Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Mexico chapter Western Central Highlands has to say about Tlaquepaque:
Tlaquepaque’s main plaza overflows with street-food vendors – look for jericalla (a flanlike custard), coconut empanadas and cups of lime-drenched pomegranate seeds. Just southeast of the plaza, El Parián is a block of dozens of restaurant/bars with patio tables crowding a leafy inner courtyard. This is where you sit, drink and listen to live mariachi music, especially on Saturday and Sunday, but eat elsewhere.
This elegant and sprawling place leans toward fine dining, with a full cocktail bar, refreshing garden patio and a rather stately feel. It’s very popular with Tlaquepaque’s upper crust.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
When our friend and host Adriana suggested that we take a short trip to nearby Tlaquepaque, we were keen to see the town again. In 2008, we had travelled there by local bus in order to see both Tlaquepaque and Tonalá – towns that are packed with local flavour and handicrafts.
It had taken us the better part of the whole day to journey from central Guadalajara to the two towns and back again before dark. With Adriana driving, we were in Tlaquepaque in less than 45 minutes. She maneuvered through the heavy Saturday traffic with expert skill and before we knew it we were walking along the familiar Calle Independencia, a most attractive pedestrian street in the heart of the town.
I had fond memories of an interesting art boutique on the street, and I wondered if it was still operating after so long a time. I was delighted to find that it still existed, and stepped in side to admire the unusual sculptures created by the resident artist.
We were beginning to get a little hungry so Adriana led us to one of her favourite restaurants along Calle Independencia, La Casa Fuerte. We entered through the grand stone archway into an enchanting garden patio, awash in sunlight. A trio was off in one corner, playing live music that reminded us a little of the ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ album. Anil commented that it sounded like Cuban music, and Adriana was really impressed that Anil knew it was a Cuban song.
The menu was an elaborate affair, with descriptions in Spanish of course, so we asked Adriana to order for us – dishes she thought we might enjoy. She ended up choosing two dishes from the appetizer menu and they were fantastic. Before our meal arrived, the waiter placed a basket of bread on our table along with little packets of butter wrapped in fresh cornhusks. They were so cute, I wanted to take a bushel home with me!
The first dish to arrive was bubbling away in a large stone bowl – it looked like a full pound of butter was floating in a sea of green salsa. In fact, it wasn’t butter but a huge block of cheese, which proceeded to soften and disintegrate before our eyes. Adriana showed us how to scoop up the hot, sizzling cheese, along with the salsa verde and envelope it in the soft warm yellow corn tortillas that we nestled in a nearby basket.
While we were getting the hang of dealing with the oozing cheese, our second dish arrived and drew our attention away from the hot stone bowl. A stuffed ancho pepper bathed in a walnut sauce and decorated with melon balls and a sprig of greenery. I was surprised to find it was a cold dish, but it was delicious and ended up being a perfect compliment to the piping hot queso cheese.
We stayed for a short time after finishing our meal in order to relax and enjoy the music from the live band. We would have liked to have a drink with our meal, but because Adriana was driving, we decided to forgo the wine, and have some with our evening tapas, back at Adriana’s condo.
To end off the day, we wandered back out onto the pedestrian street and walked its length, all the way to the large stone bandstand, known locally as El Parián. The restaurants encircling the venue were packed with Mexican families enjoying a Saturday afternoon in the sun. A large mariachi band was playing and a lone singer was serenading the crowd.
We took our cue to leave when the singer paused momentarily between songs. It was a great end to our afternoon in Tlaquepaque, and I pointed out to Adriana that we hadn’t made it all the way to El Parián on our first visit. We had been focused on our second destination, Tonalá, and had given short shrift to the full expanse of the Calle Independencia.