Puerto Vallarta is a magical place for us and over the last twenty years we’ve eaten our way all over the city, from food carts and street stands to five star restaurants like Cafe des Amis. Having just returned from yet another vacation in paradise I thought I’d give a rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
First the good news. Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic restaurant town, catering to nearly anything your heart could desire. My one regret is that I didn’t get to try still more of the intriguing choices. Below a brief review of our favorites followed, sadly, by a couple who just won’t make the cut next time.
Cafe de Olla – Basillo Badillo 168, Emiliano Zapata 48380 Puerto Vallarta (52) 322 223 1626 An enduring favorite of ours, Cafe de Olla is well known for their twice baked potatoes heating on the grill on the sidewalk, their fish bowl size margaritas, and their long lines on a weekend night! Located 1/2 block from the beach in old town, they offer excellent upscale Mexican food and jovial waitstaff. My favorite is the BBQ combo with their delicious ribs and chickens, a big twice baked potato, and, of course, a margarita on the rocks! Terrific salsa and chips to start and we walked away with happy stomachs.
Langostino Locos – On the beach across from the plaza, next to Burros, on the walkway towards the Malecon. We tried Langostino Locos for the first time on this trip and are certainly glad we did. An amusing sidewalk hawker got our attention on a morning walk and the sign advertising a $5 red snapper dinner sealed the deal. Sitting at a table on the beach, toes in the sand, tiki torches and mariachi providing ambiance, and an ice-cold Corona in our hand, we were happy before the food even arrived but wow..it was the best red snapper we’ve ever had. Served whole, dripping garlic butter, and served alongside rice pilaf and salad, it was light, tasty, and perfectly grilled. And, an excellent bargain. Make sure you search it out!
Cafe Roma- Encino # 287, Colonial Centro 48300, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 222 7878 As usual manager Juan Carlos created us at the door with an exuberant greeting! Jim & I discovered this friendly Italian restaurant on our last trip to Vallarta. Located on the 2nd floor, next to the Rio Cuale and about 1/2 block from the main flea market, Cafe Roma has tasty thin crust pizzas, pasta and a variety of salads along with the normal drink options. Try to get a table on the balcony for excellent street side people watching while you enjoy your meal and don’t forget to check their website a week or so after your meal there to see the picture of your group that Juan Carlos is sure to snap.
Coco’s Kitchen – Pulpito 122, Amapas 48399, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 223 0373 Coco’s is so good we ended up eating here twice during our stay. Coco’s is a lovely restaurant featuring an adjoining garden patio and serves a combination of Mexican and Greek food. An interesting twist for a starter, rather than being offered chips and salsa we, were given flat bread and a delicious white bean-garlic dip. Dinner here was one of our best with a beet, goat cheese salad over greens with an amazing Guava vinaigrette followed by their Chicken Ayotli, chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese served with mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables in a tamarind sauce. Another day lunch was lamb gyros with tzatiki and a Greek salad for me and wild mushroom quesadillas for Jim…. all delicious and in a beautiful setting.
Derby City Burgers- 356 Olas Altas, Emiliano Zapata, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 223 3323 Another restaurant that got our business more than once. Derby City is a newish hole in the wall restaurant next to Playa Los Arcos hotel. The restaurant has around 8 tables on the sidewalk (no inside seating) and is nearly always full. With a selection of about a dozen burger options with a side of regular or sweet potato fries, they also offer some salad options. A friendly staff is more than willing to package up your order to go if they’re full and you can’t bear to wait to sink your teeth into one of their juicy burgers.
My Tonys – Mismaloya 554 C 12 De Octubre, Mismaloya (52)322 228 0113 Mismaloya is a small town about 30minutes south of Puerto Vallarta and the bus stop you need to take if you want to visit Zoological Vallarta. Wandering the winding cobblestone streets we had several people advise us to lunch at My Tonys and so, we decided we owed it to ourselves to check it out and wow, so glad we did! Herman, Tony’s son showed us to our 2nd story table overlooking the village before bringing over the “menu” which consisted of a tray overflowing with the days offerings; steak kabobs, shrimp and veggie kabobs, mahi mahi fillets, whole red snapper, and our choice..the shrimp trio. While waiting for Herman’s mom to whip up our lunch, we were brought what was possibly the most delicious guacamole ever made, served with salsa fresca and those wonderful thick tortilla chips of Mexico. The shrimp, or should I say jumbo prawns, were amazing. Two sauteed in garlic butter, 2 stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled, and two crusted in toasted coconut served with a pineapple-mango puree and accompanied by rice pilaf and salad. My Tony’s is not inexpensive but is a truly special experience.
Cafe Bohemio- Rodolfo Gomez 127, Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 134 2436 Our final night in town, dinner was my choice and, based on a suggestion from Al at Twisted Palm, I led la Familia 1/2 block from our hotel to Cafe Bohemio. A packed, laughing restaurant is always a good sign and this proved to be the case here. Sol, the gregarious owner, and Alessandro, our server were fantastic. Entertaining, and customer service oriented, they charmed us completely. Dinner was delicious with amazing Cola-Rum BBQ ribs for Jim and a chicken chimichanga in tomatillo sauce for myself, both proceeded with the included soup of the day. Two-for-one margaritas, a varied menu, and some of the best prices in town won us over and we’re just sorry we didn’t discover this gem sooner. They’re now celebrating their 10th year in business and it’s my bet they’ll be there for another 10!
The Pancake House – Basilio Badillo 289, Puerto Vallarta 48300 (52)322 222 6272 Memo’s Pancake House always gets our business at least once per trip to Puerto Vallarta. A perennial favorite for their colorful, cheerful restaurant and excellent breakfast choices. Excellent eggs benedict, frittatas, and, yes, pancakes, Pancake House also has some of the best fruit smoothies in town.
Dee’s Coffee Company- Rodolfo Gómez, Amapas, Puerto Vallarta We stopped by Dee’s several mornings during our time in Vallarta, quite honestly, due to the proximity to our hotel. Our normal breakfast place had moved a bit further down the road and so for quick mornings Dee’s was our choice. A cute, colorful restaurant Dee’s has a wide selection of coffee drinks, a few sandwiches, but what kept me coming back was the pastry options. Homemade apple pie, muffins, tarts and, best of all, cinnamon rolls, are all made on site and well worth a drop in.
A Page in the Sun- Lazaro Cardenas 179, Emiliano Zapata, 48380, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 222 3608 This is our favorite breakfast spot in Puerto Vallarta and we were saddened to drive down Olas Altas on our way to the hotel to see that it was no longer on the corner across from Playa Los Arcos. We were thrilled a couple of days later to discover they had simply moved a couple of blocks away to a larger location. Part used book store, part coffee shop, Page in the Sun is the place to spend a lazy morning reading while enjoying one of their wonderful coffee drinks, a fruit smoothie and the best breakfast bagel in town, piled high with egg, ham, cheese, avocado, cucumber and sprouts.
Twisted Palm Rooftop Lounge – Ignacio L. Vallarta 228 – 18, Puerto Vallarta 48350 Okay, Twisted Palm is not a restaurant, but we so enjoy spending time here that I had to include it in the good reviews. Al, from Canada, has now been operating in Puerto Vallarta for five years and has a great thing going. A tiny, cute rooftop lounge, Al shows movies on a big screen, has a comfy selection of couches and seating options, and specializes in making a mean martini. It’s a bit difficult to find but it is well worth your time to search him out.
And now, the bad, or rather, not BAD but sadly, not as good as we had hoped:
India Gate – Allende 124, Malecon Centro 48300, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 223 2424 We LOVE Indian food and last time we were in Puerto Vallarta there was a tiny Indian restaurant near our hotel(at the site where Derby City Burgers now resides) offering up a small but delicious selection of Indian food, including an excellent butter chicken. We were saddened to hear that they didn’t make it but then found that India Gate had opened down on the Malecon. Because the restaurant is owned by the same owner as India Gate in Vancouver, BC, we assumed it would be excellent food. Because of the reviews of the wonderful butter chicken, we were anxious to try it out. The restaurant is nice looking and the staff friendly and our food was…good. But, being somewhat butter chicken snobs, we were sadly disappointed. The veggie samosa was average. The naan bread was good, as was the rice. But the butter chicken was merely decent. Although I asked for medium heat and Jim asked for spicy and they tasted the same. The other diners seemed to be relishing their meals and so it may be that we were being too picky, but having eaten butter chicken IN India, on Main Street of Vancouver, BC and being able to make a pretty decent version myself, I must give it just an okay review. (I forgot the camera so you’ll need to imagine the restaurant:)
And finally, the ugly:
Oscar’s- Isla Río Cuale Local 1, Centro, Puerto Vallarta (52)322 223 0789 I am so sad to have to write this report. Oscar’s used to be a favorite on trips to Puerto Vallarta. With one of the best locations in town, Oscar’s sits along the Rio Cuale walkway just past the bridge near the beach. A large, grassy area and beautiful gardens surround the restaurant and an art museum resides upstairs. Although never inexpensive, Oscar’s was always worth it for a splurge dinner. Imagine our shock this time to discover a nearly empty restaurant. It was a gorgeous evening, the sun was setting over the ocean, and the sidewalk was packed with people enjoying the day and we believed we were alone simply because that day we had chosen to have a fairly early dinner. Sadly, the restaurant has simply gone way downhill. In spite of being the only people in the restaurant, service was really slow. I got my glass of wine as ordered but my sister-in-law did not.. When our orders arrived my mother-in-laws plate did not include the risotto as listed on the menu. When we flagged down a server (not the one who took our order) and requested the rice that was supposed to be included he seemed confused and disappeared, never to be seen again. We began eating and around 20 minutes later our original server appeared and, again, we had the missing rice conversation. When it finally appeared, another 20 minutes later, the rest of us had long finished eating and when we said we were not willing to pay for that meal, instead of instantly acquiescing, it required another long departure to discuss it with someone. In the end, four of our five meals were fine; not spectacular and I don’t feel worth the price, but certainly okay. We all understood things happen and the rice got missed somehow, but it was completely unacceptable how it was handled. To have such ridiculous service in an empty restaurant is not right, and certainly not when paying over $20 per person. After our experience we asked several people around town and were told that, yes, for the last couple of years service and food had dramatically declined. It’s too bad. The location and setting is fantastic and it used to be the place to go for a special night out. We, at least, will never be back.
Thats the run-down. More Puerto Vallarta stories are to come as well and a review of our rather interesting experience with our hotel, not to mention our fantastic evening at cooking class! Stay tuned.