Last March, the prosperous city of Guanajuato in Mexico was declared—in Madrid, Spain—the new Iberoamerican Capital of Gastronomy in 2015. Guanajuato is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in the country and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The city is a lovely mining town that owes its fame and fortune to the discovery of rich veins of gold and silver beneath its soil. In ancient times, the area was inhabited by Chichimeca nomadic tribes until 1541 when the Spaniards made their first foray into this territory. By 1570, the town was finally established, and Guanajuato received the title of City from King Philip V of Spain in 1741.
On its own merits, Guanajuato has achieved a global culinary reputation as the place thrives on the combination of traditional Mexican cooking and international haute cuisine. In 2010, Mexican cuisine was recognized as Intangible World Heritage for its variety, different preparations and the use of raw materials of exceptional quality. In fact, Mexican cuisine is one of the most sophisticated in the world as it fuses Mesoamerican and European elements, with marked Spanish, African, Asian, and Middle East influences.
The history of Guanajuato is informed by pre-Hispanic, English and French influences and traditions. This unusual mixture becomes evident in dishes as peculiar as a pumpkin soup with xoconostle, pig’s feet in green sauce, mining enchiladas or dry crackling cakes with avocado. Furthermore, the municipality of San Felipe produces the famous mezcal Jaral de Berrio and the excellent Pénjamo tequila. Nearby in Dolores Hidalgo —the cradle Mexican independence—we have observed an increasing proliferation of rich wineries, including the outstanding Cuna de Tierra, which produces award-winning wines of national and international prestige.
Recommending where to eat in Guanajuato is no easy task, as the city has countless dinning establishements–many of them of great esteem. However, two of its brightest and finest restaurants are Casa Valadez and Las Mercedes.
Casa Valadez, located at number 3 Jardín Union Street in the historic center of the city, is a Guanajuato landmark. The doors of the restaurant first opened in the 1950s, and its tables have hosted illustrious guests such as Queen Elizabeth II of England, Hillary Clinton, and most of the presidents of Mexico. Chef Karla Chapero, a disciple of the prestigious Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, is in charge of the kitchen. Chapero seeks inspiration in Mexican cuisine to create dishes infused with international nuances, and her menus are in a constant state of renewal.
Also in the old part of town, we recommend an inevitable stop at the famous restaurant Las Mercedes, located in Calle de Arriba No. 6. Its cuisine is especially attractive to those who seek modernity and sophistication in a peaceful, tranquil environment. The restaurant serves an interesting menu of traditional Guanajuato dishes—the legacy of several generations—with a contemporary presentation that highlights fresh local ingredients. Not to be missed: the black huitlacoche soup, the banana leaf stuffed with marinated smoked fish, the chili pasilla with cream, or the tender veal chops in a white cheese mole. ■