“We are the best and only gastronomic zone in the metropolitan area,” crows Fouad Lakhdar. “We have restaurants representing ten different countries here.”
Lakhdar has good reason to be proud of the two-kilometer stretch of Avenida López Cotilla where his small restaurant, Morocco Kebab, is located. He was a leader in the business association that interfaced with Jalisco state authorities during the time when the street was turned topsy-turvy for a deep and dramatic makeover.
Morocco Kebab, at almost four years old, is in some ways typical of the area’s eateries, which serve the cuisine of 10 different countries. One establishment, the mid-scale and ever popular La Paloma (serving coffee, drinks, and popular Mexican dishes from morning to night), with 35 years since its founding, has truly deep roots. A few others, such as Entre Dos (French) and Casa Tomás (Spanish – both known for haute cuisine – have been around for a while, but the majority are newer, including some very recent additions attracted by cosmetic and infrastructure improvements that city and state governments have just completed.
While not all the López Cotilla restaurants and bars are upscale, the area offers a far more serene and discriminating atmosphere than the nearby party-hearty Chapultepec zone, which caters to younger, noisier, chicken wing and pizza lovers. By contrast, establishments such as La Funicula and La Moresca, specializing in Italian, fusion or haute cuisine, offer pizza, too, but serve it with both standard and unusual ingredients, such as basil or salmon, along with a good selection of wine.
The improved zone, stretching from Centro Magno shopping center to Avenida Enrique Diaz de Leon (near the soaring Templo Expiatorio), not only boasts public benches in the shade of old and newly-planted banks of trees (many of the spring-blooming, yellow primavera variety), but also abundant trash containers and protected bicycle lanes that are a joy for cyclists.
A usually unobservable improvement was to the drainage system, which leaves López Cotilla flood-free during rains, Lakhdar noted enthusiastically.
“This area is a ‘Zona 30,’” he added, meaning traffic, slowed by frequent speed bumps, cannot go faster than 30 kilometers per hour. “The concept began in France.”
The improved corridor stretches a little to each side of López Cotilla and a bit farther than noted above, and includes beefed-up bike lanes and restaurants other than those strictly on López Cotilla.
Construction was begun under the auspices of the state of Jalisco and concluded in 2015, Lakhdar noted. Then, Guadalajara City Hall jumped in to make dramatic improvements in an adjacent part of the street just east of Chapultepec, which has very few restaurants. This part was finished in August.
Lakhdar pronounces himself satisfied with the results. His only reservation is about overhead power lines. “They’re hardly functioning,” he said, pointing to a profusion of thick and thin cables hanging above our heads, strung haphazardly between poles. “The project has been finished for two years but the lines still haven’t been removed because of a problem with Telmex. Everything else—CFE electricity and cable services—are already underground and working,” he said, indicating a nearby wall with some neat tubes that disappeared below the pavement.
Still, “it’s the best street in the metro area. It’s pretty and has good infrastructure,” he emphasized.
Lakhdar pointed out that an event that was held recently on a street stage at the corner of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra near La Paloma and La Moresca restaurants showcased the winners of a competition for a tequila-based beverage to be marketed under the brand Guadalajara Guadalajara, the name of City Hall’s promotion campaign.
The Lopez Cotilla dining corridor offers a rich variety of eating and drinking alternatives, with Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, French, Irish, Argentinean, Chilean, U.S., Indian, Japanese and British options – 35 restaurants representing 12 countries – all vying for customers along a three-block stretch.