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Puerto Vallarta Rec.s

Simon Lewinson

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Street carts! They are all over the downtown area, especially as you get back in the neighborhoods in the romantic quarter, I think it is called - south of the river that bisects the city. I was there about a year ago and the only memorable meal we had in a restaurant was at Cafe des Artistes which is upscale, modern Mexican. But we ate at several taco carts and snack carts and had great food. On the bus trip up to the botanical gardens we got fresh cut papaya from a lady on the side of the road, and ate oysters on the beach downtown. The food at some of the little beach restaurants was good too - not life changing, but we stuck to things like guacamole, chips & salsa and emapanadas and were fine.

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If you want a real Mexican foodies experience in Puerto Vallarta then follow a couple simple rules:

1) If the place has Chips & Salsa or Burritos... keep walking

2) Stay away from "International Cuisine" type places (which is what proliferates in the tourist areas... joints that have a few pasta dishes, CA style salads, surf & turf interspersed with Mexican dishes etc.,)

For regional cuisine here are the dishes you are looking for:

Ceviche de Mojarra (Diapterus peruvianus) or Pulpo (Octopus)

Albondigas de Camaron or Pescado (A soup of Shrimp or Fish balls & seasonal veggies in a moderately spicy, red broth)

Pozole de Camaron (Shrimp & Hominy soup, spicy red broth, shredded raw cabbage, radishes, oregano & squeeze of lime)

Birria de Pescado (Very meaty white fish such as shark stewed in a thick broth of several dried chiles, herbs such as oregano, thyme, marjoram & sweet spices such as cloves, allspice etc.,)

Crema de Ostion (Pureed Local smoked oysters, tequila & potato soup)

Pescado a la Talla (Whole butterflied fish with choices of various species.. basted with a dried chile sauce and gently grilled in a basket about 3 feet above the mezquite fire)

Camarones al Tequila (Shrimp sauteed in Tequila butter sauce)

Camarones a la Diabla (Shrimp sauteed in a Arbol chile - garlic butter sauce)

Coco Relleno (Baked Green Coconut stuffed with Shrimp, Langoustines various Fish etc.,)

Enchiladas de Camaron en Chilacate (Shrimp stuffed, maroon sauce enchiladas made with the local Chilacate chile)

A very good place to sample these & other Mexican riviera seafood dishes is at a little neighborhood restaurant called Los Pajaritos on Camichin near Avenida Serdan.

For landlocked traditional dishes of Jalisco (Goat Birria, Pork Pozole, Carne en su Jugo, Pollo Guadalajara, Costillas con Calabacitas, hand made Gorditas stuffed with Cactus, Beans or Pork Rinds etc.,) head to Cenaduria Celia located at Lazaro Cardenas #506 in Colonia Emiliano Zapata

A favorite among local, ordinary Middle Class families is Asadero Sonorita specializing in Sonora style Parilladas (heaps of grilled Skirt, Ribeye, Top Sirloin, Bone In Chuck steaks, Pork Intestines, grilled Chorizo, Mexican spring onions, Cactus paddles, blackened whole tomatoes, spicy bean soups & hand made tortillas etc.,) located at Francisco Villa # 1501 at the Fraccionamiento Fluvial Vallarta developement

If you are interested in the phenomenon of Restaurant Chains.... Mexican chains generally serve very respectable food in comparison to the their North American counterparts... they typically cook everything from scratch at each franchise.. hands down the Chains serving ordinary working Mexicans typically have food that is much better than what you would get at the Resorts & Tourist traps... here are some local chains to try:

100% Natural... based in Mexico City this chain serves a smorgasbord of Local and/or Organic and/or Vegetarian foods... a lot of the standard menu overlaps heavily with lame North American chains like California Pizza Kitchen, Wolfgang Express etc., but their daily specials can be impressive... I've had things like Huitlacoche & regional Goat Cheese stuffed Quesadillas made from heirloom Blue Corn, Venison loin with Pumpkin Seed Mole and freshly made Cactus-Pineapple juice etc.,

Pollo Pepe... based in Guadalajara it is like a superior version of Pollo Loco

Sanborns... Pan-Mexican chain with local specialties

Ah before I forget... the regional desserts par excellence are the Jericalla which is kind of like a Creme Brulee, Flan de Coco and Dulce de Mango (kind of like a Mango Mousse)

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Hola amigo!

;-) We spent 10 days in PV in March and loved it (we go there every year; for about 10 years running now). Some of the places we visited this trip, and places I would go back:

Daquiri Dicks

We consider Daquiri Dicks a "must go"......keep in mind..for us...it is tradition! It is traditin that we go on Sunday for lunch (we always arrive on Sat). Their margaritas are soooooo good; two of their small ones tend to be just enough. The food is very good too. Try the fish taco's with "Kick Ass" yellow mole, or amazingly enough....the simple grilled fish sandwich (my favorite). The last time I was there I had the mahi mahi wrap which was very good. The nibbles (chips, pico) are delicious. They also have a cookbook you can buy (I think you can get it from Amazon as well ... "Sand in your Shoes"

No Way Jose

This is the first time we tried this place and it is a bit off the beaten path (that we are used to). The name is Soooo Corny! But the prices were more reasonable that most places and I'd defintiely go back. They tend to get good reviews - try the Chiles En Nogada - yum!

Cafe Des Artistes

I took my wife here for her birthday as this is a "big name" place. And it was very good, but a bit pricy. The food and prep was spot on. We ate in the garden and they brought a special birthday dessert creation.

Casa Isabell

This was a fun place in the hills and we met Isabell the owner there. A charming (British?) woman with TONS of stories. She was genuinely having a blast! Pretty good place, decent prices.

Blue Shrimp

I like this place. I know it is a bit of chain (across from Daquiri Dicks), but I LOVE shrimp and they serve it up well here. Their shtick is SHRIMP, and differnet preparatins, buy kilo ad specify the preparation. We both agreed good eats.

River Cafe

We usually go here once a trip, and the food is pretty good. The setting is pretty nice and it's right next to the river (duh...hence the name!).

Si Senor

This is a sister restaurant to the Blue Shrimp. During one of our afternoon strolls we ate on their beachfront. They specialize in tableside guacomole and their food was pretty good for lunch.

La Palapa

Although we did NOT go there this time, we have been there many times. We had an AWESOME meal on the beach there in 2011 and some of the best Mexican wine I've ever tasted. When we had the tuna tartar, it was the BOMB.

"My Tony's" "La Familia" in Mismaloya - although we didn't go there this trip, normally we like to go there. This is a strange little place (but like 3 stories, with sand on the floor on the 2nd and 3rd floors) in Mismaloya. For fun, we usually take the bus there, get off at the Misamloya stop and walk the rest of the way. When we've gone, there is no menu, instead they come out with a platter of fish, chicken, and shellfish and describe the day's preparation for each. The ingredients change depending on the catch. What a fun place! Roosters crowing the crowded backyards of neighbors, what a blast! The owner came by more than once to offer shots of Racilla - this is basically "moonshine" made from the green (not blue) agave. Makes you see colors.... ;-)

Beach food

Marlin and shrimp on a stick - I tried both for the first time in 10 years against the advice of my in-laws. I survived! I thought the shrimp were a PITA and really not worth the effort. I mean, they were ok...but to peel shrimp on a stick...just not convenient enough for me (such a gringo!). On the other hand, the marlin was really good and I would highly recommend it. Now...what I did...was not to buy these from a guy walking around the beach for who knows how many hours carrying this stuff...but rather found the source charcol grill on the beach..and then waited until a fresh batch was on the grill and bought those. It was like $2 for 3 hunks of marlin...and very tasty.

One of the guests that were staying with us was really, really big on the oysters, although we never got a chance to try them. He's a surfer dude and was raving about them.

Anyway, these may not be hidden gems, but are places that we liked.

Have a blast, we love PV!!!


P.S. I blew it this year, but I heard about a cooking class are Arte Culinario...they take you to the market and then do a cooking class. But I didn't book mine prior to the trip and missed out. Next year I'll go for sure.

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