from Mino-Ota station to Hida Takayama in Gifu prefecture. To maximize your day, we suggest starting as early as possible and taking the Limited Express Hida JR train to get to Takayama in under 2 hours.
From Takayama station, you can then use your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass to take the 1-hr Nohi bus ride to Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go.
Shirakawa-go (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go is gorgeous. Famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, it’s one of the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. These houses are known for their slanted thatched gable roofs built at a steep angle to allow heavy snow to easily fall off in winter.
Ogimachi is beautiful at any time of the year but it’s especially popular in winter when the village is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Spring is a great time to visit as well for the cherry blossoms.
Check out our Shirakawa-go travel guide if you plan on visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site in winter.
I’ve been to Ogimachi twice, once when it was covered in snow. The snow added a touch of magic to the village. It made it look like a winter wonderland, but as you can see below, it was still beautiful without it.
Admission: FREE to enter the village but some houses may charge an admission fee Estimated Time to Spend: At least half a day
One of the most delicious local dishes you can have in Gifu prefecture is Hida Beef. It’s a prized beef brand that many locals consider to be among the best in Japan, even better than Kobe Beef!
There are a few restaurants and food stands where you can try Hida Beef in Ogimachi, but I suggest trying it at the Irori restaurant. Located inside a gassho-zukuri farmhouse, it’s the ideal setting for lunch in Shirakawa-go.
Operating Hours: 10AM-2PM (irregular holidays) Expect to Spend: About JPY 1,650 for a Hida Beef set meal
We suggest using your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass and taking the Nohi bus to Toyama prefecture, your next stop in the Chubu region.
The last bus leaves Ogimachi at 5:50PM and gets you into Toyama station at 7:25PM. Be sure to confirm the schedule before making concrete plans.
CHUBU ITINERARY DAY 3: Toyama
Toyama City is the prefectural capital of Toyama, a prefecture that sits along the Sea of Japan coast. It’s a former castle town that marks the beginning of the Tateyama Kurobe alpine route, a famous route that takes you through the Northern Japan Alps.
Start your day in Toyama by spending the morning in Toyama Port and Iwasehama Beach. The port is home to an observation tower that gives you sweeping views of the Sea of Japan. Entrance is free.
Iwasehama Beach town is an atmospheric town by the Japan Sea coast. Spend the day exploring the area before going back to Toyama station for lunch.
Iwasehama beach town was once a thriving coastal town that benefited from Kitamaebune trading. Kitamaebune was an Edo period shipping route that went from Osaka to the Hokuriku region to Hokkaido.
Closest Subway Station: Iwasehama Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs
Being located by the Sea of Japan coast, this former castle town is known for its seafood. One of its most famous dishes is shiroi ebi or white shrimp. Referred to as the “Jewel of Toyama Bay”, shiroi ebi is known for its mild sweetness and rich flavor.
There are many restaurants that serve white shrimp in Toyama City but one of the most recommended is Shiroebi-tei. Located in Toyama station, you may want to try white shrimp served with Toyama koshihikari rice.
Operating Hours: 10AM-9:30PM, daily Expect to Spend: About JPY 1,290 for a bowl of deep-fried shiroi ebi Closest Station: Located inside Toyama Station
Shinminato Kittokito Fisherman’s Wharf (LUNCH)
As an alternative, another great place to have seafood in Toyama is Shinminato Kittokito Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a market that offers many different types of seafood specialties like shiroi ebi, firefly squid, and beni-zuwai crab.
Like any Japanese seafood market, early morning auctions are held every day at Shinminato Kittokito Fisherman’s Wharf. But they also hold a second auction at 1PM, making it a great place to have lunch if you want to experience these seafood auctions in Japan.
Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily Closest Metro Station: Kaiomaru Station
Tonami Tulip Park
If you visit the Chūbu region in spring, then a great place to visit is Tonami Tulip Park. The tulip is the prefectural flower of Toyama and Tonami City is one of the leading tulip producers in Japan.
Every spring, Tonami holds a tulip fair where you’ll find over 3 million tulips on display throughout the city. You can refer to the Tonami Tulip Fair website for more information.
Row upon row of colorful tulips at Tonami Tulip Park
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5:30PM, daily (during the fair) Admission: JPY 1,300 Closest Metro Station: Tonami Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs
You’ll have an event-filled fourth day in the Chūbu region so we suggest using your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass and taking the JR Shinkansen to Kanazawa, the prefectural capital of Ishikawa. You can spend the night there to get an early start the following day.
CHUBU ITINERARY DAY 4: Kanazawa
As described, Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture. Like Toyama, Ishikawa prefecture is situated by the Sea of Japan coast. Similar in feel to Kyoto, Kanazawa is known for its geisha districts, landscape gardens, and modern art exhibits at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
You have a lot of ground to cover in Kanazawa so we recommend getting an early start. Your first stop is Kenroku-en, one of the three most famous landscape gardens in Japan. I’ve visited a few of these landscape gardens throughout Japan and Kenroku-en is definitely the most beautiful I’ve been to so far.
Kenroku-en is beautiful at any time of the year, but one of the best times to visit has to be in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Operating Hours: 7AM-6PM (1 Mar – 15 Oct) / 8AM-5PM (16 Oct – 28 Feb) Admission: JPY 320 Closest Station: Kanazawa Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr
From Kenroku-en, walk to Kazuemachi chayagai – one of three famous geisha districts in Kanazawa. It’s smaller than the other two but my personal favorite. It’s located by the river and is the least crowded of the three.
If you visit in spring, then you’ll be treated to a row of lush cherry blossom trees that hang over the river.
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins
Higashi chayagai is the biggest and most famous of Kanazawa’s geisha districts. It’s home to many interesting shops, restaurants, and teahouses so you can spend about an hour taking photographs and exploring the area. For truly memorable photos, you may want to rent a kimono.
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr
Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf and accounts for 99% of total gold leaf production in Japan. You’ll find many products adorned with gold leaf, but one of the most interesting (and delicious) has to be gold leaf soft cream. They take a cone of Japanese soft-serve ice cream and adorn it with a sheet of gold leaf and cherry blossom sprinkles.
There are a few places that serve gold leaf soft cream in Higashi chayagai, but one of the most famous is Hakuichi.
Omicho Market (LUNCH)
After exploring Higashi chayagai, it’s time to walk over to Omicho Market for lunch. Omicho Market is a covered market with over 200 shops and restaurants selling fresh produce and seafood.
Because of its prime location next to the Japan Sea coast, the seafood in Kanazawa is fantastic so you’ll have a wealth of seafood restaurants to choose from at the market. I had lunch at a kaitenzushi restaurant at Omicho that offered sushi sets for just JPY 500.
Check out our Kanazawa food guide for more recommendations on where to eat in Kanazawa.
Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily
Nagamachi Samurai District
Now that you’ve experienced a geisha district, it’s time to explore a samurai district. After lunch, walk from Omicho Market to Nagamachi samurai district, a neighborhood near Kanazawa Castle where samurai and their families lived during Japan’s Edo period.
There are a few samurai-related museums in Nagamachi, but like Kazuemachi and Higashi chayagai, the most interesting part about the samurai district is the neighborhood itself.
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr
If you visit Ishikawa prefecture in spring, then another place you have to visit is Rojo Park. Located about an hour south of Kanazawa by JR train, Rojo Park is a public park in Komatsu City famous for its cherry blossom trees and wisteria flowers. It’s open 24 hours and admission is free.
Operating Hours: 24 hrs Admission: FREE Closest Subway Station: Komatsu Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs
CHUBU ITINERARY DAY 5: Fukui
From Komatsu station, take a JR train to Fukui prefecture, your final stop on this 5-day trip to the Chūbu region. People who enjoy taking the road less traveled will enjoy Fukui, for the simple reason that it’s one of the undiscovered prefectures by international travelers in Japan.
Located by the Sea of Japan coast, Fukui is known for its world-renowned dinosaur museum and its many hot spring baths.
Asuwa River Cherry Blossom Row
If you visit Fukui in spring, then we suggest visiting Asuwa River before winding down at a hot spring resort. Along the river is a 2.2 km (1.4 miles) stretch of cherry blossom trees. When the trees are in full bloom, this portion of the Asuwa River is considered one of the 100 best cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan.
The Asuwa River cherry blossom row is just as pretty at night as it is during the day.
Closest Metro Station: Fukui Station Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr
From Fukui Station, you can take a JR train to Awara Onsen station and catch a bus to Tojinbo and its magnificent cliffs. Overlooking the Sea of Japan, Tojinbo is home to a series of cliffs with columnar joints that stretch for over a kilometer (3,281 ft). It’s a spectacular sight and not something I was expecting to see in Japan!
Closest Bus Stop: Tojinbo Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr
After 5 days of exploring Central Japan, what better way to end your trip to the Chūbu region than by soaking in hot springs? Awara Onsen is a famous onsen town in Central Japan and a favorite destination for locals looking to bathe in healing hot springs.
In winter, there are few things more relaxing than soaking in one of Japan’s famed hot springs.
If you’d rather not soak your entire body, then you can use a free footbath in close to Awara-Yunomachi Station.
Admission: Varies per hot spring resort Closest Metro Station: Awara Onsen Station Estimated Time to Spend: As long as you want
Yukemuri Yokocho (DINNER)
After soaking in hot springs, you may want to have dinner and a few drinks at yukemuri yokocho, a cluster of about 10 izakayas or informal Japanese pubs. It’s a great place to knock down a few beers over sticks of yakitori and bowls of ramen.
Operating Hours: Varies per izakaya Expect to Spend: Varies per izakaya Closest Metro Station: Awara-Yunomachi Station
Before leaving Fukui and moving on to your next destination in Japan, you may want to pick up a set of wakasa-nuri chopsticks. Traditionally decorated with seashell, eggshell, gold leaf, and other adornments, they’re a specialty item of Fukui prefecture and considered by many to be the best chopsticks money can buy.
CHUBU LOCATION MAP
To help you understand where these destinations are in Central Japan, I’ve pinned them all on a map. Click on the link to open the interactive map in a new window.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THIS CHUBU ITINERARY
There are many ways to experience Central Japan but we hope this 5-day itinerary to the Chūbu region gives you plenty of ideas. It only covers a part of Central Japan so feel free to revise and include destinations in Shizuoka, Niigata, Yamanashi, and Nagano prefecture if you like.
For people looking to go off the beaten path in Japan, there are many interesting destinations in Chubu so we hope this article points you in the right direction. And as advised, don’t forget to pick up a Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass before your trip. It’ll be your new best friend when exploring the Central region.
This Chubu itinerary was written in partnership with the tourism board in the Central Japan Area. They shared some recommendations and pictures for the article, to which I added some of my personal favorite attractions and restaurants in the Chubu region.
Some of the links in this Chubu itinerary are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking or purchase at no extra cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves. We truly appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
When planning our trip to Mexico, I googled “best food cities in mexico”. Cities like Oaxaca, Puebla, Mexico City, and Guadalajara weren’t surprising but one city popped up on almost every list that I wasn’t expecting – Puerto Vallarta.
Being a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, I knew about Puerto Vallarta’s beaches but I had no idea it was such a beloved foodie paradise. I was under the impression it was a Club Med type of destination with all-inclusive resorts and little to nothing in the way of interesting food (like Cancun and much of the Riviera Maya).
Sure, Puerto Vallarta has its share of tourist traps, but it also has a wealth of terrific Mexican restaurants that run the gamut from fine dining gourmet restaurants to family-owned eateries to mobile street food vendors. After my first couple of days sampling the local cuisine, it was clear that the food in Puerto Vallarta was anything but boring.
If you travel for food like we do and are looking for the best Puerto Vallarta restaurants to have seriously delicious Mexican food, then you’ve come to the right place.
FOOD IN PUERTO VALLARTA QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Puerto Vallarta, we’ve compiled links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Zona Romatica, one of the most convenient areas to stay for first-time visitors to Puerto Vallarta.
Luxury: Pinnacle Resorts 180
Midrange: Hotel Mercurio – Gay Friendly
Budget: Amapas Apartments Puerto Vallarta – Adults Only
Food Tour: Downtown Puerto Vallarta Food Tour
Food and Drinking Tour: Tequila, Tacos, and Mexican Cocktails
Bike Tour: Bikes and Bites Tour
Cooking Classes: Puerto Vallarta Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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THE BEST PUERTO VALLARTA RESTAURANTS
To help organize this list of Puerto Vallarta restaurants, I’ve organized them by location. First-time visitors will probably be spending most of their time in the Zona Romántica area so you can start there.
If you’re a serious food lover and want to go where the locals eat, then you’ll definitely want to check out Versalles, an up-and-coming residential neighborhood with some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
5 de Diciembre
Zona Romántica (Romantic Zone) is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta. Also known as Emiliano Zapata or the Old Town, it’s an LGBTQ-friendly area with plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes.
1. Sonorita Olas Altas
Sonorita Olas Altas is a casual restaurant that serves traditional Mexican dishes like tacos, volcanes, alambres, and huaraches. I knew they specialized in tacos al pastor but I asked my server anyway for her recommendations. As expected, she suggested I get the al pastor tacos which she described as being one of the best in Puerto Vallarta. She may have been right.
If you’ve never had them, tacos al pastor is a popular type of taco made from pork grilled on a vertical spit. It’s a cousin of the Lebanese shawarma and Greek gyros, all of which are descendants of the Turkish doner kebab. Pastor tacos arrived in Mexico by way of Lebanese immigrants who moved to the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I ate at Sonorita Olas Altas twice and on my first visit, they served their tacos on black corn tortillas with chopped onion, cilantro, and pineapple. I had pastor tacos many times in Puerto Vallarta and these were definitely one of my favorites.
Speaking of tacos, if you’re visiting CDMX, then be sure to check out our guide on the best tacos in Mexico City.
I ordered a side of guacamole to go with my pastor tacos. ¡Delicioso!
Sonorita Olas Altas is a Travelers’ Choice awardee with a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Sonorita Olas Altas
Address: Pino Suárez 232, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 3-11PM, daily What to Order: Tacos al pastor
2. Marisma Fish Taco
Being a seaside town, there’s no shortage of delicious seafood dishes in Puerto Vallarta. If you want traditional Mexican food, then some of the best seafood dishes you can order are shrimp and fish tacos.
According to my research, the Marisma Fish Taco stand serves some of the very best seafood tacos in Puerto Vallarta. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also huge. The tortillas used for Mexican tacos are typically palm-sized but the tacos at Marisma were as long as my whole hand. Sold for about the same price, these were definitely some of the best-valued tacos I ate in Puerto Vallarta.
Aside from the fish and shrimp tacos, I also had the spicy squid tostada. Tostadas are pretty much the same thing as tacos except they’re served on crunchy, deep-fried tortillas.
Marisma Fish Taco is also a Travelers’ Choice awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating on Tripadvisor. It receives high praise from locals and it looks like many food tours stop here.
Marisma Fish Taco
Address: Naranjo 320, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Fish and shrimp tacos/tostadas
3. Pancho’s Takos
Spend enough time in the city and one thing becomes clear, Pancho’s Takos is one the most popular restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. They open at 4PM and if you aren’t in line by around 3:30PM, then be prepared for a long wait. I got in line a little past 3:30 and by the time they opened, the line went down the block. It’s crazy how popular this place is.
Pancho’s Takos serves traditional Mexican cuisine but their standout dish is clearly their tacos al pastor. According to many online reviewers, their pastor tacos are the best in Puerto Vallarta.
Their tacos are delicious and on par with some of the best I had in the city, but the one thing that stood out most for me was how much meat they put on their tacos. These tacos were absolutely overflowing with smokey grilled meat.
Like the previous two places on this list, Pancho’s Takos is a Travelers’ Choice awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating on Tripadvisor.
Address: Basilio Badillo 162, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 4PM-12MN, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Al pastor tacos
4. Balam Balam
Balam Balam is one of the best seafood restaurants I visited in Puerto Vallarta. They have a focused menu offering traditional dishes like ceviche, aguachile, tacos, and tostadas. Like Sonorita Olas Altas, they serve their tacos in threes so I went with a trio of fish tacos. They were absolutely delicious.
Balam Balam is one of my favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta not just for the food, but for their location. It’s a hidden gem located right by the river, at the far end of Zona Romántica. It’s in a much quieter part of town that isn’t frequented by many tourists.
Address: Rivera del Río 177, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 11:30AM-7PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Shrimp or fish tacos
5. Mariscos Cisneros
I went on a food tour in Puerto Vallarta and this humble restaurant was one of our stops. Mariscos Cisneros serves a bevy of fresh seafood dishes like cocteles, burritas, tacos, and quesadillas.
What you’re looking at below is an incredibly delicious soft shell crab enchilada. My god was this good! One of the people on the tour said he’d eaten here several times and everything on their menu was fantastic.
Here’s our food tour group entering Mariscos Cisneros. Based on that crab enchilada alone, I’d definitely put this seafood restaurant on your itinerary.
Address: Aguacate 271, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 11AM-8PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Soft shell crab tacos
6. Don Chava Taqueria Cantina
Don Chava Taqueria Cantina is a Mexican restaurant that serves traditional dishes like tacos, volcanes, and quesadillas. They also offer margaritas, mezcal, beer, and wine so this is a good place to consider for dinner if you’re looking to knock down a few drinks with your food.
Pictured below is a trio of tasty tacos – pastor, shrimp, and fish.
Don Chava Taqueria Cantina is located in a less busy part of Zona Romántica.
Don Chava Taqueria Cantina
Address: Lázaro Cárdenas 288, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 5PM-12MN, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Tacos
If you live on the west coast and are craving for those huge California-style burritos, then you need to enjoy a meal at Figueroa’s. They offer different types of burritos and other Cal- and Tex-Mex dishes like fajitas, crunchy tacos, and American-style nachos.
Figueroa’s isn’t one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in Puerto Vallarta but the food is good and they do offer great value for money. This massive burrito set me back just MXN 75 (about USD 3.70)!
Here’s an inside look at this burrito. They offer five different types of burritos on their menu with seven meat options. I asked my server for his recommendation and he suggested I get the carne asada (grilled beef).
Figueroa’s is basically just a counter with sidewalk seating for six to eight people. Hopefully, you don’t have to wait too long to get a seat.
Address: Venustiano Carranza 302, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Burritos
8. Tacos de Birria Chanfay
I always have a long list of restaurants I plan on visiting before a trip but sometimes, a restaurant catches my eye that I can’t resist. In Puerto Vallarta, one of those places was Tacos de Birria Chanfay, a super popular street taco stand specializing in birria tacos.
I was walking by one day and couldn’t help but notice the large crowd of Mexican locals gathered around this stand. As I always like to say, no one knows local food better than the locals so I couldn’t resist trying a couple of these tacos myself. I’m happy that I did because their birria tacos are delicious.
Birria refers to a type of Mexican stew made with marinated meat slow-cooked with garlic, cumin, thyme, and bay leaves. It’s traditionally made with goat but it can be made with beef, lamb, or mutton as well. Tacos de Birria Chanfay specializes in birria de res or beef birria tacos. You can enjoy them in two ways – dorado (crunchy) or blando (soft).
This was taken mid-afternoon but visit Tacos de Birria Chanfay around noon and you’ll find it swarmed with hungry locals. If you see a place overflowing with locals, then you know the food will be good.
Tacos de Birria Chanfay
Address: Venustiano Carranza 382, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 12:30-3:30PM, 7:30PM-1AM, Mon-Thurs / 12:30-4PM, 7:30PM-1:30AM, Fri-Sat / 12:30-4PM, 7:30PM-1AM, Sun What to Order: Birria tacos
9. La Fina Cocina de Barrio
If you’re looking for a truly lovely fine dining experience, one that’s far removed from the chaos of downtown Puerto Vallarta, then you need to seek out this hidden gem. La Fina is a small family-run restaurant located on the far end of the Romantic Zone, just across the river in an area rarely visited by tourists. They serve modern Mexican food which one reviewer described as “Michelin-quality”.
La Fina offers delicious food in a humble setting. From the looks of it, it seems to be located in a former house that was converted into a restaurant. Because of its casual feel, it isn’t one of the most romantic restaurants in Puerto Vallarta but they do serve some pretty amazing Mexican food. On their menu are familiar Mexican dishes like tacos, flautas, and quesadillas but with a more modern, fine dining twist.
Pictured below is La Fina’s take on the gordita. A gordita is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of masa (corn dough) stuffed with cheese, meat, or other fillings. This one was stuffed with short ribs and served in a burnt sauce with beans, dry cheese, jocoque (Mexican dairy product), truffle oil, and arugula. It was delicious and made for an exceptional dining experience.
I washed this gordita down with local beer but if I remember correctly, they have an extensive wine list and offer plenty of cocktails and craft beer as well.
La Fina opens at 7PM and only offers dinner service. They’re a Travelers’ Choice awardee and as of this writing, have a perfect 5-star rating on Tripadvisor.
La Fina is a casual restaurant but don’t let its humble facade deceive you. Anyone who’s eaten there will tell you that it truly is one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. Because of its somewhat hidden location, it’s still relatively unknown but don’t expect it to stay that way. To be safe, I suggest making a reservation through their Facebook page.
La Fina Cocino de Barrio
Address: Atmósfera 149, El Caloso, 48360 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 7-11PM, Wed-Sun (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) What to Order: Menu changes
10. Pulquería Chinga Quedito
Like Mariscos Cisneros, Pulquería Chinga Quedito was one of the stops on our food tour. It’s a hole-in-the-wall type restaurant that offers pulque tastings and traditional Mexican dishes.
Pulque is a traditional alcoholic Mexican beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. It’s been produced in central Mexico for thousands of years and is known for its cloudy color and sour, yeast-like taste.
Unless I’m mistaken, Pulquería Chinga Quedito offers four different types of pulque, all of which you can try for MXN 150 (about USD 7.35). We tried three on our tour.
I find traditional Mexican cuisine to be interesting and it doesn’t get any more traditional than these tlacoyos. A tlacoyo is a pre-Hispanic Mexican dish made with masa. Thicker than corn tortillas, it’s shaped like an oval and traditionally stuffed with cheese, beans, chicharron, and other ingredients before being fried or toasted. They were great to nibble on while sipping on our pulques.
With its colorful facade, Pulquería Chinga Quedito is hard to miss. If you’re interested in trying pulque and traditional Mexican cuisine, then you need to make a stop here.
Pulquería Chinga Quedito
Address: Lázaro Cárdenas 494, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 1:30-10PM, Sun, Tue-Thurs / 1:30PM-12MN, Fri-Sat (closed Mondays) What to Order: Pulque
11. Taqueria El Guero Vargas
Like Tacos de Birria Chanfay, I found this taco stand by chance. I was drawn to Taqueria El Guero Vargas by the large crowd of locals enjoying their street tacos. Coincidentally, they also specialize in soft and crunchy birria tacos.
If you like birria, then you need to eat here as well. The prices are cheap, the service is friendly, and the birria tacos are super delicious.
Street tacos are some of the best things you can eat in Mexico. Personally, I can’t get enough of them!
Taqueria El Guero Vargas
Address: C. Constitución #285, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 8AM-2PM, Thurs-Tue (closed Wednesdays) What to Order: Birria tacos
12. The Churros Guy
Pro tip, if you’re unsure where to find good food in Mexico, then look for a church. Chances are, you’ll find a few stalls like this one selling amazing street food.
Located just outside Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, this humble stall serves some of the best churros in Puerto Vallarta. It was pointed out to me by our food tour guide. I don’t remember the vendor’s name (Manuel?) but he sets up shop on the corner of Aguacate and Lázaro Cárdenas at 4PM everyday.
Here’s the churros guy frying up some of his delicious churros.
The Churros Guy
Address: Aguacate 216, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 4-9PM, daily What to Order: Churros
13. Tejuino at Mercado Emiliano Zapata
Tejuino is an iced Mexican drink made from fermented corn. Masa is mixed with water and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) and then boiled until thick before being slightly fermented. Served with ice, lime juice, and a pinch of salt, the resulting drink is sweet, tart, and very refreshing.
Tejuino is commonly consumed in the states of Jalisco and Chihuahua so it’s definitely something you should try while in Puerto Vallarta. You’ll find tejuino stands all over the city but one of the most recommended is the stall at Mercado Emiliano Zapata.
Look for this tejuino vendor on the corner of Camichín and Lázaro Cárdenas Streets. I don’t know what their hours are but you should find them here during normal business hours. You can enjoy their tejuino in three sizes.
Tejuino at Mercado Emiliano Zapata
Address: Corner of Camichín and Lázaro Cárdenas Streets What to Order: Tejuino
Centro refers to the area just north of Zona Romántica. Like the Romantic Zone, it’s one of the busiest parts of downtown Puerto Vallarta. It’s home to many bars and restaurants (mostly touristy) and the famed malecón or boardwalk.
14. Tuba Vendors on Malecón Puerto Vallarta
If tejuino looks appealing to you, then you should definitely try tuba as well. It’s a refreshing tropical drink made with coconut cream and apple vinegar served with pieces of chopped apples and walnuts.
Like tejuino, tuba is sweet and a bit tart. It’s sweeter than tejuino and complemented nicely by the crunchiness of the fresh apples and walnuts. Walk along the malecón and you’re sure to find one or two vendors selling tuba at any time of the day.
I read about a tuba vendor named Manuelito but I didn’t see him the entire time I was in Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps he’s retired? In any case, you can buy a glass of tuba from any vendor along the malecón. I’m sure they’re comparable.
Tuba Vendors on Malecón Puerto Vallarta
Address: 48300 Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. What to Order: Tuba
5 DE DICIEMBRE
5 de Diciembre refers to the neighborhood just north of Centro. It’s similar in feel though with lots of souvenir shops and better, more local restaurants.
15. Pepe’s Taco
I asked my food tour guide what pastor stand locals liked best and he named two places – Pepe’s Taco and El Carboncito. Locals always know best so like an obedient Traveleater, I went to both of them.
Pepe’s Taco has an extensive menu of food and drinks but what they’re really known for are their pastor tacos. Like my guide said, they’re delicious.
Like many of the restaurants on this list, Pepe’s Taco is a Travelers’ Choice awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating on Tripadvisor.
Address: C. Honduras 145C, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 1PM-6AM, daily What to Order: Al pastor tacos
16. Tacón de Marlin
Tacón de Marlin is a small shop that specializes in seafood burritas. That’s burritos with an “a”. Based on what I’ve read, burritos and burritas are essentially the same but they can be prepared and served in different ways, depending on where you are in Mexico.
Whatever the exact definition, the most noticeable difference is that burritas are considerably smaller than burritos. They also seem to be folded rather than rolled so they’re flatter and more parcel-like in shape.
In any case, they’re very similar to burritos and are just as delicious. I asked my server for his recommendation and he suggested I get the mixed burrita which is made with a combination of smoked marlin, shrimp, and octopus.
Tacón de Marlin is located just two doors down from Pepe’s Taco.
Tacón de Marlin
Address: C. Honduras 145-Int. E, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 10:30AM-5:30PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Seafood burritos
17. El Carboncito
As described, my food tour guide cited El Carboncito as one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for pastor tacos. He was right on both counts but especially with this one. El Carboncito’s pastor tacos were among the best tacos I had in Puerto Vallarta. These were seriously delicious.
El Carboncito opens at 7PM and fills up quickly so be sure to arrive early. They stay open till the wee hours of the morning so their tacos make for some pretty amazing drunk food.
Address: C. Honduras 127, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 7PM-3:30AM, Tue-Thurs / 7PM-5AM, Fri-Sat / 7PM-12MN, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Al pastor tacos
I’m not entirely sure what this neighborhood is called but I believe the area is known as Lázaro Cárdenas. It’s mostly a residential neighborhood that doesn’t offer much in the way of tourist attractions but it is home to what some locals have described as the best tacos de cabeza in Puerto Vallarta.
18. Tacos de Cabeza “Matute”
In Mexico, people often say that the best tacos come out only at night. Open only from 8:30 till 11PM, Tacos de Cabeza “Matute” is definitely a testament to that.
This humble taco stall is basically just a cart that sets up shop in front of the owner’s home. They serve tacos made from different parts of the cow’s head like cheeks, eyes, brain, tongue, and lips. I love offal and what many westerners dismiss as the less desirable parts of the animal so I love tacos made with this type of meat.
Pictured below is a trio of tacos made with beef tongue, eyes, and lips. These amazing tacos were some of the best tacos I had in Puerto Vallarta. Overflowing with meat, onions, and cilantro, they were absolutely delicious.
I enjoyed them all but my favorite was the taco filled with beef eye. It has a unique texture that’s unlike any other type of meat.
I arrived at Tacos de Cabeza “Matute” a few minutes before 8:30PM but there was already a small crowd of people waiting to have their tacos. This place is clearly popular with the locals so I suggest arriving early before they run out.
Tacos de Cabeza “Matute”
Address: Las Americas 523, Lázaro Cárdenas, 48330 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 8:30-11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Tacos de cabeza
I stayed at an AirBnB just north of Versalles, a residential neighborhood about 5.5 km (3.4 miles) north of the Romantic Zone. I didn’t know it at the time but according to my food tour guide, Versalles is an up-and-coming foodie neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta. In fact, it’s home to so many interesting restaurants that their company even offers a Versalles food tour. How lucky was I??
If you like going to where the locals eat, then you need to explore Versalles. I went only to Mexican restaurants but you’ll find several restaurants here offering different types of cuisine like Portuguese, Italian, and American, just to name a few.
If you’re looking for a place that serves delicious breakfast in Puerto Vallarta, then make your way to Cha’, a lovely brunch spot in Versalles. They serve beautifully plated breakfast food in a casual but stylish space.
I arrived a few minutes before they opened at 9AM and there was already a small group of people waiting to be seated. Clearly, this place is popular with the locals. When it comes to breakfast, it has to be one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
I had the chilaquiles con mole almendrado. Isn’t it beautiful? Chilaquiles is a popular Mexican breakfast dish made with fried corn tortillas cooked in salsa and topped with cheese and other ingredients. What a delicious way to wake up!
As described, Cha’ is popular so it’s best to arrive early. The space isn’t that big so you may have to wait for a table if you arrive later in the day.
Address: Hamburgo 148a, Versalles, 48310 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-4PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Chilaquiles con mole almendrado
20. El Puerco de Oro
El Puerco de Oro was my favorite restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. I enjoyed it so much that I wound up eating here three times because I wanted to taste everything on their menu. In fact, when I was chatting with my food tour guide about Versalles, he specifically mentioned this place. Little did he know that I had already eaten here twice!
El Puerco de Oro is a humble restaurant in a tiny space with just four tables. Their specialty dish is deep-fried pork belly served in tacos, quesadillas, or in tortas (weekends only).
Both tacos below are pork belly tacos but one was served with salsa verde. This simple but delicious meal is one of the best I’ve had so far in Mexico. It was so good!
On my next visit, I had the pork belly quesadilla. It was every bit as delicious as the tacos.
On Saturdays and Sundays, El Puerco de Oro serves these tortas filled with pork belly and beans smothered in a red tomato sauce. My food tour guide described it as a “sexy sandwich” that’s reminiscent of Guadalajara’s famed dish – tortas ahogadas.
According to my guide, they do run out of this so it’s best to arrive early over the weekend if you want to try it.
El Puerco de Oro may be small and unassuming but it has to be one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
El Puerco de Oro
Address: C. España 325 D, Versalles, 48310 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 9AM-3PM, Tue-Fri / 9AM-4PM, Sat-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Pork belly tacos/quesadillas
If you like ceviche and aguachile, then you need to visit Lamara. Like Cha’, it’s a local favorite that’s busy at almost any time of the day.
Lamara offers many different types of ceviche and aguachile. I didn’t know what to get so I wound up going with what seemed like house specialties based on their names – Lamara aguachile and Vallarta ceviche.
Pictured below is the Vallarta ceviche, a type of ceviche made with tilapia, cucumber, onion, cilantro, wild carrot, and serrano pepper.
This is the Lamara aguachile made with shrimp, onion, cucumber, cilantro, and house salsa. Aquachile is a very similar dish to ceviche except it’s made with shrimp instead of fish. It also differs in its marinade ingredients and marinating time.
Regardless of what type of ceviche or aguachile you order, they’ll serve it with these crunchy tostadas and three types of salsa.
NOTE: This is what these dishes looked like when served in the “Eat & Go” section of the restaurant. You’ll see what I mean below but the presentation of these dishes may be different if you get seated in the main dining area of Lamara.
As described, Lamara is hugely popular with the locals so you can expect a line at almost any time of the day. I didn’t feel like waiting for a table in the main dining room so I enjoyed my meal in their “Eat & Go” section located at the side of the restaurant.
Luckily for me, they had this side section used mainly for takeaways. They have a few counter seats here so if you don’t mind the dropoff in ambiance, then you can order and enjoy your meal here. The presentation may be different but at least I didn’t have to wait long for my food.
Considering how popular it is with locals, Lamara has to be one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for ceviche and aguachile.
Address: Hamburgo 108, Versalles, 48310 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 12NN-7PM, daily What to Order: Ceviche, aguachile
22. Tacos El Flako
I’m a big fan of tacos de cabeza so I was happy to find this street taco stall in the Versalles neighborhood. Like Tacos de Cabeza “Matute”, they serve tacos made from different parts of the cow’s head.
Pictured below are tacos made with beef cheeks, lips, eyes, and surtido, which is a mixture of different cabeza meats. They weren’t quite as loaded as the tacos at “Matute” but they were also very good.
If you’re in the Versalles neighborhood and want to try tacos de cabeza, then Tacos El Flako is the place to go.
Tacos El Flako
Address: Calle Havre 244, Versalles, 48310 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 4:30PM-12MN What to Order: Tacos de cabeza
23. Cevichería Juan Tiburón
Cevichería Juan Tiburón is a Mexican seafood restaurant located just beyond the Versalles area. It’s a casual restaurant in a residential neighborhood that serves different types of seafood dishes like ceviche, aguachile, tostadas, burritas, and cocteles.
I made the trek to this restaurant after reading their excellent reviews. In the words of one reviewer: “I love this place, I come all the way from Zona Romantica to have lunch here.” If he makes the trip all the way from downtown Puerto Vallarta then it must be good!
Pictured below is the shrimp burrita. They call their burritas tiburones. Tiburón is in the restaurant’s name so I figured it must be one of their specialties. It was delicious.
Like many of the restaurants recommended in this Puerto Vallarta food guide, Cevichería Juan Tiburón is a Travelers’ Choice awardee. As of this writing, they maintain a perfect 5-star rating on Tripadvisor. I’d say that definitely makes them worth a visit!
Cevichería Juan Tiburón
Address: Viena 131, Valentín Gómez Farias, 48320 Puerto Vallarta, Jal. Operating Hours: 12NN-9:30PM, daily What to Order: Seafood
Going on food tours is one of our favorite things to do on trips. I enjoy doing all the research and finding the best places to eat on my own but sometimes, it’s nice to have a local show you around. Simply put, no one knows the food in Puerto Vallarta better than a local so what better way to experience it than by going on a guided food tour?
24. Mex-ology Tour
There are many food tours to choose from in Puerto Vallarta. I wanted to learn more about Mexican drinks and cocktails so I went on this tacos and tequila tour with Vallarta Food Tours, the number one tour provider in Puerto Vallarta on Tripadvisor.
This Mex-ology tour is a 4-hour eating and drinking binge that treated me to tasty Mexican dishes and drinks like tlacoyos, raicilla, pulque, mezcal, paloma, and of course, tacos. If that sounds good to you, then you can book this tour on Get Your Guide.
A refreshing margarita to wash down that tasty fish taco. You’ll get about five food tastings and six alcoholic beverages on this tour.
Check out my article on this Puerto Vallarta food tour for more pictures and information. It includes information on other popular food tours they offer in Puerto Vallarta as well like their original downtown food tour and a taco evening tour.
Length of Tour: 4 hrs
To help you find these restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, I’ve pinned them all on this map. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map. You’ll find a few more restaurants on the map that weren’t included in this Puerto Vallarta food guide.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN PUERTO VALLARTA
I didn’t go but I read about this terrific fine dining restaurant in the Romantic zone called Makal. It features Michelin Star Chef Graham Campbell, a Scottish chef who once made an appearance on The Final Table on Netflix. He’s known for being the youngest chef in Scotland to receive a Michelin Star.
Based on online reviews, Makal features an eclectic and impressive menu of modern Mexican dishes. If you’re looking for a truly special and romantic dinner in Puerto Vallarta, then you may want to book a table at Makal. Our food tour guide pointed it out to me as well and referred to it as one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
With that, I’ll conclude this restaurant guide and hope that it gives you plenty of ideas on which restaurants and street food stalls to visit in Puerto Vallarta. If you have any questions, then please do let me know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating your way through Puerto Vallarta. ¡Buen provecho!
Some of the links in this Puerto Vallarta restaurant guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Muchas gracias!
EDITOR’S NOTE:Traveleater Sep Simborio shares with us twenty Bulgarian food favorites to try on your next visit to Sofia.
There are a few things that first come to mind about Bulgaria—drunken holiday parties at Black Sea resorts, roses, and hot springs. But there is one little tidbit that perhaps most folks do not know: Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe, making it all the more fascinating.
Countries in Eastern Europe are awfully underrated both for foodies and travelers alike. But when it is the oldest country on the continent, it’s most definitely worth a visit. Tons of history has turned Bulgaria into a destination every Traveleater would want to experience.
Yes, Bulgaria is old. In fact, it’s so old that it has gone through Thracian, Persian, Celtic, and Roman rule even before hitting the Dark Ages. It’s so old that it has been that the country hasn’t changed its name since the 7th century when it was first discovered by Khan Asparuh. It is so old that it is the birthplace of the bacteria responsible for creating delicious and tangy yogurt.
All these, combined with a host of other elements, form a massive influence on what Bulgarian food is all about.
BULGARIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Sofia and want to really learn about Bulgarian dishes, then you may be interested in joining a Bulgarian food or wine tour.
Bulgarian Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Bulgaria
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL BULGARIAN FOOD?
With a long and rich history to back it up, Bulgarian cuisine is diverse. Having the most experience compared to its neighbors in the Balkan region, traditional Bulgarian food is recognized as a representation of Southeast European cuisine, with geography playing an important role in the country’s dishes.
Popular Bulgarian food is mostly made up of cheese, yogurt, and vegetables. And while Bulgarian cuisine is quite similar to Greek and Turkish food, it has its own unique take on the dishes. They are customarily fresh and hearty with a variety of mild spices. Commonly used proteins are chicken, lamb, and pork, although seafood and veal are also popular depending on the region.
A tasty amalgamation of Balkan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines, traditional Bulgarian cuisine is perfect for Traveleaters who are planning to go on a food adventure in Southeastern Europe.
THE BEST OF TRADITIONAL BULGARIAN CUISINE
This Bulgarian food guide has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Salads / Sides
Soups / Stews
Meat / Mains
Bulgarian Food Tours
STARTERS / SIDES
Mish-mash is a Bulgarian salad made with fresh cut vegetables, eggs, and sirene cheese, a type of Balkan brined cheese similar to feta. It’s typically made with tomatoes, onions, and peppers though it can be made with other vegetables as well like eggplant, okra, carrots, scallions, and garlic. It’s seasoned simply with black pepper and salt and often garnished with freshly cut parsley.
Mish-mash is typically a spring dish and commonly served warm as an appetizer or main dish, usually with freshly baked bread.
Photo by fanfon
2. Shopska Salad
Nothing starts Bulgarian meals better than a fresh salad, and Bulgarians know this for a fact. Hailing from the Shopluk region, the shopska salad is a cold salad also popular throughout Southeastern Europe. It is believed to have been invented in the 1950s as a way of promoting tourism by the then socialist party to showcase fresh local ingredients in Bulgarian cuisine.
Considered a national dish, the most traditional recipe you’ll find in a Bulgarian cookbook makes use of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions or scallions, raw or roasted peppers, parsley, and sirene cheese. The ingredients are refrigerated, so the dish is served cold before being sliced, salted, and tossed with a light dressing of sunflower oil and an occasional splash of vinegar.
Shopska salad is best paired with a meat dish or enjoyed as a light meal during warm summer days.
Photo by KrasiKanchev
Snezhanka literally translates to “Snow White” of the Disney animated film fame. It’s a cold salad named as such due to its mostly white color from its main ingredient: strained yogurt. Other ingredients include chopped cucumber, garlic, olive oil, salt, and dill. It’s basically a salad version of Greek tzatziki.
For a more personalized approach, walnuts, roasted peppers, and chopped parsley can be added as toppings. It can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or a pita bread dip. It can also be eaten as part of a meze platter and traditionally complemented with alcoholic drinks.
Photo by Kisa_Markiza
4. Kiselo Mlyako
Bulgaria’s culinary pride and joy comes in the form of sour milk, or what the world knows as yogurt. This fermented dairy product is a staple in many countries, adding pizzazz to various dishes or as a standalone side dish. To fully understand how this traditional Bulgarian food makes Bulgarians proud to be Bulgarians, one must know its origins.
Kiselo mlyako, a.k.a Bulgarian yogurt, is recognized as the progenitor of this sour and creamy dish that people enjoy today. While it is believed to have originated from Turkey, a closer look has proven that this isn’t the case.
A young Bulgarian microbiologist named Stamen Grigorov discovered the bacteria responsible for fermenting milk and turning it into the tasty yogurt people love eating today. A rod-shaped bacterium called Lactobacillus bulgaricus is one of its kind that only comes from Bulgaria, giving kiselo mlyako the Bulgarian food title it deserves: the OG yogurt.
Photo by livfriis
In a country rich in dairy products, Bulgaria does have its own cheese. And while feta cheese is considered as one of the most popular, the country also has its very own version. Called sirene, this Bulgarian white cheese is made with cow, sheep, or goat milk—or a mixture of all three—brined and served as table cheese.
Sirene is a tad softer, wetter, and generally creamier with a grainier texture than feta cheese. But this white cheese is still as crumbly with a slightly citrusy flavor. This traditional Bulgarian cheese is served at almost every Bulgarian meal either in salads, with bread, or in pastries.
Photo by Kisa_Markiza
No list of popular dishes in Bulgaria can be complete without mentioning banitsa, a Bulgarian national dish. It refers to a traditional Bulgarian pastry that’s prepared by layering sheets of buttered phyllo pastry and adding eggs and various sweet or savory fillings such as apples or traditional Bulgarian cheese.
Served hot or cold, banitsa is commonly served for breakfast or as a snack. It’s also a Bulgarian tradition to include lucky charms in the pastry on certain occasions such as New Year’s Eve. These may include coins or small objects that symbolize anything from good health to prosperity throughout the year.
Photo by uroszunic
Lyutenitsa (or ljutenica, lutenica) is a type of vegetable relish or chutney commonly consumed in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia. It can be smooth or chunky, spicy or mild, and is typically made with hot peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, vegetable oil, and seasonings. You can think of it as the Bulgarian version of ajvar, a similar relish popular in Balkan cuisine.
Photo by Alex33#33
SOUPS / STEWS
On a hot summer day in Bulgaria, there’s nothing more refreshing than a bowl of tarator. It’s a cold cucumber soup made with Bulgarian yogurt, cucumbers, walnuts, oil, garlic, and dill. Prep time is just around 10 minutes without the need for cooking, making it an easy Bulgarian recipe to follow.
The soup is best made at least 30 minutes before serving so that it can cool in the fridge. Since cold water is also mixed in to dilute the yogurt and make sure it’s lump-free, even ice cubes can be added. Other variations of tarator exist across Southeast Europe and the Middle East, making it a popular cold soup dish in the region.
Photo by minadezhda
9. Bob Chorba (Traditional Bulgarian Soup)
Pronounced “bop,” which means bean, this centuries-old Bulgarian recipe for bean soup has been a staple in the country partly due to the high volume of bean production. This Bulgarian dish has many variations, with the “Monastery” or vegetarian version being the most popular.
The basic ingredients of this delicious traditional Bulgarian food include dry beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and mint. Other alternatives can have anything that’s available such as meat, sausages, and other bean varieties. It’s an ideal dish that can go with a main course, but it can stand on its own as a filling meal for hungry Traveleaters on a budget.
Photo by Jim_Filim
10. Supa Topcheta
Supa topcheta refers to a type of meatball soup. There are probably as many recipes for this comforting Bulgarian dish as there are Bulgarian cooks, but there are always three constants – vegetables (typically carrots, onions, and celery), meatballs made with ground meat (usually a combination of pork and beef), and a thickening agent consisting of yogurt and egg yolks.
Depending on the cook, other ingredients may be added to the soup like rice, noodles, and potatoes. Before serving, some cooks like to give it a spritz of fresh lemon juice for some brightness and acidity.
Photo by lenyvavsha
11. Shkembe Chorba
Another delicious soup entry on this list is a traditional Bulgarian meal called shkembe chorba or tripe soup. While it’s known as a hangover remedy and eaten the next day after a long night of revelry, it’s also a nice meal or bar chow that goes well with cold beer or rakia.
To make this Bulgarian tripe soup, the tripe is boiled for hours to soften the meat. It’s then cut into small pieces and put back in the broth where it’s seasoned with ground red paprika, flour, milk, garlic, hot red peppers, and red wine vinegar. Other variations use meats such as offal or intestine, which is standard nose-to-tail eating practice in the Slavic and Balkan regions, as well as Turkish and Middle Eastern cultures.
Photo by fanfon
The humble stew is one of the best examples of slow food culture worldwide. Many countries have their own stew dish to be proud of, and Bulgaria is no different.
Kavarma is a slow-cooked meat and vegetable stew that’s recognized as long-standing traditional Bulgarian food. The dish makes use of a ceramic or clay pot called a gyuvetche or gyuveche. Either a cast iron casserole, Dutch oven, or slow cooker works fine too if one isn’t available.
Beef, chicken, or pork are the proteins of choice when preparing kavarma, along with fresh vegetables such as carrots, leeks, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Wine is also added for more flavor as the sauce is reduced. The resulting dish is a tender, meaty, and tasty main course that’s great with crusty bread to soak in the flavorful sauce.
Photo by fanfon
MEAT / MAINS
Sarmi is a traditional Bulgarian dish made of rolled cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, rice, and various spices then poached in water or tomato sauce. It’s a popular dish served during Christmas Eve, often with a side of yogurt.
Stuffed cabbage dishes could be traced back to ancient Middle East, before spreading to Eastern Europe through thriving trade routes and ethnic migrations. Today, sarmi goes by different names depending on the country. The minced meat, spices, and other stuffing may vary, but the dish stays generally the same: a delicious cabbage leaf stuffed with meaty goodness.
Photo by PantherMediaSeller
Traditional Bulgarian moussaka is a baked dish made with potatoes, ground beef, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, red bell peppers, garlic, and onions. Tomatoes are also added for that nice touch of acidity. Moussaka is to the Bulgarians what lasagna is to the Italians, making it a delicious and hearty traditional dish and a perfect comfort food.
Depending on the region, moussaka is prepared in slightly different ways. The more popular variant is Greek or Mediterranean moussaka made of eggplant rather than potatoes. The Bulgarian kind is topped with yogurt sauce rather than bechamel, but most are prepared similarly through layering the ingredients and topping the dish with the sauce before baking it in an oven.
Photo by yanzappa
If you like sampling different sausages when you travel, then you need to try lukanka, a type of salami unique to Bulgarian cuisine. Similar to sujuk but stronger in flavor, it refers to a flattened cured sausage made with a mixture of pork and veal seasoned with cumin, salt, and black pepper.
To make lukanka, the seasoned meat mixture is stuffed into a dried cow’s intestine and then hung to dry for about 40-50 days. As it dries, the sausage is pressed to give it its characteristic flat form. When ready, the sausage is sliced thinly and served cold, usually as an appetizer.
Photo by GEORGID
Outdoor barbecues will always have a global appeal, so it comes as no surprise to have kufte (or kufteta in the plural sense) on this Bulgarian food list.
Kufte is basically a meat patty made of ground pork meat, veal, beef, or a combination of any of the three. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, onions, and parsley. Savory can also be added for a nice flavor boost, and some add pepper flakes for a touch of heat.
The meat patties can be baked, fried, or grilled to perfection, and served with bread and baked rice, or a side of shopska salad or french fries with Bulgarian white cheese.
Photo by Cpifbg13
Kebapche is a classic Bulgarian dish made with grilled minced meat seasoned with spices. Long and cylindrical like a hot dog, it’s typically made with a combination of pork and beef seasoned with cumin, black pepper, and salt.
Always grilled, kebapche is often topped with grated sirene and served with a side of lyutenitsa and french fries.
Photo by elcabron
18. Meshana Skara
For those who can’t get enough of grilled meat and Bulgarian food, meshana skara is perfect for hungry carnivores. It’s a mixed grill dish full of various meats and sides, and should include a kufte, a pork steak, a pork meat on a skewer, and a kebapche, with fries, bean salad, chopped onions, and lyutenitsa. This loaded meat platter is best shared with friends or family, and goes well with a few rounds of beer or shots of rakia.
Photo by Jim_Filim
Nothing ends a satisfying meal better than tikvenik, one of the most popular Bulgarian desserts. It’s a sweet Bulgarian version of banitsa made of pumpkin (tikva) filling and warm cinnamon encased in a crisp phyllo pastry. It’s lightly dusted with powdered sugar before serving.
Tikvenik is often served during the holidays, particularly during Christmas Eve, but could also be enjoyed any time of the year for breakfast, or as a snack. It’s best paired with a glass of yogurt.
Photo by cherydi
Palachinka is essentially Bulgarian pancakes or crepes. They are made thin and rolled with simple fillings such as butter and honey, sprinkled with powdered sugar, then topped with strawberries. And just like pancakes, it can also be served with other fillings such fruit jam or fruit slices, cheese, or plain powdered sugar.
Photo by Jim_Filim
BULGARIAN FOOD TOURS
It goes without saying that no one knows Bulgarian food better than a local, so what better way to experience the best food in Bulgaria than by going on a guided tour? A knowledgeable local will lead you to the city’s best restaurants and markets so all you need to do is follow, listen, and eat. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food and drinking tours in Sofia and other destinations in Bulgaria.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BULGARIAN CUISINE
Getting a head start has its advantages, and being the oldest country in the continent has sparked a rich culture and a diverse yet evolved Bulgarian cuisine. With a fascinating mix of Mediterranean, European, and Middle Eastern influences, Bulgarian food has been elevated to dishes that are guaranteed to surprise even the unfamiliar palate.
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Cover photo by uroszunic. Stock images via Depositphotos.