Puerto Vallarta, Mexico feels like a quiet European town with a Latin-American soul. The city is a costal city with layers of Spanish influence and maritime history. Lacking modern high-rises and large resorts, Puerto Vallarta boasts a historic downtown with Spanish-influenced architecture complete with red roof tiles and a moderate climate.
Puerto Vallarta also boasts a buzzing food scene. Drawing influences from all around the world, you can find authentic tacos, hand-made Italian pasta and Lebanese-style spit-roasted pork all within a walkable radius. Top the food scene off with beach-side views of the sunset and you can’t ask for more. Here are some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
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When this restaurant opened its doors in 1957, it was the only restaurant in the area on the beach. Hungry patrons made their way to La Palapa for the live music and fresh seafood. Today, the live music and fresh seafood part hasn’t changed.
La Palapa is a fine dining experience right on the beach. The open-air seating grants gorgeous views of the sunset with you dinner. Breakfast is equally as good and there’s no need to get up early, in Puerto Vallarta breakfast doesn’t usually start until around 10a.m.
Try the huevos rancheros: fried eggs over a corn quesadilla, cheese, guacamole, cream, beans and topped off with a mild red sauce. There isn’t much of a better way to start the morning.
It is common in Puerto Vallarta to create a restaurant space by making a roof in between buildings or alcoves. Coco’s Kitchen is one such example. There is open air seating and seating in a lush interior courtyard.
Coco’s Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch. It’s hard to choose just one item but if pushed, the Chili Relleno omelette is a good choice. Chili Relleno is usually a dinner item but it has been remade into an omelette as a cheese stuffed chilli inside an omelette covered with red sauce and melted cheese. It’s a filling way to start your day.
This restaurant is off the beaten path. Los Lirios is a fonda, a small mom and pop joint run out of a converted living space, which in this case is a covered open-sided patio in the owner’s house.
There is no sign to mark Los Lirios and the patio is hidden by foliage, making the restaurant difficult to find but it’s worth the hunt. Los Lirios fills up around 2p.m. for lunch. The burritos, tacos and seafood are all delicious and budget friendly choices.
Mariscos Cisneros translates to “seafood of Cisneros” and this small joint’s specialty is seafood tacos. You can fill up on delicious seafood on the cheap. $18 in U.S. currency will feed about 3 people with drinks. The seating is limited, this is another off-the-beaten path lunch spot, but you can’t beat the prices or the taste. Be careful about the house-made hot sauce on the tables, it’s more spicy than American palates are used to.
No, “Takos” isn’t misspelled and yes, you need to go to this taco stall. Every day around 5p.m. 3 metal garage doors roll open and Panchos Takos starts serving up tacos. The line is wrapped around the building well before the doors open. Show up early or pop in late, the tacos are great for sobering up at the end of night out.
There are tacos of all kinds but the hidden gem here is tacos al pastor. Tacos al pastor, a dish brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, is made by roasting layers of thinly pounded pork on a spit. At Panchos Takos, the spit is topped with a pineapple. The pork is sliced off the spit, followed by a slice of pineapple onto a tortilla and then topped with onion and cilantro. For the brave who like things spicy, try the orange habanero sauce.
Cuates y Cuetes
This unassuming beach bar is locally referred to as “C. C.’s” There is live music and drink specials including 2-for-1 margaritas and beer buckets. The menu has all of the staples and you can watch the sunset during dinner.
The real fun about this spot however is the location. Cuates y Cuetes is located next to the most iconic pier in Puerto Vallarta, Los Muertos Pier. You will lose track of time as you eat and people-watch the multi-cultural crowds getting on and off water taxis and strolling the pier.
Vitea is located on Puerto Vallarta’s main malecon or boardwalk. The cuisine is influenced by the European Rivera with a robust wine selection. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Vitea is a good dinner spot if you’re looking to get away from tacos and quesadillas.
The seafood ravioli is delicious as is the snapper. Even though Vitea is not directly on the beach, the view of the pacific is breathtaking. People watch and enjoy the view and food.
If you need a red-meat fix, this is the place to go. Florios is a mix of Argentinian and Italian cuisine. This restaurant leans more towards upscale dining but the food is filling and the building is in what is called the “Iconic Zone,” the historic area of downtown that is centered around the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The pizzas are a treat but for a filling dish, try the beef carpaccio.
The specialty here is in the name: Tapas. Go for dinner and watch the sunset and bring a few friends, the best way to eat here is to order several tapas dishes. Bacon-wrapped dates, house-made breads and fresh seafood are only a few of the delicious tapas dishes. The paella is exceptional in both the traditional form and the vegetarian version. Bring a lot of friends and order a lot of food.
Named after the owner and chef, Ortensia serves up authentic Italian food. The woman that runs the show, Ortensia, moved from Italy to Puerto Vallarta and brought her favorite Italian dishes with her.
The wood oven pizzas and house made pasta are solid choices. The spaghetti and meatball dish is a step up from most American versions of the dish. The meatball is as big as a baseball and filled with mozzarella cheese. To top it all off is an Italian wine selection that pairs well with the food at this authentic Italian spot.