Impossibly cool hotels, Zacatecan food, and rare mezcal
One of Mexico's most stunning hotels and restaurants is the Hotel Quinta Real, in what is quite possibly the most luxurious bullfight stadium makeover in history (be our guest if you can name another). Guest rooms include private patios but you don't need to stay there in order to have an exquisite dinner outside above the old corrals (decades out of service), looking up at the city's 18th century aqueduct.
Downtown, along a leafy boulevard which doubles as a park, is Café Emilia, a laidback and quiet space where you can enjoy Mexican and international fare day and night, while overlooking the Alameda García Trinidad de la Cadena and its many sculptures. Meanwhile, La Traviata serves up delicious wood-fired pizzas and fresh pastas with indoor and outdoor seating along a narrow, pedestrian-only alleyway. If traditional fine dining is more your style, check out Finca Serrano for excellent cuts of grass-raised beef, Mexican wines, and fresh seafood brought in daily from the Sinaloa coast.
Across the street from the divine, Churrigueresque-style (think “super Baroque”) Catedral Zacatecas church (built between 1729-1772) is the Hotel Santa Rita, immaculately clean, well-styled, and ideally situated to explore the city by foot without wearing yourself out on any of its hills.
While Zacatecas has restaurants to appease herbivores, the cuisine of the north is meat-based. Zacatecas is known for its birria (sheep meat stew); tostadas de cueritos in chile de árbol (pork rinds atop round, crispy tortillas and doused in flavorful and spicy salsa); and enchiladas zacatecas, filled with poblano-seasoned pork loin. Head to the city’s main market, Mercado Municipal El Laberinto, and pull up a seat at one of the food stalls to try the best of it all.
Top the night off with a stop at La Caprichosa Mezcalería, which depending on the evening could be quiet and relatively tame or a raucous fiesta with norteña music and over-indulgence. Zacatecas is a mezcal-producing state, but its mezcal isn’t frequently exported, even across state lines. So take the opportunity to get to know something that everyone should know a bit better... not unlike Zacatecas itself.