MEXICO FIELD REPORT: I won’t be back at Guelaguetza for any more of the Cup, not because it isn’t a fan-tab-u-lous place, but because it is SO good that it drew a massive crowd. Doors were to open at 6 a.m., so that’s when I arrived; to find a great big line from the back door stretching halfway down the block. People had been queueing up since at least 5 a.m. When patrons began to get let in, I was practically amazed at the excellent if not remarkable management the venue engaged in expediently and politely getting everyone seated and situated. I was just about the last person to get a seat; I lucked out. I reckon being solo had a lot to do with that.
Hankering for a hot chocolate, I ordered theirs, made with milk (you can also get it made with water); it did not have any cinnamon or other spicing that “Mexican hot chocolate” usually has. I also ordered a lemonade, and that was the only meal aspect which was sub-par. It was that same funky-tasting pre-fab stuff that comes out of a plastic jug, and manufactured by restaurant supply companies. I can never figure out why 4-star restaurants like Guelaguetza and Farfalla serve this c–p as their lemonade. I was able to order an a la carte chile relleno. When it arrived I was surprised it did not have tomato sauce on it, like the full combo described on the menu did. I took one bite of it, and – WOW! HOT! Meaning, spicy! Theirs contained a green chile much higher on the Scoville scale than the usual pasilla or Anaheim used in rellenos. Each bite stung, but not in a bad way. The internal cheese was far from the usual Jack; it was something dense, bright white, mild. I dug it. This was a chile relleno experience I’d love to come back for. My entree was alambres. This was small thick slices of beef, hot-sauteed with red/orange/green bell peppers and sliced onions, served with 4 corn tortillas; similar to fajitas, except it had a blanket of “molten” (melted) cheese on top. The spicing was wonderful. The portion was mucho grande; it looked like a double-serving. Plates at Guelaguetza are like this. I looked all around me, and saw everybody had similar giant plates and way too much food for them to consume this early in the morning. Ha! Many to-go boxes were filled at Guelaguetza today, including by me.
Service was fast and, under the circumstances of a house so full that all tables were filled, the bar area was packed and more people were standing all along the back wall, I’d rate the staff as impeccable.
When the game commenced, the crowd as a whole suddenly quieted down to a near hush. I found this almost fascinating. Whereas with other big crowds they keep chatting out loud during the game, albeit about the game, the predominantly-Mexican folk at Guelaguetza ceased banter to focused intently on the game itself. This big quietness was a revelation. It said something profound to me about the Mexico fans, and what their team means to their culture.
Of course they did cheer like crazy when their 2 goals were scored!
If you don’t mind the wait, Guelaguetza’s a terrific and muy recommendable experience. But for a seat, make a reservation a week in advance or get there as a walk-in and into line more than 2 hours ahead of opening time. Otherwise you’ll stand.