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Take a Trip to the Beach - Without Leaving Guadalajara

Updated: May 10

Even with the newly opened stretch of highway between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta reducing travel times to the coast, it still isn't all that close when you're hit with a mid-week craving for fresh fish tacos.


If you can't spare the time for a genuine beach getaway, I've got the next best thing for you.


The best fish tacos in Guadalajara
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Three restaurants we dine in regularly occupy a low-key, four-block stretch of Paulino Navarro in Colonia Los Maestros, sandwiched between Colonia Seattle and Colonia Tepayac, Zapopan.


Because they're a proverbial stone's throw from Zapopan's massive Mercado del Mar, they specialize in preparing fresh-caught mariscos in the regional styles of Nayarit, Sinaloa, and Baja.


All fly under the "foodie" radar (read: no tourists in sight, and hardly any expats) and are so good they may trick your palate into believing you've been magically transported to the beach.


Punta Ensenada


This is hands down our favorite place in all of metro Guadalajara to eat fresh mariscos. We visit Punto Ensenada at least once a week (sometimes more) as we're fortunate to live a few blocks away.


The best fish tacos in Guadalajara
Tacos de camaron adobado at Punto Ensenada.

Since they've settled into their new digs on Paulino Navarro, it's much easier to land a table. (though it still gets jammed on weekend afternoons)


Honestly, you can't go wrong ordering at Punta Ensenada -- but our favorite dishes are the tacos de camaron adobado and tostada de sashimi atún.


The camarones are bathed in an earthy mixture of chile and garlic, then grilled to perfection and served with fresh herbs in a flour tortilla.


Sashimi atún is prepared with a lime, tahini, jicama, cilantro, and green pepper salsa that's as addictive as it is unique. Trust me, you will devour an entire stack of tostadas to clean this plate.


In springtime, Ensenada also offers a ceviche peruana with fresh mango that is to die for. No matter what you order, a salsa bar awaits if you feel compelled to jazz things up even further.


Punta Ensenada also creates house salsas under the brand La Choza, which are available on every table and for purchase.


The beer selection is limited, but Punta Ensenada mixes up the most delicious agua frescas, with the hierbabuena-piña (mint-pineapple) concoction my favorite.


Beyond the exceptional food, we're hooked on Ensenada's chill music, bohemian vibes, friendly service, and marine-themed murals.


One recent addition is their pet duck, who roams the dining area and counts tacos de pulpo among his favorite dishes. (we confirmed)


Punta Ensenada recently underwent a big expansion from the original hole-in-the-wall they used to occupy, which concerned me for its potential to impact quality. In the end, there was no need to worry -- these guys are still on top of their game.


Our bill normally runs $150-175 MXN per person before tip, unless we order extra food to go (which happens a lot).


Barra Fria

Located 1 1/2 blocks east of Punto Ensenada, Barra Fria is the "new kid" in the 'hood.


You'll know they're open for business when the truck is parked out front and the grill is smoking. The truck functions as the "beach bar" and oyster shucking station, with a huge grill alongside. Inside, there is a full kitchen and additional seating.


Family-run, the vibe at Barra Fria is young and hip, with music videos blaring from inside and large groups often occupying the outdoor sidewalk tables on toasty afternoons.


Ample cover overhead from a Fiddle-leaf Fig tree keeps the outdoor dining area shady most of the time.


Puerto Vallarta Food & Mixology Tour

Camarones and ostiones zarandeados (grilled shrimp and oysters) are the specialties here, as are the enormous bowls of spicy aguachiles, ideal for sharing.


For the uninitiated, "zarandeado" is a roughly 500-year-old style of grilling fish that originated in the state of Nayarit on the Pacific coast.


In a zarandeado preparation, the fish is typically sliced down the middle and then grilled over hot coals. It's a simple method that yields extraordinary smoky goodness.


Dishes like these call for caguayamas of beer to share, or red fruit and citrus agua frescas, which arrive in hefty liter-size glass mugs.


Be forewarned -- Barra Fria does not accept credit cards. Cash or electronic transfers only. Our bill is typically around $250 MXN per person before tip.


Punta Aguachile


This place is perpetually jammed on weekend afternoons with Tapatios in search of tasty beach cuisine. Fortunately, they also recently expanded, building a second story on top of the patio, expanding their already ample space on Paulino Navarro.


Punto Aguachile can be a great choice when it's brutally hot outside. (like right now!) Their warehouse-like indoor space is dark and cool under a handful of whirring ceiling fans.


Their kitchen cranks out an extraordinary array of tacos, tostadas, ceviches, quesadillas, aguachiles, and pescados zarandeados to a steady stream of couples, families, friend groups, and the occasional businessmen.


PA's menu is vast, and we find ourselves continually exploring. Our top recommendations include tacos especial with a mixture of shrimp, octopus, and tuna in an adobado salsa on a bed of avocado and cilantro, tacos de pulpo, and the Nayarit-style camarones zarandeados (once again), blending chiles, garlic, and tomatoes that light your palette on fire.


Unsurprisingly, PA also offers an extensive selection of aguachiles, though I find them demasiado picante (too intense for my North, North American palette). But for those who like it hot, this is the place to let it rip.


If you need an icy cerveza to recover, Punto Aguachile offers the usual suspects, along with the 3Ms -- micheladas, margaritas, and mojitos -- to keep the buena onda flowing. With a full bar and substantial tequila lineup, PA has the most ambitious bar program of the three restaurants covered here.


Our bill at Punto Aguachile typically runs $250-$275 MXN per person before tip.


Mexico City Taco Tour on a Bike

NOTE: All three restaurants have dog-friendly patios, though Punto Ensenada's pet duck is no fan of dogs, as my pup Diego learned the hard way.


How to get here


Take a bus, Uber, or a taxi from Guadadlajara to Zapopan Centro, then grab a bike from the MiBici station located where Aurelio Ortega meets Juan Pablo II.


Cruise down the bike path until you reach the MiBici station at Aurelio Ortega and Francisco Mora. Park your bike and walk one block north to Paulino Navarro. If headed to Ensenada, turn left and look for the "Mariscos" sign. If headed to Barra Fria or Punto Aguachile, turn right.


Alternatively, you could take a stroll east from Zapopan Centro down the tree-lined pedestrian promenade on Aurelio Ortega, turning left on Francisco Mora to reach Paulino Navarro. (about 10 mins)


These options will spare you from a car ride on washboard-like cobblestones that may wreck your appetite before you arrive.

 

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Resources: Punta Ensenada, Paulino Navarro 555, Los Maestros, Zapopan, 1-6 PM, Closed Mon.

Barra Fria, Punto Navarro 591, Los Maestros, Zapopan, 1-6:30 PM, Thurs - Sun only.

Punto Aguachile, Paulino Navarro 1479, Los Maestros, Zapopan, 10:30 AM - 6:30 PM Daily.

Mercado del Mar, Prol. Pino Suárez 925, El Vigía, 45140 Zapopan, 7 AM - 4 PM Daily.




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May 06

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