Eating Puerto Vallarta on a Budget

Eating well has never been a problem for us in Mexico. The indescribable combination of flavors has drawn us to her shores for decades. That said, one reason we chose to drive the PanAmerican highway is so we would have access to our own kitchen, which has done well by us over the last six months, party to save money and partly because I simply love to cook. However, eating inexpensively in Mexico does not mean never eating out. In fact, eating well in PV runs the gamut of prices.


While Jim and I generally eat out once or twice a day, we tend towards the small ma & pa shops offering inexpensive comida corrida lunches and $2 tortas cubanas, or our favorite taco carts. With visitors in town our lifestyle changed up a bit for two weeks and we were afforded the opportunity to sample more restaurants than ever before.


One joy for us of this town is that, in spite of the growth, the old town has remained much the same over the years. And luckily, many of our favorite restaurants have managed to survive the lean years. Here follows the best of our last couple of months.

Una Familia

This threesome of restaurants gives me a little smile whenever I see their signs. Located right across the street from our apartment, we first thought three restaurants chose the same name. Not so. It turns out the family decided rather than one restaurant serving 3 meals a day, they divided the space into 3 separate restaurants; with their own unique decor and sign out front. The food is good and the prices extremely reasonable with our favorite being a shared comida corrida workers lunch: soup of the day, choice of one of the entrees and served with beans, rice, and tortillas with a giant aqua fresca for 60pesos. How can you go wrong?


Sandy’s Tortas

Sandy’s draws us back again and again. This tiny restaurant is one block from the main cathedral in central Puerto Vallarta and offers up breakfast and a variety of lunch sandwiches. Her cubana torta won us at our first taste. Featuring pulled pork, ham, and sliced hot dogs, the torta piles on cheese, lettuce, jalapeno slices and onions on a toasted roll. Messy and tasty = lunch perfection for 32pesos each.


Del Carboncidos tacos

Oh my, where do I begin? THE best tacos al pastor we’ve found. This taco cart turned into sort of restaurant has delectable al pastor, topped with cilantro and grilled pineapple on a super fresh tortilla. It’s up to you to add your choice of hot sauce and other condiments which are limited but delicious. Our typical order of 7 tacos and 2 cervasas comes to around 150pesos. My mouth is now watering.


Los Muertos Brewery

Okay, okay. I admit to eating here too many times since we arrived. What can we say, we hail from the land of amazing craft beer and, although an ice cold Pacifico on a hot day is dandy, we crave something more. In addition, Los Muertos has excellent pizza and salads and, in light of full transparency, I will say we order pizza delivery once a week. The pies are huge, delicious and a bargain at 180 pesos. Other days we have wandered over to their location to take advantage of their pints. A fun staff, great setting, and good food and beer. Excellent!


La Langosta Feliz ~ The Happy Lobster

I was reluctant to try this restaurant, only because Jim’s mom was told about it by a taxi driver and, silly me, I always assume the recommendation comes from a cutback they receive. Once I checked reviews, however, my mind was eased and after touring the gorgeous Hacienda Escondido, we headed to find happiness. The pros; excellent food! Mom had red snapper in an amazing curry sauce, dad has snapper and filet wrapped in bacon and grilled, I had fantastic shrimp stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon and Jim had lobster. Happy indeed. The margaritas were tasty and the prices reasonable. The only con would be the staff. Sad to say that while they did their job of seating us, taking our order, and bringing us food; beyond that they were mostly useless, never checking back on how things were, refilling water glasses, etc. although this won’t keep us from going back.


La Langosta Loco

Crazy lobster? Well, we didn’t have the lobster but we have eaten here the last couple of times in PV. Set scenically on the beach, this friendly little restaurant has grown up over the years from a “toes in the sand” only to an actual 2-story restaurant along with the tables on the beach. Delicious fresh seafood, great fish tacos, and a lively atmosphere, all steps from the Pacific all at bargain prices.



And more seafood. We stroll past Langostinos, one location down from the pier, several times a day on our beach walks. Super friendly staff, oceanfront location, doggie water waiting by the entrance for Aspen and margaritas that will knock you on off your feet! Everything we have tried is good but the coconut shrimp and location keeps bringing us back. The prices are higher than our normal neighborhood haunts but the location can’t be beat and they’re still extremely reasonable by US standards.


La Palapa

Oh, how I love La Palapa! Although above our everyday budget, we enjoyed breakfast here both on our anniversary and Jim’s parents this year. Gorgeous table settings on the quiet end of Los Muertos beach, La Palapa offers up fantastic food, great service and oceanfront views. A long-time favorite in PV, we will always return!


Los Jarritos

Another neighborhood lunch favorite. This little restaurant has a few tables on the sidewalk, counter seating inside, and a loyal following. It is near the river and the flea market and has our favorite burritos in town for 90 pesos, along with some other delicious offerings.


La Pizzetta

Another perennial favorite in Old Town. I have had dreams of their goat cheese and asparagus salad with grape dressing and their pastas always please. The site of many a family dinner over the years, and our choice on our 20th anniversary back in 2010, La Pizzetta has a lovely little restaurant on a quiet street corner, just perfect for a romantic meal.


A Page in the Sun

A favorite spot for breakfast once a week, A Page in the Sun has charmed us since it was at it’s original spot near Los Arcos hotel. Now in a bigger location near the malecon, they still offer up the best jugo verde’s in town and a huge selection of books to buy and sell.



A new find on this trip. Located near the beach in old town, the relleno’s are fantastic, the margaritas large, and the salsa made to order tableside, a first for us. Most nights a couple of guys play some fantastic guitar music. Be warned; servings are big!


Joe Jacks Fish Shack

I am sad to say that even though Joe Jacks is a bit of an institution here in PV, once again I was not impressed. My mother in law didn’t get her correct order, I never got my 2nd drink, our fish & chips was just okay, and the prices are very high when compared to all the wonderful restaurants we’ve been eating at. It’s always packed, although I suspect more from the name recognition than the food.


La Cigale

Jim’s parents love French food, and in honor of their 60th anniversary we booked a table at La Cigale. A super cute French bistro near the cathedral downtown, I am torn in my review. On the one hand, the staff was lovely, the space very nice, and the food well done. They offered us free champagne for the celebration, and although much more expensive than our normal choices, not outrageous for what we received. Their french onion soup is fantastic, and the chicken cordon bleu one of the best I’ve ever had. And, most importantly, Jim’s parents loved it.


Just around the corner

Every night, rain or shine, the booths set up. Street corn, hamburgers, ice cream, crepes and PIE. Some evenings dinner is a stroll along the malecon sampling dishes here and there for a fun and festive dinner for a few pesos.

DSCN4893We have another month here, and more restaurants to try! I can’t wait.

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4 thoughts on “Eating Puerto Vallarta on a Budget

  1. would be great if you would let us know the specific location of these places…so we could go give them a try..
    my mouth is watering!

    • I was going to add to the post but you can simply google or go to trip adviser for any of them and find the address/map. Go out and enjoy!

  2. Why were you “torn in your review” of La Cigale? Your review seemed to be favorable. Was it the higher-than-normal costs?

    • There were a few issues that weren’t huge but I found off-putting… for instance, we all did their 3-course menu left from Restaurant week and I ordered a salad as my 1st course. I found it overly large, no way was it a starter salad but more of a main, and since I knew more was coming I ate about half of it (even though it was delicious). When the waiter had originally taken our order he mentioned to my mother in law (who was having tuna for her main) that the normal side potatoes wasn’t available and did she want salad? She said well no, because I”m having salad as a 1st course, so the waiter suggested she have vegetables. He then took my order, not mentioning a side or lack of to my puff pastry dish. What comes was another 1/2 plate of salad. So, I only ate half of my first course salad and was presented with another 1/2 plate of salad. A minor thing, and one I decided not worth getting into in the post because overall it was a great evening.. but one of those little details that affects how you view a restaurant.

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