The second largest metropolitan area in Mexico and the capital of the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is big, busy, and beautiful with its art and architecture. It’s fitting therefore that a restaurant in Phoenix named for the Mexican city has similar qualities. From the outside, Comedor Guadalajara looks to be a basic beige box. On the inside, it’s a different story. The restaurant has three cavernous dining rooms, bustling even when operating at reduced capacity during the pandemic and decorated with beaded sombreros and colorful prints on the walls.
Comedor Guadalajara is located on Central Avenue in the shadow of Interstate 17, one of the original Phoenix freeways. Being just north of that thoroughfare and the Salt River, the restaurant is not quite in South Phoenix but clearly on the way there when heading out of Downtown. The location is half a mile south of the future Buckeye/Central light rail station, currently under construction as part of the South Central extension. There are no bike racks, but several posts supporting an awning near the restaurant entrance offer a secure place to lock up.
That entrance is in the back of the restaurant. There is often a wait for a table, especially since Comedor Guadalajara’s hours are compressed to five days a week (closed Monday and Tuesday) and the restaurant ends service early in the evening. The queuing has become more pronounced with fewer people allowed in the three adjoining dining halls. In ordinary times, customers wait inside a foyer to be summoned to their tables. Under current conditions, they sit in a shaded, fan-cooled area outside and receive a text message when seating is available.
Once the wait is over and customers are at their tables, there’s an extensive menu to be studied, along with a few specials listed on whiteboards near the kitchen. While that reading occurs, diners receive a basket of chips and a red salsa for dipping. Unlike at some local restaurants, there is no semi-secret hotter salsa available by request, but the standard one has a pleasing moderate burn. Starting around 11 AM, there’s an additional complementary starter of a small cup of a simple soup containing fideo pasta in chicken broth with minced vegetables.
The breakfast menu, available only until 11 AM, features huevos just about any way imaginable, with chorizo, on top of enchiladas, inside burritos, or even paired with shrimp or steak. On weekends, those options are supplemented with menudo. After 11, breakfast gives way to lunch specials with familiar options like cheese enchiladas, chicken flautas, bean tostadas, and crunchy tacos with a mixture of ground beef and potatoes. Burritos and chimichangas overflow with fillings of chicken or red or green chili beef with the option to upgrade to enchilada style.
Recurring specials for each day of the week are some of the best lunch values. Wednesday brings chicken enchiladas in a rich, nuanced mole sauce with notes of chile and chocolate. Thursday, it’s meatless spinach enchiladas with the usual side of refried beans replaced with calabacitas, Mexican grey squash mixed with corn and cheese. On Friday, large, steaming bowls of cocido de res, beef soup with big chunks of vegetables, are served. Other soups, including chicken, albondigas (meatballs), shrimp, and mixed seafood are available all week.
Seafood is abundant not only in soups, but also in appetizers such as shrimp and mixed seafood cocktails, shrimp ceviche, and raw oysters. It’s also the focus of plated entrees like platters of shrimp, fish, or both in a zesty Veracruz style, a simpler garlic sauce, or a spicier “en diablo” preparation. These entrees, along with land-based entrees like steak picado with a tangy tomato-based sauce laden with pepper, onions, and jalapeños, quickly fill the available table space with accompanying sides of rice and beans and a choice of corn or flour tortillas.
Even more expansive are the parrilladas, platters of mixed meats and seafood served over canned heat to maintain their temperature and designed to be shared among two or more people at a table. When it comes to its meat selections, Comedor Guadalajara’s carnitas are clearly the most indulgent choice. The menu is accurate but unusually frank in describing the dish as “deep fried pork,” and the carnitas make a rich, satisfying filling for the taquitos suaves, a combination entree incorporating three soft tacos on a platter with rice and beans.
Other soft taco fillings include carne asada, chicken, and tripe while shredded beef or ground beef with potatoes are the options for crisp tacos dorados with fried tortillas forming hard shells. The food is hearty enough to make finding room for dessert challenging, but for anyone with the capacity, choices like flan, churros, and fried plantains await on the dessert menu. Comedor Guadalaraja has a liquor license (although no separate bar space) and serves beer and tequilas along with non-alcoholic options like tall, icy glasses of horchata and iced tea.
With the restaurant’s simultaneous emphasis on the seafood associated with the Jaliscan coast and the beef of Mexico’s interior and northern portions, Comedor Guadalajara manages to offer a spectrum of flavors ranging from border familiarity to more adventurous choices, all with consistent quality. The plain building on Central Avenue hides a vast and varied restaurant interior and equally diverse menu. It’s a distance of over 1200 miles from Phoenix to Guadalajara, but Comedor offers a taste of the city only a mile or two from Downtown.
1830 S. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85004
Buckeye/Central Station (under construction)