I am many different things, but three of the most prominent of those are an avid researcher, borderline obsessive foodie, and Mexico fangirl. This cocktail means that I arrived back in Mexico armed with an enormous amount of lists, mostly centered around where (and what) to eat in Puerto Vallarta.
Having spent most of my previous time in Mexico based out of Oaxaca, I was prepared for the food to be different. Jalisco is famed for tequila, birria & torta ahogada; quite the change from the lands of mezcal, chocolate, & mole I’d come to know.
To say I was eager was an understatement. Armed with my encyclopaedia-reminiscent lists, and guided by what was nearby in barrio Las Canoas where we were to start our adventure. So in this edition, the restaurants are all around the Emiliano Zapata (Zona Romántica), Centro, and 5 de Diciembre areas.
Without further ado, here are the best restaurants I tried in my first month of Puerto Vallarta.
A Handy Map of Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
In case you’d like to try any of the places mentioned in this post, you can find them all in the map below:
Marisma Fish tacos
I did my research, and Marisma was touted as one of the best fish taco spots in town. This made it one of my first stops after a number of years away from Mexico and yep, I would agree – excellent fish tacos. My favourites still come from Puerto Escondido, but these are a perfectly wonderful alternative.
Marisma has a well priced menu of baja-style fish, and other seafood, tacos – but the real drawcard is the awesome selection of salsas that come along with them. I trotted down in the mid afternoon and was treated to the whole stall to myself – but be warned, this place is popular and I hear amasses quite the queue around mealtimes.
Cuates y Cuetes
We arrived into Puerto Vallarta in search of Chilaquiles – my favourite Mexican breakfast food. I’m still not convinced that anywhere does them as well as Oaxaca, but I was willing to have my mind changed. So, I did my research. Cuates y Cuetes came up as a perfectly excellent choice to not only eat some chilaquiles, but also curl my toes into the sand & hear the ocean lapping whilst I did so.
Since that first visit, we’ve been back here more often than just about anywhere else. The view is amazing, the staff are unbeatable, and they make an excellent margarita. I love to bring guests to Puerto Vallarta here, and continue to recommend it.
Fonda el Cucon
A newcomer to the far, top end of Zona Romantica, Fonda el Cucon was one of the most convenient restaurants to our AirBnB in the Las Canoas neighbourhood. Immediately, we were welcomed like locals. Ever since, we’ve been welcomed back as friends. The food is wonderful, and I cannot recommend this little spot enough. Great for any meal of the day, I am particularly fond of their red enchilada sauce.
Best tacos in town, as it turns out, is a completely subjective thing. But Pepe’s has my vote, every time. I especially love their Hawaiian on a crispy tortilla – just amazing. But so far, nothing we’ve ordered has been disappointing. The el pastor is worth the walk on it’s own. Open late, super quick, always delicious – no complaints from me!
Soco’s place is a small joint on the corner in the riverside corner of Emiliano Zapata. We only went their the one time, so I don’t have a lot to say. But the chilaquiles were great, and that’s all that really matters … right?
River Cafe is always bustling. Maybe it’s the placement right on the Isla Rio Cuale in the heart of the tourist zone, maybe it’s the wonderful live jazz. Most likely, it’s the gorgeous tranquil paradise they’ve created on the edge of the river.
The food here is fine – it’s good, but the real attraction is the atmosphere. Go here for the experience of being here and enjoy a hidden paradise amongst the bustling Centro city area.
Taqueria De Birria El Banquito
El Banquito is a tiny lunch spot in the heart of centro, just off the beaten tourist trail. It quickly became a beloved lunch stop of ours, and now we eat there frequently. They are most known for their (excellent) birria tacos, however the cubano torta is well worth a taste.
We discovered this cute, typical taco stop when looking for somewhere closeby to Vallarta Cowork to eat lunch when we first came to town, and we’ve been back numerous times since. Be prepared to use your Spanish skills here, and don’t miss their awesome agua frescas, too.
After two years away from Mexico, one of the things I felt most in need of was a decent margarita. So, first thing – I got to work quizzing the local expat groups on where to find an excellent margarita.
I gotta be honest – the results were incredibly divisive.
Some people recommended margarita grill for an excellent margarita, the others dismissed it as super touristy and a bit gimmicky. Turns out, I think both are true. In any case, they do make a great margarita & the cochinita pibil is pretty wonderful too.
In search of pozole, my research led me to the base of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and to the unassuming traditional-style El Campanario.
Cheap, delicious, traditional – what’s not to love? I’ve been back plenty since – the pozole is excellent, the comida even better. Also, for somewhere so central, everything is remarkably affordable too. Since that first visit, we’ve continued to return to El Campanario many times.
Joe Jacks Fish Shack
Joe Jacks is an oft recommended dinner spot that popped up onto my radar numerous times. So, for a nice dinner out in the Zona Romantica we decided to check it out.
The upstairs terrace is charming, and the food was wonderful. They mix an excellent cocktail, too. The only downside is that is does get pretty busy in the high seasons, and is generally pretty full of tourists.
Mole de Jovita Vallarta
I’m a self professed Oaxaca obsessive. Mole is one of my favourite Oaxacan delicacies, and despite being in Jalisco I was still keen to track down some delicious Oaxacan cuisine. As it turns out, the opportunities to eat Oaxacan are slim in Vallarta.
But, luckily enough there is still one option, and they do make a few delicious different moles. Mole de Jovita didn’t quite stand up to my (unfairly high) expectations after living in Oaxaca, but it’s the best I’ve found in Puerto Vallarta, and I would gladly eat there again.
Los Muertos Brewing
We found Los Muertos early on in our time living Puerto Vallarta as it’s only a few blocks from where we were based for the first month in Las Canoas.
Los Muertos brews some great beers, the El Duderino (a delicious vanilla java porter) being a personal favourite. They also make great (albeit massive!) pizza, and everything else I’ve tried on the menu has been good too.
This is an excellent spot if you’re looking for a beer and a momentary break from Mexican food, or if you’re just craving a slice of pizza!
Monzón Brewing Co
Monzón was the second brewery we quickly checked out in our first few weeks in town. They also make really good beers, and I love how often they switch them out and try new things.. although I haven’t yet found anything I like quite as much as the El Duderino (mentioned above)
What I really love about Monzón is the tacos!
They are more US styled & priced than the kind you’ll find out on the street all about town, but gosh are they delicious! Right now I’m specifically enamoured by their baja fish, but the caramelized pork belly is pretty excellent too. Monzón very quickly became our go-to spot for a boozy Friday late lunch.
Mariscos el Colera
Right at the fartherest end of Emiliano zapata, right by the mercados & fruterias that border the rio cuale is Mariscos el Colera. We’ve only eaten there the once, but I can vouch for their fish tacos being excellent, and they mix up a mean raicilla margarita.
There are plenty of tables, it’s excellent for watching life go by in a less touristy part of an otherwise tourist-heavy neighbourhood, and the prices are excellent. Many neighbourhood locals eat here, and it’s an excellent respite from the cloying & heaving crowds of holiday makers closer to the malecon.