This article is adapted from Americas Quarterly’s print issue on Venezuela after Maduro
Alfonso Cadena’s restaurant, Hueso, has earned nearly as many accolades for its unusual design as for its innovative cuisine. Its whitewashed walls are covered with more than 10,000 animal bones — a hint that the Guadalajara hotspot is ready to indulge its guests’ more carnivorous instincts.
The menu does not disappoint. Plates like braised short rib with salsa picante and foie gras in a guava and fig emulsion have kept a steady stream of customers flocking to Hueso since it opened in 2014.
Cadena, 46, grew up in Guadalajara and said the city — long celebrated for a vibrant arts scene — is now enjoying a culinary awakening.
“Guadalajara has always had big architects, designers and composers,” Cadena said. “But we were missing art in the kitchen.”
That has started to change as Cadena and his cohort help shake the city’s conservative reputation with innovative cuisine centered on local Jalisco ingredients. Guadalajara restaurants are stepping out of the shadow of their Mexico City counterparts; AQ asked Cadena to offer up some of his favorites.
Named one of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants in 2017, Alcalde offers a seasonal, local take on contemporary Mexican cuisine. “Chef Francisco Ruano is a perfectionist,” said Cadena. Expect simple food and attention to detail. Cadena recommends the papada de cerdo laqueada (braised pork jowl) and the chayote tortilla, when it’s in season.
— Av. México 2903, Vallarta Norte
PalReal, which means “from now on” in local slang, is a gathering spot for artists and musicians. The café-restaurant serves some of the most beautiful cortados in the city (co-owner Fabrizio Sención is an award-winning barista), and is as much loved for its playful breakfast menu as for its heavier fare. Try the torta pancita, an artful riff on the Jalisco classic torta ahogada (a fried pork or chicken sandwich that is “drowning” in salsa).
— Calle Lope de Vega 113, Arcos Vallarta
Australian Paul Bentley took the helm of this French and Italian-inspired bistro in 2015, after more than 10 years as Daniel Boulud’s sous chef in New York. Bentley uses Mexican spices to add a local twist to traditional European plates. Cadena highly recommends the paté.
— Calle José Guadalupe Zuno Hernández 2061, Americana
Irish chef Darren Walsh opened Lula Bistro in 2011 and is widely credited with bringing molecular gastronomy to Guadalajara. Cadena calls him “an obsessive genius,” and a visit to Lula makes it clear why: The 12-course tasting menu is ambitious, delicious and strictly tied to whatever’s in season.
— Calle San Gabriel 3030, Jardines del Bosque
Opened in 1999, i Latina is a local icon, which Cadena credits as the city’s first conceptual restaurant. Built in a restored wine cellar, the décor is pure kitsch — think midcentury bar stools and an abundance of antique lamps — and the food an eclectic mix of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican. “You can’t go wrong with the tacos,” Cadena said. He especially likes the jicama and shrimp variety.
— Av.Inglaterra 3128, Vallarta Poniente
“Of course you should come to Hueso,” Cadena said. The restaurant features an open kitchen and centers around a single communal table. “We wanted to create a space where people interact — a place that would make people feel good,” he said.
— Calle Efraín González Luna 2061, Obrera