The Best Places To Eat In Guanajuato On A Budget

MEXICO
Blue corn tortillas on a cast iron comal

25 January 2024

The Best Places To Eat In Guanajuato On A Budget

Jan 25, 2024 | Mexico | 0 comments

Mexican cities such as Oaxaca, Mexico City and Puebla attract foodies from all over the world, eager to sample the culinary delights for which they are famous.

Guanajuato, some four hours by road northwest of Mexico City, is not one of them, however. But, having spent two months living in the city, we’re here to tell you that the local food in Guanajuato is on a par with anything else we’ve enjoyed in the country. So, if you’re planning to visit this wonderful city in the near future (and you really should), you might find our guide to the best places to eat in Guanajuato helpful.

Just to be clear, this guide focuses on street food and simple, family-run eateries. Of which there are many. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find upscale restaurants or international food in the city.

To be honest, there are so many great places to eat that it would be impossible to mention them all. But our favourites are here. Along with a number of other well-reviewed restaurants.

A stall full of corn, beans, vegetables and other food staples

Table of Contents

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What is typical Guanajuato food?

Like elsewhere in Mexico, Guanajuato’s cuisine combines European and Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Mexican indigenous) flavours. And corn is used as a staple ingredient. So you’ll find plenty of traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, gorditas, tamales and enchiladas.

But there are two dishes, iconic to Guanajuato, that you really should try during your visit.

Guacamaya

We’d heard about this legendary artery-clogging version of a pork sandwich before we arrived in Guanajuato. So it was one of the first dishes we sought out. Our research on where to find the best one took us to Hidalgo Market, where there was a vendor who constructed an extraordinary beast that could have fed a family of four.

Starting with a crusty Mexican bolillo roll, she opened it up before stuffing it with lashings of hot roast pork and chicharron (“crackling” or fried pork rinds). Indeed, we had to ask her to go easy on the chicharron as she seemed hell-bent on filling every available space with it. Next up, she took a ladle to a large metal pot of chilli salsa and poured it over the top. After which she finished it off with a couple of thick slices of avocado.

Our contribution was to squeeze some fresh lime over it all and then it was time to work out how to eat it. To be honest, after sizing it up we concluded the only way to go was to grab it with both hands, close our eyes and dig in. It was messy, to say the least. But it was superb, too. The moisture of the pork, the crunch of the chicharron, the fiery chilli of the salsa and the creamy avocado made for a memorable combination.

Unless you’re vegetarian, don’t miss it!

A bread roll filled with pork, chicharron, salsa and avocado

The mighty guacamaya

Enchiladas Mineras

Guanajuato grew on the back of its silver mining heritage. And this dish is named after those workers who lived and died in the mines of the surrounding hillsides.

It’s essentially a traditional enchilada dish filled with carrots, potatoes, onions and cheese, then baked in a tomato and guajillo sauce. It’s served on a bed of lettuce and garnished with jalapeños, salsa, cottage cheese and perhaps some grilled chicken or pork. Certainly hearty enough to satisfy those workers at the end of a long, arduous day down inside the mine.

We tried it at An’ca Carmen on Calle de Alonso. To be honest, we prefer our enchiladas a little spicier but we’re glad that we at least got to try one of Guanajuato’s iconic dishes.

As an alternative, we’ve read very good things about the Enchiladas Mineras at Enchiladas Doña Lupe, close to the famous “Alley of the Kiss” (Callejón del Beso).

Stuffed tortillas smothered in red sauce, cheese and shredded lettuce

Enchiladas Mineras at An’ca Carmen

The best breakfast in Guanajuato

Ahh, the Mexican breakfast. One of the greatest and most satisfying things in life! Whether it’s eaten at a street vendor, a local restaurant or in a tiny coffee shop, it never fails to disappoint.

Perhaps our favourite breakfast area was around Plazuela de Baratillo, just along from Guanajuato University. It’s where Ian inevitably found himself hunting for food after an early-morning walk up Cerro de la Sirena.

And it’s where you’ll find the best gorditas (griddled and stuffed tortilla pockets) in Guanajuato, at Gorditas Las Güeras – a mobile stall that sets up every morning just off the square. You’ll notice it by the length of the queue of people waiting patiently in line. There’s a choice of fillings, our favourite being the pork with pasilla chilli sauce.

Behind Las Güeras, and just up the hill in a side street called de la Taza, Vamos Con Lalo is another breakfast place you should try at least once. With just a few tables out on the street and a couple more inside, it’s both intimate and welcoming. And the food is stylistic without being pretentious.

Their signature dish is the house chilaquiles – homemade tortilla chips bathed in a sauce of cream, cheese, dried chillies and chicken. But their chile relleno torte (stuffed chile on a bread roll) was sublime.

Bread roll filled with a stuffed chile

Chile Relleno Torte at Vamos con Lalo

Back down to the plaza, Los Huacales is simply unmissable. With an extensive menu that includes varieties of caldo (soup), huarache (thick corn dough base topped with refried beans, cheese, salsa and meat), moles, egg dishes, quesadillas, enchiladas and chilaquiles, it’s our pick for the title of “best breakfast in Guanajuato”. And their chilaquiles smothered in habañero sauce may just be the spiciest single breakfast dish we’ve ever eaten.

A bowl filled with red sauce, together with a stuffed chile, portion of rice and beans in

Los Huacales’ Chile Relleno – this time stuffed with cheese and bathed in a spicy tomato sauce 

Close by, Nota Negra Bar does a roaring trade selling freshly made fruit juice from a small serving hatch. There are plenty of mixed flavours to choose from but our go-to breakfast drink was the jugo verde – a dark green concoction mixing lime juice, cucumber, nopale (cactus), spinach, mint and pineapple. Absolutely delicious and so refreshing. We loved it so much that we bought an extra one each time to take back to our apartment.

For something different (and extremely cheap), you might want to seek out a plate of tacos al vapor. Unlike your typical tacos, freshly made with griddled corn or flour tortillas, these are pre-made folded tortillas stuffed with meat stew, bathed in oil or butter, and then kept warm by steaming in a basket or drum. Which is why they’re also known as tacos al canasta (“basket tacos”). And, because of their soft texture, they’re eaten off a plastic plate, along with pickled chillies, salsa and shredded cabbage.

Where to find them? Head to a stall called Tacos al Vapor el Jaguar, which appears every morning opposite Plaza de la Alhondiga. But don’t rock up too late in the morning because, once they’re gone, there’ll be no more until the following morning. That said, don’t be shy – five of these little beauties for MXN 50 (just over £2) are guaranteed to set you up for the day!

A steaming pan of folded tortillas

Steaming tacos al vapor courtesy of El Jaguar

A plastic plate filled with tacos al vapor and smothered with salads and salsa

Best eaten on a plate with the additional salads and salsas

For some genuine old-school family-run breakfast fayre, An’ca Carmen is another great choice. It’s an unassuming place. And, to be fair, don’t expect to be greeted with smiling faces. However, we were drawn in by the aroma of the blue corn tortillas that were gently griddling on a cast iron comal beside the entrance. And by the guisados (stews) bubbling inside a row of clay pots as we walked inside.

Their menu includes a dozen variations of enchiladas (including Enchilada Mineras) and a selection of tlaycoyos – thick corn dough tortillas stuffed with cheese, chicharron, refried beans or fava beans and topped with green or red salsa.

Blue corn tortillas on a cast iron comal

Blue corn tortillas grilling on a cast iron comal – An’ca Carmen

In addition to Las Güeras, there’s another place we’d recommend for breakfast gorditas. Situated opposite Jardín El Cantador, it would have been very easy for us to miss Gorditas Doña Cecy had it not been for the 20-strong queue of people waiting for a seat to become available inside. Unlike An’ca Carmen, this place was a hive of activity due to the fast turnaround of customers. We decided not to wait for a free table and ordered our gorditas to-go, eating them on a bench just to the side of the entrance.

They’re also well-known for their café de olla – Mexican coffee spiced with cinnamon, cloves and star anise, and served in a clay pot. However, our coffee of choice was at Café Tal, where they roast their own beans. And, if you’re feeling a little indulgent, they do a silky smooth Beso Negro (“black kiss”) – a shot glass-sized cup of velvety, hot chocolate (sort of a chocolate version of an espresso coffee).

Speaking of cafés, Guanajuato’s undisputed one to be seen at is Santo Café, mainly because of its couple of tables perched on a small bridge above a busy pedestrianised street. We didn’t eat there but it features in all the usual travel guides.

A bridge crosses a narrow pedestrianised street with a couple of tables and chairs on top

Santo Café

And, finally, for a very inexpensive breakfast on the go, head to Empanadas MiBu and try one or two of their superb empanadas, which come in both savoury and sweet varieties. Hands down our favourite was the one filled with shredded chicken and mole rojo (a spicy, red mole).

The best tacos in Guanajuato

There are so many taco stalls and taquerias in Guanajuato that we probably only scratched the surface of what’s available. But we bravely took on the challenge of seeking out some of the best ones in town.

Such as El Paisa (and its sister taqueria next door, El Paisa 2), opposite Mercado Hidalgo. Always busy, it’s a typical no-frills Mexican joint serving fabulous and ridiculously cheap tacos filled with the likes of chorizo, bistec and cabeza (meat from the roasted head of a cow). Their complimentary chilli and pineapple salsa is to die for, too.

​However, if cabeza meat seems like a step too far for you, we’d recommend you head along to Pacifico Surf for some seafood tacos. You can normally choose from fish, shrimp or coconut shrimp. And they do special deals for a plate of three, which goes down very well with a bottle of ice cold beer. Better still, there’s a free salad bar to load up on. Including a searingly hot green habanero sauce.

We could be mistaken, but we think there’s a connection between this place and La Vela Seafood, near to the funicular station. Both have a surfboard themed decor. And at La Vela, they also do tacos filled with smoked marlin or octopus. Disappointingly, though, the habanero sauce came in a branded bottle.

Fish tacos on a plastic plate

Fish tacos at Pacifico Surf

Meanwhile, on the other side of town and heading towards La Presa reservoir, Taqueria el Sazón Oaxaqueño’s arrechera (skirt steak) and tacos al pastor were amongst the best we had in Mexico. Once again, it’s a busy place and you may need to wait outside until a table becomes free.

But, of course, there are plenty of taco stalls around where you don’t have to wait for a seat. There’s a great one which sets up at night in Plazuela de Baratillo. We didn’t catch the name of it. And we don’t know if it’s there every night or just weekends. But it’s worth looking out for.

However, for us, the best tacos in Guanajuato can be found at Tacos Juan, a super-clean taco stall just along the road from Plaza de Alhoniga. Once again, it’s only there in the evenings and we only stumbled across it by chance. But their chorizo taco loaded with a variety of salads and salsas was superb. And their giant quesadillas were big enough for two.

A large quesadilla cut in half

A monster quesadilla at Tacos Juan

For something a little different from the usual taco fillings, there are a couple of small eateries just off Plaza de la Paz that are worth a mention  – although we didn’t get around to trying them ourselves. La Cochi Loka serves Yucatecan-style tacos filled with cochinita pibil – suckling pig marinated in bitter orange and achiote, then slowly baked underground. Better still, you can try their very own panuchos – small deep-fried tortillas stuffed with refried beans and topped with cochinita pibil, salsa and pickled cabbage.

And next door, Birria Club’s tacos feature that other deliciously slow-cooked, marinated meat dish, birria – this time hailing from the state of Jalisco.

You can find out more about Mexico’s huge variety of tacos and their fillings in our Beginner’s Guide.

Some other recommendations

Here’s a roundup of some of the other places in Guanajuato where you can find great food.

At Mercado Hidalgo you’ll find plenty of cheap food choices. Inside, the hot food stalls (including where we had our guacamaya) are concentrated in one area. And outside, a two-story row of simple restaurants vie for your attention.

We’ve already lauded Plazuela de Baratillo for its food choices. But another reason for going there is to try a plate of guiso (stew) with all the trimmings at Guisos de Doña Botes, a stall that sets up every afternoon in a small alleyway opposite the Xocola-T chocloate shop.

Meanwhile Plaza de los Angeles is a busy square where food stalls pop up at weekends. Look out for the tamale vendor (we didn’t catch the name) during the evening – if he’s there just jump in line (there’ll undoubtedly be a queue) before he sells out. They’re amazing. And, just along the road, crowds of people gather around a stall where huge amounts of toasted corn are scooped from what look like huge overturned metallic bin lids and served in a paper cone.

Behind the plaza, a steep alleyway leads up to the El Pipila monument, Guanajuato’s most popular viewpoint. Not surprisingly, there’s a raft of food stalls behind the monument to cater for the crowds of domestic tourists.

Plaza de San Fernando is a pretty square featuring a clutch of restaurants with outside seating. La Clave Azul is a gorgeous old bar tucked away just off the square. With free tapas served with your drinks between 2 and 5:30 pm (Tuesday to Friday) you can easily spend a long afternoon in there! Really good tapas, too, which change with each order of drinks.

A row of restaurants with outside seating

Plaza de San Fernando

Jardin Embajadoras is home to another market area with food stalls offering tacos and gorditas. We’ve heard good things about long-established Gorditas Doña Martha, so we’ll be sure to pay it a visit next time.

As we’ll do with the food trucks at Presa de la Olla. They normally operate every Saturday from 2 pm onwards and feature a row of trucks offering everything from tacos to pizzas and burgers.

Finally, you may have noticed we haven’t included any recommendations for a “fine dining” Guanajuato restaurant? That’s because we haven’t tried any yet. Although we have a number of them flagged for our next visit – such as Mestizo, Costal Cultura and Los Campos. And we’ll be sure to update this post once we have.

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Final thoughts on the best places to eat in Guanajuato

Apart from the rare exception, Guanajuato’s food scene is traditional Mexican fayre, served in modest surroundings and usually ridiculously good value for money.

As you can probably tell, we loved it. Even if it suffers in comparison to that of nearby San Miguel de Allende, with its upmarket restaurants and cocktail bars. But, for us, the raw authenticity of the place is what sets it apart. Unlike San Miguel, it caters primarily for locals and domestic tourists rather than for an international audience.

And that’s just perfectly fine with us.

Mercado Hidalgo

Good for Guacamaya

An'ca Carmen

Good for breakfast and Enchiladas Mineras

Enchiladas Doña Lupe

Go for Enchiladas Mineras

Gorditas Las Güeras

Go for gorditas filled with a variety of guisos

Vamos con Lalo

Go for breakfast in rustic surroundings

Los Huacales

Go for breakfast or lunch and work your way through the menu!

Nota Negra Bar

Go for the fruit smoothies – especially the jugo verde

Tacos al Vapor el Jaguar

Go for tacos al vapor at breakfast

Gorditas Doña Cecy

Go for gorditas

Café Tal

Go for home-roasted coffee or a beso negro (“black kiss”)

Santo Café

Go “to be seen”

Empanadas MiBu

Good for empanadas with various fillings

El Paisa & El Paisa 2

Go for tacos with their pineapple and chilli salsa

Pacifico Surf

Go for their coconut shrimp tacos

La Vela Seafood

Go for the smoked marlin or octopus tacos

Taqueria el Sazón Oaxaqueño

Go for their chorizo tacos

Tacos Juan

Go for any taco or the giant quesadilla

La Cochi Loka

Go for Yucatecan cochinita pibil tacos and panuchos

Birria Club

Go for birria tacos

Guisos de Doña Botes

Go for guisos (stew) with all the trimmings

Plaza de Los Angeles

Go for weekend tamales

La Clave Azul

Go for free Mexican tapas with every drink during Happy Hour (2 till 5:30 Tuesday to Friday)

Gorditas Doña Martha

Go for gorditas

Food Trucks La Presa

From 2 pm every Saturday

Jardin Embajadoras

Go for gordita and taco stalls

What did you think?  Do you have any recommendations on places to eat in Guanajuato? Or perhaps you’re planning to visit in the near future? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.

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You don't have to spend much or travel far to find the best places to eat in Guanajuato - here's our guide on what to eat and where you'll find it

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Hi, we're Ian and Nicky, an English couple on a voyage of discovery around the world, and this blog is designed to reflect what we see, think and do. Actually, we'd like to think it also provides information, entertainment and inspiration for other “mature” travellers, too. So please feel free to pour yourself a glass of something suitably chilled and take a look around.

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