Saturday, April 20, 2024

Puerto Vallarta restaurants you don’t want to miss

Puerto Vallarta’s foodie scene has come a long way in the last 10 years. What started as a humble fishing community known for its local delicacies and fresh seafood has blossomed into an international dining destination. It’s a city where you can just as easily find Japanese-grade sushi as you can a plump birria taco and everything in between.

The beach capital of the Pacific Coast, and one of the major destinations in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta’s dining scene began on staples from the sea, as well as from the state. Dishes like ceviche, aguachile, barbacoa, and birria dominate the menus at local restaurants and holes-in-the-wall, while expats from all over the world have elevated the dining scene to include everything from Italian to Thai, Korean, Japanese, and beyond. 

Thai, Mexican, sushi, steak – if you want it, Puerto Vallarta probably has it. (La Capella)

With so many fabulous restaurants all over the city, it can be nearly impossible to decide where to begin. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite and best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, from beachfront dining to under-the-radar taco trucks and locals-only favorites. We’ve even mapped it out for you so you can know which restaurant is in what neighborhood.

Ready to dig in? Read on to discover the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone

Tuna Azul

Days in Puerto Vallarta should be spent savoring the seafood that arrives by boat daily, direct from sea to table. Tostadas, ceviches, and whole grilled fish are daily staples all along the Pacific Coast. Tuna Azul, a second-floor restaurant in the heart of the Zona Romantica, is known for its heaping chunks of fresh, bright red tuna served atop crunchy tostadas and mixed up with avocado in citrusy ceviches.

Puerto Vallarta’s seafood is always fresh, making for incredible aguachile. (Tuna Azul/Facebook)

Panchos Takos

Don’t be put off by the line that snakes around the block. You can believe the hype — Panchos Takos is one of the best taquerias in Puerto Vallarta, known for the succulent tacos al pastor. Open in the late afternoon until the wee hours of the morning, you’ll find visitors come from far and wide for a chance to snag a table at the popular al pastor shop. Order the tacos al pastor, of course, or mix it up with the quesadilla al pastor.

Taqueria El Moreno

Taco carts are a dime a dozen in Puerto Vallarta, so narrowing down the search can be a bit of a task. Allow me to introduce you to Taqueria El Moreno, a corner taco stall in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica. Always surrounded by locals (an excellent sign when it comes to choosing a taco stand), Taqueria El Moreno is known for its asada and pork tacos, heaped high with onions and cilantro. Douse with your choice of salsas, grab a plastic stool and enjoy.

Tintoque

At the other end of the spectrum is the fine dining experience at Tintoque. Overlooking the Rio Cuale, Tintoque is known for its rotating menu of hearty, decadent dishes — think marinated bluefin tuna with herbed labneh, crab with butter pear and artichokes, octopus and yellow mole with a side of focaccia, and so many more mouth-watering menu items. Pair with a creative cocktail from the resident mixologist or a bottle of Mexican wine.

 

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Marisma Fish Taco

Fish tacos are a way of life along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The best spot to grab crispy, battered fish wrapped in fluffy tortillas is Marisma Fish Taco. This Zona Romantica taco truck serves epic fish tacos, seafood tostadas, and aguas frescas. 

Balam Balam

Of course, you’re going to find lots of competition for fish tacos in Puerto Vallarta. Balam Balam is another contender for best in town. Crispy, flaky fish is wrapped up in a soft tortilla and heaped high with pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and a squeeze of lime. Balam Balam also serves ceviche, aguachile, and tostadas.

Tacos de Birria Chanfay

Birria is one of the regional dishes in the state of Jalisco, and a must when visiting Puerto Vallarta. It’s a type of stew made with marinated, slow-cooked meat and typically served in tacos or a consomé. At Tacos de Birria Chanfay they serve beef birria tacos, either in a crisp, fried tortilla or in a soft one. 

La Fina Cocina de Barrio

A brightly colored patio in a less-trafficked area of the Zona Romantica sets the scene for La Fina. This fantastic Mexican fusion restaurant serves up delectable dishes, from duck flats to octopus smothered in guajillo chili and beans. It’s elevated, fine dining-level dishes in a casual, laid-back setting bursting with color and good energy.

It might be hidden away from the bustle of the city, but La Fina is more than worth checking out. (La Fina Cocina de Barrio/Instagram)

Pollo Feliz

You’ll find a few Pollo Feliz chicken shops scattered around Puerto Vallarta. This is the best spot to get your rotisserie chicken fix — a staple in Mexico. The succulent, savory chicken comes with a stack of freshly made tortillas and a fresh tomato salsa. Order extras like quesadillas, rice and beans, or macaroni salad.

Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta with a View

La Palapa

An oceanfront institution, La Palapa is one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for beachfront dining. Overlooking the famous Los Muertos pier, diners at La Palapa are treated to fresh, creative seafood and tropical cuisine with their toes in the sand underneath strings of twinkle lights and a blanket of stars. The menu changes seasonally, but expect everything from fresh salads and soups to seafood, beef, and lobster.

La Cappella

There are few places more elegant or romantic than La Cappella restaurant. Set back up above Centro, this fine-dining Italian restaurant has a picture-perfect view of the golden crown and steeple of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Dine on fresh cheese and tuna tartare, handfuls of frutti di mare, or thick cuts of fresh fish all underneath glittering chandeliers and an opulent ceiling fresco, with the view of the Bay of Banderas straight out front. 

La Traviata

For excellent Italian cuisine at a much more reasonable price point (and equally spectacular views), La Traviata is perched atop the Hotel Paloma del Mar in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood. Fabulous pizzas and pasta await, along with spectacular views of the scruffy rooftops of downtown Puerto Vallarta and the setting sun behind the Bay of Banderas.

Fresh octopus? Yes please! (Balam Balam/Facebook)

El Solar/Barracuda

This local watering hole and seafood restaurant is a staple among locals and expat residents. With prime real estate on the beach in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood, beach club-restaurant combo El Solar/Barracuda serves fantastically fresh fish, ceviche, and tacos, alongside great cocktails and wines. Grab a table on the beach just in time for sunset. It’s the perfect place to end the day in Puerto Vallarta.

Hidden Gem Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta

Masame

Overlooking one of the main thoroughfares of Puerto Vallarta’s Versalles neighborhood, Masame is a cozy breakfast spot with a dizzying menu. Masame draws its inspiration from masa, a dough made from ground corn, through its dishes like huaraches, enchiladas, chilaquiles, and much more. The shop is also known for its birria ramen, a fresh and funky take on Japanese and Mexican fusion.

El Puerco de Oro

The menu here is simple — but it’s everything you need for a perfect meal. El Puerco de Oro makes one thing: pork belly tacos. But they will be the best pork belly tacos you’ve ever had in your life. Crispy skin contrasts perfectly with the melt-in-your-mouth meat, all piled onto a blue corn tortilla. A selection of salsas and pickled onions are laid out for diners to drizzle. The best part? Each taco is only 28 pesos. Get there early, too. Once they’re out of pork they close up shop for the day.

Abulón, Antojería del Mar

In a shady courtyard on the edge of Versalles, Abulón, Antojería del Mar is a family-friendly seafood restaurant serving creative tacos, tostadas, and ceviches. Their claim to fame is their shrimp tacos al pastor, as well as the La Mulata tostada, piled high with fresh tuna. Octopus tacos will also send seafood lovers spinning. Try the passion fruit mezcalita for a sweet and smoky punch.

tuna
Abulón offers beautiful simplicity in its menu, with their tuna offerings an absolute must. (Abulón Antojería del mar/Facebook)

Barbacow

Casual street tacos are served in an open-air sit-down setting at Barbacow. Their main menu item is the homemade barbacoa, but they also serve tacos with plump shrimp adobada, lengua, tripe, chicharron, and more. Each taco order comes with a selection of eight different salsas to try. You can even order a queso taco, where the meat is enveloped in a caramelized and crispy coat of cheese.

Sendo

Sushi restaurants are springing up all over Puerto Vallarta, but the best and most refined experience is in Centro at Sendo. Stepping into Sendo is like disappearing into a pocket-sized restaurant in Tokyo. The all-wood aesthetic sets the scene for delectable, silky sushi and sashimi. Not a cheap experience by any means, you get what you pay for in this haute seaside sushi experience.

Siam Cocina Thai

Take a trip to Thailand without ever leaving Puerto Vallarta with a visit to Siam Cocina Thai. With two locations in Puerto Vallarta, Siam’s menu provides a bit of a break from tacos and seafood. Think Thai mussels in a broth of lemongrass, kaffir, and coconut milk, or fresh lettuce wraps stuffed with diced chicken. You can also find curries, stir fry, and hearty noodle dishes.

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at drillinjourneys.com.

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