Saturday, July 20, 2024

Where to find the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta

Like any good Mexican town, Puerto Vallarta is a treasure trove of phenomenal taco restaurants. Walk a few steps in any direction and you’re sure to find a truck or a humble storefront dishing out plastic platefuls of corn tortillas piled high with everything from succulent al pastor to flaky, fried fish. But where to find the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta? That may take a little digging — but not too much, as Puerto Vallarta has become one of the best cities in Mexico for foodies.

These days this city on the sea has it all, including a taco for every palate. Whether you’re looking for 20-peso tacos from a late-night truck, or a haute gourmet taco experience, Puerto Vallarta has a place to fit the bill. 

Hand squeezing lime juice on plate of tacos
No matter what kind of taco you crave, Puerto Vallarta has got you covered. (Cuartoscuro)

This list is a combination of a little bit of everything, from locals-only holes in the wall to the heavily trafficked tourist hotspots. As with every list with the word “best” in the title, this list is subjective and certainly not exhaustive, so feel free to add or recommend your favorite spots in the comments.

Read on to discover the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta. 

Typical tacos in Puerto Vallarta

These days Puerto Vallarta is such an international city that you’ll find all sorts of regional tacos from around Mexico. But the ones that are most local to this part of Mexico are tacos al pastor (achiote-marinated pork), tacos de pescado (fried or grilled catch of the day) and tacos de birria (slow-roasted goat or beef). 

How to order a taco correctly

There is no wrong way to order a taco. The only thing that may get confusing are all the other items you’ll likely see on taco truck menus. Here are some terms to know:

  • Torta: A sandwich made with a crusty roll.
  • Volcan: A taco made with a toasted tortilla and topped with cheese.
  • Huarache: A flat piece of masa dough topped with meat, cheese, and vegetables.
  • Quesadilla: A folded tortilla (or two tortillas sandwiched together) stuffed with meat and cheese.
Woman eating a big huarache in Toluca, Mexico
Huaraches are a delicious alternative to the traditional taco. (Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar/Cuartoscuro)

What to put on your tacos

Often at a taco shop you’ll be asked if you want your order “con todo,” and this typically refers to diced white onion and cilantro. Beyond that, the customization is up to you. Typically taco shops will have different bowls or vessels filled with salsa of varying degrees of spice. You’ll also find cucumbers, pickled vegetables and limes. It’s up to you how you want to dress yours up.

The best taco spots in Puerto Vallarta

Marisma Fish Taco

What started as a humble cart in the Zona Romantica has grown to become one of the best spots in Puerto Vallarta for fish tacos, now with a second location in Versalles. The Versalles location has a counter out front or a larger patio in the back. What you’re ordering here are the fish tacos. Crispy strips of fresh fish are lightly fried and folded between fluffy corn tortillas. Top with shredded cabbage and a variety of salsas, and you’ll see why these are consistently ranked as the best fish tacos in Puerto Vallarta. Note: You can order the fish grilled if you prefer.

Don Chava Taqueria & Cantina

In the heart of Zona Romantica, Don Chava Taqueria & Cantina serves seriously good street-style tacos and snacks in a sit-down setting. Order traditional tacos al pastor, tacos de chorizo, tacos de pollo and more. Make it a volcan or a quesadilla for bites full of salty, succulent cheese.

Panchos Takos

Puerto Vallarta residents may roll their eyes at this one, but Panchos Takos needs to be on the list. Located on the buzzy Basilio Badillo in Zona Romantica, Panchos Takos is a legendary hole in the wall that has received considerable (and much-deserved) attention for its succulent tacos al pastor. Wait in line (it moves quickly!) and snag a wooden table next to the rotating spit of achiote-marinated meat. The al pastor tacos are what draws the crowd but the quesadillas are, in my opinion, the stars of the show.

Pancho's Takos
In the heart of the iconic Zona Romantica, Pancho’s offers great taste, great value and great location. (Pancho’s Takos/Facebook)

Note: If the line is too long for your taste you can walk down Basilio Badillo to Los Molcajetes, which also serves great al pastor tacos but in a more established restaurant setting.

El Puerco de Oro

Versalles is one of the hottest neighborhoods for foodies in Puerto Vallarta, with a range of hole-in-the-wall hideaways to fine dining. One of my favorite taco shops in all Puerto Vallarta is here on Calle Espana: El Puerco de Oro. The small shop sells one thing and one thing only: pork belly tacos. These crispy, fatty, salty, succulent morsels of meat are heaped atop blue corn tortillas. Topped with cilantro, onions and the salsas of your choosing, these impeccable tacos are nothing short of amazing.

Abulón, Antojería del Mar

I first came to Abulón, Antojería del Mar on a walking food tour of Versalles. That was in 2021 and I haven’t stopped being a regular since. This open-air patio restaurant specializes in seafood with their own signature twist. I keep coming back for the shrimp tacos al pastor. Juicy, pastor-style shrimp are piled atop blue corn tortillas and sprinkled with chunks of pineapple and avocado cream. Their octopus tacos are also worth tasting.

El Carboncito

An institution in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood, El Carboncito is the local late-night taco shop you’re stopping at on your way home from a night out. Frequented by a healthy mix of long-time residents, expats, and tourists, El Carboncito serves juicy tacos al pastor and all the fixings. Eat on a plastic chair alongside the side of the building, or snag a table inside. Either way, be sure to order a side of grilled spring onions and an ice cold beer.

Tacos El Moreno

Tacos El Moreno handmake their own tortilla for extra flavor and quality. (Dennis Schrader/Unsplash)

Back down in the Zona Romantica, on the corner of Calle Constitucion and Calle Fco. I. Madero, this taco truck is always buzzing from open to close. Their handmade tortillas can be topped with asada, adobada, barrio, chorizo, pastor, or tripa and served as tacos or quesadillas. Don’t forget the range of salsas, onions and cilantro. There aren’t any tables here, but diners prefer it that way as they like to sit and eat in the plastic chairs or stools that surround the lively truck.

Taco Memo’s Grill

On the corner of Basilio Badillo and Aguacate in the Zona Romantica, Taco Memo’s Grill is another extremely casual (and extremely popular) taco stall. Tacos, tortas, and burritos are stuffed plump with asada and topped with beans, cilantro, and onions. A counter of salsas and pickled veggies means you can customize your tacos anyway you please.

Tacos Sahuayo

Located on the border of Versalles and Santa Maria, Tacos Sahuayo is a beloved taco truck dishing out succulent tacos, tortas, volcanes and more. Top with al pastor, asada, chuleta or chorizo. This is the perfect example of a local joint, as it’s nowhere near the Hotel Zone or any real tourist area. If you want to eat like a local, Tacos Sahuayo is the spot to do it.

Tacón de Marlin

If you’ve overdosed on al pastor in Puerto Vallarta, rest assured there is plenty of seafood to go around. Tacón de Marlin, for example, is one of the best spots in town to sit and savor an overstuffed seafood burrito (called burritas here). But these aren’t your run-of-the-mill burritos. No rice or beans, just super fresh seafood, some lettuce and a sprinkling of cheese is all you need for one of the most brag-worthy bites in town. The original burrita is filled with smoked marlin, but you can order yours with shrimp, octopus, fish, or a combo. There are two locations of Tacón de Marlin: one in Zona Romantica and one right outside the airport, just in case you’re craving one last bite before you leave.

Birrieria y Taqueria Liz

Quesadilla with birria
For those who love cheese, flavor or need to shift a heavy night out, there is nothing better than a quesabirria (Birriería y Taquería Liz)

Not to be outdone by al pastor and seafood, Puerto Vallarta is also a hot spot for juicy, flavorful birria. That’s because the birria is one of the most important dishes in the state of Jalisco. Traditional birria is made with goat meat, but many places also do it with beef. It’s slow-roasted in a salty, flavorful broth and served in a variety of ways, from tacos and quesadillas to in a cup with a spoon. Located in Cinco de Diciembre, Birrieria y Taquería Liz is a morning taco shop serving both the beef and goat versions. Order tacos dorados or suaves, huaraches, or the ultra decadent quesabirria served with cheese.

Tacos La Mucca

From the brains that brought you the high-brow cuisine of Tintoque comes this dressed down taco establishment turning out seriously good tacos and other traditional Mexican snacks. Think escabeche, aguachile and sopes. But the taco to beat here is the taco arriero, which is overstuffed with carne asada and smothered with melted cheese, beans and cabbage. The traditional taco arriero was intended to be a cost-effective, massively filling meal for people at the end of the day, and this version is no exception. However, chefs Joel Ornelas and Alejandro Castellanos put their stamp on this version with wood-fired Angus beef.

Barbacow

A popular open-air neighborhood taco joint in Versalles, Barbacow is most famous for its barbacoa tacos served atop handmade blue corn tortillas. But you’ll find so many different types of tacos here, including asada, al pastor, shrimp adobada, tripa and more. The added flourish at Barbacow is the selection of different salsas that come with every order. Think peanut-style sauce or a tropical pineapple habanero.

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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