México, the land of mañana, a place where ahorita (“right now”) means “I am aware of it; we will get to it, eventually…” So imagine our shock this afternoon when we walked into a restaurant across the street from our hotel in Guadalajara, and before we could even sit down onto our table appears FRESH food: limes, chopped cilantro and onion, chips and salsa, and hot corn tortillas! A waiter showed up with pen and notepad in hand, smiling, asking us for our order, before we had barely sat down!
“What do you have?” I naïvely asked. “Beef cooked in its juice, small, medium or large.” Easy enough. (They do have quesadillas if you don’t want meat, but not much else.) Our small orders showed up in about 20 seconds. We had been sitting for all of 30 seconds, maybe, and we were eating fresh hot food! The slowest part of the process was us. Had we been experienced diners, it would have been a seamless, fluid transaction.
For us it was quite disconcerting. The place, Karne Garibaldi, is evidently pretty famous in Guadalajara, founded in the 1970s and currently with five different locations throughout the city. Since August 31, 1996, they have held the Guinness World Record for fastest service: 13.5 seconds from kitchen to table! This is not a taco stand; it is huge, comprising what are basically three large dining rooms. We didn’t count, but would guess there are sixty tables and seating for a few hundred people. We normally clocked people getting served their main courses and drinks between 30 and 50 seconds, but that’s still pretty darned amazingly speedy!
Remarkably to me, the staff all worked together like a well-oiled machine and, they were happy doing it! The hostesses seat groups of people and stand at the table with their hands in the air as the guests sit down. The side dishes all show up, and a waiter shows up. The waiter runs (literally) the order ticket to the kitchen, and the food and drinks are served lickety split. Other waiters wander around with fresh guacamole or other side dishes you might want to add to the standard-issue salsa, grilled cebollitas, limes, and their famous frijoles con elote (beans with corn). Waiters who are not busy taking orders or serving clear plates from tables. And boy, can they carry the weight! These are heavy pottery dishes! The entire time we were there, we only small smiles and great examples of team work, so often missing in restaurants today. Someone has done a great job instilling a culture of team work and customer service. Even the manager or crew supervisor was pitching in non-stop. Lots of nonverbal communication and staff member helping staff member; it was really fun and beautiful to watch.
Outside the restaurant in Plaza del Sol a line of cars waited a long way down the street for valets to park them, such is the demand on this place. We personally found the meat in its juice a bit bland, but there was plenty of salsa, lime, cilantro and onion to spice it up. And, thankfully, it was meat, not tripe or ears or eyes or…
The menu includes a large variety of drinks (including Greg’s beloved Coke Zero in a BOTTLE!) as well as Mexican desserts (jericalla, pastel mil hojas, flan, mousse de guayaba). Prices are reasonable (see menu at left). The small orders were enough for us as we went home very satisfied. It is only a few pesos more for the next sizes up, so a hungry diner won’t go broke. This is a great place to eat and probably a great place to work.
Just remember, next time someone tells you that Mexicans like to take their time… there are exceptions to every tendency!