Sampling local cuisine is one of the high points of travel for me. I love sleuthing out regional dishes, trying local delicacies, and learning about the culture of a people by enjoying their food. It satisfies my curiosity and that rumbling in my belly.
In Guadalajara, Mexico, fast food is a good choice. Not the unhealthy, deep fried kind of fast food, but good food, served fast, at Karne Garibaldi (website is in Spanish, so try using Google translate to read in English). At this casual, family friendly restaurant, the Guinness Book of Records (1996) entry for the fastest service was set – 13 1/2 seconds to serve a table of six.
How does this work? Well, before you’re even seated a cadre of waiter will bring appetizers to your table. It’s a nice plate of fresh, warm tortillas, served with deliciously sweet grilled onions, refried beans with bits of corn in it (this Karne Garibaldi specialty is available for purchase by the can), and other condiments (chopped green onions, radishes) and salsa. Chips and guacamole are available, but must be ordered separately, and guacamole is not always available. Really, you don’t need it, so just forget about it and concentrate on the yummy goodness in front of you.
Once your seated, the waiters will immediately take your order. They are trained to take your order and get your food out to you ASAP, that’s what they’re known for after all, but if you want a slower, lingering pace, just let them know and they’re happy to oblige. Start off with a cold Negro Modelo, as for it in a frosted mug, and when your waiter returns place your food order.
What should you order? The specialty of Karne Garibaldi is Carne en Jugo (beef in juices), a regional specialty that features roast beef, served in its own broth, to which has been added beans, browned bacon bits, onion, tomatoes, cilantro,and spices. Just order it by the size – small, medium, and large – and before the words are out of your mouth, it will be arriving at your table. A small order is more than ample for an average eater. And if it’s not? Well, the waiters can have another order out to you in a matter of seconds. A medium size order will give you leftovers for the next day, and if you have a place to heat them up, that would be my recommendation. The staff is happy to package everything up for you, and usually includes plenty of extra condiments.
When your meal arrives there are a couple of ways to eat it. Tourists , and there are usually not a lot in the restaurant, tend to scoop the meat out of the juice, drop it into a tortilla, add a few condiments, and eat it like a taco. I ate it that way the first few times because I didn’t really know what else to do. After going to dinner there with some local friends, I’ve learned better, and now eat it like a local. Locals eat is as a soup or stew, adding a variety of condiments to the meat and broth, including the radishes, chopped onions and salsa. Then tightly roll up a tortilla in one hand, eat it as you would a piece of bread, and use a spoon enjoy every bite of the carne en jugo. The grilled onions can also be added to the broth, but are carmelized by the grill and are deliciously sweet eaten plain.
There are a few other items on the menu, including other entrees, but go with their specialty.
Now that you know that fast food can be good food, let’s turn to the service. Fast service can be good service. The waitstaff is not just fast, but also attentive. An empty mug will get a generate a request if you’d like another. When the tortillas, refried beans, or any of the condiments run low, they’ll be replenished without needing to ask. The service is seamless and unobtrusive, however, I like taking the time to chat with the servers and learn about the their favorite things to do in their city. Between my sketchy Spanish language skills and their desire to practice English we seem to figure everything out.
Karne Garibaldi is one of my favorite Guadalajara restaurants. It’s not a tourist restaurant, despite their promoting the Guinness Record. The majority of patrons are locals, and although the staff does not speak much English, the language difference does not create a problem. Dress is casual, although remember that casual by local Mexico standards are different than beach casual. The delicious flavors of your meal will make conversation easy.
Location: Mariano Otero 3019, Zona Plaza del Sol (across the street from Plaza del Sol). There are other locations around the area.
Hours: 11 am – 11 pm, closes at 6 pm on Sunday.
Price: A medium size carne en jugo, a couple beers, and a generous tip will run you less than $10, depending on exchange rate. Credit cards are accepted.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the author
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Mary Jo Manzanares | Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo's top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.