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Hey, CT: Let's talk about WHAT YOU'VE LIKED at Puerto Vallarta!

kattyeyes Sep 27, 2009 04:42 PM

Let's talk about what you've found to be really good, better than average, quite tasty at Puerto Vallarta! I know of many other restaurants that serve Mexican and/or Tex-Mex. Here I'd like to focus on what works at PV. It's not my intention to start a discussion about authenticity, just what tastes good.

I've not been to all their locations (never been to Southington or Avon, but used to go to their Newington location on the pike with some regularity for a bite and a drink after work on Fridays). My local one is in downtown Middletown in the same plaza where Destinta (the movie theater) is.
http://www.puertovallartausa.com/

Today, being a rainy day, I had planned to get tortilla soup for lunch, but instead noticed with interest "Albondigas Soup – A delicious Mexican soup made with fresh minted pork meatballs and seasonal vegetables in clear broth" (this according to their menu). I read right over the clear broth part and didn't care that, in fact, what arrived at the table was a thick tomato-based broth loaded with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow squash and zucchini. It was a very hearty portion of soup with three good-sized meatballs, and minced cilantro and onions on the side. I had asked if they could please include avocado in my soup, which they did. WOW, what a delicious meal--ALL IN ONE BIG BOWL. The meatballs were EXCELLENT! I couldn't taste the mint (nor did I see mint in them); however, they did include some rice and were moist and flavorful. It was very filling!

From the lunch specials menu, my partner had Carnitas de Res--steak with peppers and onions served with rice and beans, guac and tortillas. I had a bite and found it to be a very nice blend of flavors, though the meat was not terribly tender. We both thought it was good and he was pleased with his meal. But my takeaway from today's meal was THAT ALBONDIGAS SOUP. It makes me want to experiment in my home kitchen and try to make something just as tasty. I even have mint!

Oh, I had a Puerto Vallarta Cosmolita with Gran Centenario Plata, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice. Defintely packed a punch and was generous with the alcohol.

They are happy to share their special mushroom habanero salsa by special request. I took a break from the firing squad, having eaten a large chunk of chipotle pepper yesterday (against my better judgment); however, if you're a heat seeker, ask for their mushroom salsa. It ain't for sissies! ;) I like their regular salsa with cilantro and fresh onion just fine, but it's fun to play with fire sometimes.

Also, one of my tried and true favorites here is their "Popeye approved" (their words, not mine!) Enchiladas Rio Bravo, filled with spinach and shrooms, so delicious. I could deal with less sour cream on the top, but usually just scrape it off and put it to the side. Come to think of it, I'm sure they'd use less if only I asked.

Service here is friendly and efficient--always has been, in my experience, regardless of when or where. And, as their menu is quite substantial, I'm sure there are other tasty treasures to be found and discussed. So, now it's your turn...tell us what you've liked at PV!

  1. philbkr Sep 27, 2009 05:36 PM

    Did the menu perhaps read or mean freshly-minted in the sense that they were freshly made? I'm not that familiar with Mexican cuisine but is mint a common flavor addition? Just asking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: philbkr
      kattyeyes Sep 27, 2009 05:39 PM

      HA HA HA! That's a good question. You never know. Certainly, mint is not a common flavor addition. Cilantro would be more like it. Maybe it's one of those "lost in translation" moments. In any case, if you get there, try the soup. Good stuff, mint or not! ;)

      Edit: I've researched recipes for this soup since I posted and found that mint is, in fact, an authentic ingredient. So, yes, they were freshly-minted, but also included mint. Perhaps the other flavors were so strong, they overtook the mint.

      1. re: kattyeyes
        DonShirer Nov 1, 2009 07:26 PM

        Thanks for the Albondigas soup recommendation, katty. I had less than an hour for dinner today between rehearsal sessions and IR was closed, so I got the soup at PV as a take out. LARGE meatballs and many veggies in a quart container with sides of mint,onion plus chips and salsa. Carried me through the evening in fine style.

    2. r
      ratbuddy Sep 27, 2009 05:44 PM

      Sounds like the food is much better than the West Hartford location. Maybe that's why they closed it. The Rio Bravo was the only thing worth ordering.

      1. Scargod Sep 27, 2009 07:31 PM

        I want to talk "authentic"! The Mexican owner calls their places a "Mexican restaurant".
        I'd call it Tex-Mex or AM-Mex, but very good Am-Mex. A little stretch for "authentic", but I like the food a lot!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Scargod
          kattyeyes Sep 27, 2009 07:34 PM

          So tell us what you especially liked there (I couldn't hear the rest of what you were typing). ;)

          1. re: kattyeyes
            Scargod Sep 28, 2009 04:00 AM

            I enjoyed the pulled beef enchilada, tamales and chile relleno. I thought the atmosphere was nice and the service very good. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3725...
            It is time to go back for a closer look at the menu! Also need to check for consistency and see if I can get any more of these yummy roasted serranos... One try is not definitive.

            1. re: Scargod
              kattyeyes Sep 28, 2009 06:33 PM

              Don't hate me--I had a tamale tonight at PV and didn't care for it much. I'll stick with Iguanas Ranas on Main St., Middletown from now on when I crava a tamale. Theirs are far superior--and are filled with much more meat than masa! I had a chile relleno, also, but haven't had enough of them to have an opinion one way or the other. It was tasty enough for me!

              The "rancho" (no cholesterol) beans with queso fresco were very satisfying. I like them better than refrieds. And apparently, they're good for me!

        2. c
          chowmensch Sep 29, 2009 06:51 AM

          I go often to the Avon location and enjoy their Chicken Mole Acapulco and their Chile Verde. They also do a nice tableside Guac preparation. I agree with Scargod that it's more Tex Mex than auathentic Mexican but I've generally had goods meals there.

          1. stuck in Hartford County Sep 29, 2009 07:02 AM

            My family loved that place before they closed the W.H. CT location. I particularly liked the chili re llanos. The kids liked the children's menu. Now we go to a better Mex place on Farmington Ave (although it's really small and parking is dicey, the food is AWSOME!). Much better than Puerto Vallarta.

            3 Replies
            1. re: stuck in Hartford County
              Scargod Sep 29, 2009 08:23 AM

              You must be talking Monte Alban Restaurant. Whether or not it is please share, don't tease us!

              1. re: Scargod
                stuck in Hartford County Sep 29, 2009 01:36 PM

                Yup, Monte Alban. Sorry, I just couldn't remember the name, even though we go quite regularly. The food is wonderful and reasonably priced. I get the rellanos with sides of rice (not sure about the mixed veggies in there...), refried beans and some kind of terrific, sweet corn cake mound. I'm not lucky with on-street parking, though, and the abandoned lot across the street is creepy-no home for a Volvo wagon. I love the restaurants in the West End (of Hartford)-there are several to choose from. although this is our favorite.

                1. re: stuck in Hartford County
                  kattyeyes Sep 29, 2009 02:49 PM

                  HA HA, I love Monte Alban, too, and would pick it any day of the week over PV, except it's not close to home.

                  The terrific, sweet corn cake mound is just that--sweet corn cake. If you like it, here's a link to a recipe for it on Home Cooking:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/604730

                  Not to be immodest, I like my sweet corn cake even better than Monte Alban's! But they are the only restaurant around here I know that even makes them, so I am happy to see them on my plate when I go.

            2. masha bousha Sep 30, 2009 04:16 AM

              Nothing. And I also didn't appreciate the hostess calling myself (a woman) and my three other women friends "Muchachos". She said "Hola Muchachos....o, muchaCHAs" to correct herself. Guess we're a confusing looking bunch to her.

              p.s. I LOVE Monte Alban and Coyote Flaco as a backup (they have a full bar whereas Monte Alban does not).

              4 Replies
              1. re: masha bousha
                Scargod Sep 30, 2009 04:55 AM

                Perhaps it was the gaucho outfits? :) If you are offended by someone's poor Spanish I can easily see the meal going downhill from there. I have found this cutesy greeting in Spanish is not an uncommon thing to do around here. I think most gringos think it is cute. There are certainly differences in the restaurants you have mentioned liking... but to say "nothing"?
                Puerto Vallarta has four locations and Coyote Flaco has seven. The one thing they all have in common is they are owned and run by Mexicans and are better than the average New England "Mexican" place.
                Some of the pictures from Coyote Flaco's site are scary: http://www.mycoyoteflaco.com/hartford... and I am disturbed by the cup-shaped mound of rice.

                1. re: Scargod
                  stuck in Hartford County Sep 30, 2009 06:33 PM

                  Dios mio!!!! I never heard of this Coyote Flaco (a skinny coyote?) but the chili rellanos in the pictures look NOT YUMMY! There is a good Mex place in New Milford/Brookfield (CT) on Route 7 complete with a weird and extrano horse in front. They might serenade you with off-key Mex music, but they won't offend you with anything pictured on the Coyote site. Adios!

                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County
                    Scargod Mar 13, 2010 04:38 AM

                    I'm curious about the place on 7 with the horse... I tried El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant years ago and it was mediocre Tex-Mexish fare.

                    1. re: Scargod
                      stuck in Hartford County Mar 13, 2010 08:31 AM

                      I believe it's called Panchos and Gringos. It's in Brookfield on Federal Road. There was also a much better Tex-Mex place in Danbury at the old train station. I don't know if it's still open. Nice vibe, great black bean soup. Excellent vegetarian choices, also. More upscale than Panchos.

              2. b
                Brrrito Mar 18, 2010 07:53 AM

                Love the Tacos al Pastor. The owners/family are from Acapulco, so you really should try their seafood. Ask to see the owner at either the Newington or the Middletown location and ask them for a favorite seafood dish of their's. They will be happy to make you one of the dishes they enjoy, not listed on the menu. Some of my best meals were when I asked Joe or Margarito to have the cook whip up something they themselves would make at home.

                1. l
                  LorenV Mar 18, 2010 08:34 AM

                  Was this the same "chain" that had a location in Stratford? Curious as they didn't last long and the place is now a Colombian place called El Estadero.

                  Actually I think the old place was just called Vallarta.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: LorenV
                    kattyeyes Mar 18, 2010 08:54 AM

                    I don't think so. The locations are primarily central CT (M'town, Newington, Southington, Avon) as far as I know. But if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me. And don't ask why this header says "west coast!"
                    http://www.puertovallartausa.com/loca...

                    1. re: kattyeyes
                      b
                      Brrrito Mar 18, 2010 09:14 AM

                      Yep, Central CT. There was the Guadalajara Grill location, but the brothers have spilt off. They also have locations in the Pacific Northwest and I think one in California.

                      -----
                      Guadalajara Grill
                      9 Bank St, Granby, CT 06035

                      1. re: Brrrito
                        kattyeyes Mar 18, 2010 09:20 AM

                        That does ring a bell (west coast locations) now that you mention it. Long ago, we were talking to one of the waiters in Newington and he mentioned the other places.

                  2. b
                    Brrrito Mar 18, 2010 09:18 AM

                    Another splinter location is Ixtapa Grill in Hamden. But the food is somewhat different. Ok if you need a Mexican fix and are in the area.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Brrrito
                      Scargod Mar 18, 2010 03:22 PM

                      Are you saying that Ixtapa is owned by the same people that own Puerto Vallarta?

                      It has been three years since I have been in Hamden to Ixtapa. Funny, I read (above), that Masha Bousha was offended by the Espanol greeting. They do that at Ixtapa, too.
                      My memory of Ixtapa is as if it were yesterday: A smallish place. At prime-time it was crazy with families and small kids. They served salsa cold (right out of the fridge), and the food was unpredictable. I don't miss it.

                      1. re: Scargod
                        b
                        Brrrito Mar 20, 2010 10:37 AM

                        The owner of Ixtapa is a cousin. He is not really affiliated with them.
                        I agree, the food is not much above a fast food joint.
                        Luckily I have Taqueria Mexico here in Wallingford. Good tacos, tortas, and real Mexican Coke, made with sugar, not corn syrup.

                        -----
                        Taqueria Mexico
                        850 S Colony Rd, Wallingford, CT 06492

                        1. re: Brrrito
                          dennisl Mar 29, 2010 08:34 AM

                          I have to reply, only because we went to the Middletown location this past Friday.
                          I liked the tortilla chips, that's it! Kids wanted Mexican after the movies, so we went here. In my top 10 of worst restaurant experiences, starting with being really busy & not enough wait staff, to the food being horrible, ending with sitting with our coats on begging for the check!
                          Will not go back, and since we live so close to Coyote Blue, wondering why we just didn't go there to begin with.
                          My 2 cents.

                          1. re: dennisl
                            kattyeyes Mar 29, 2010 09:57 AM

                            Bummer. What did you have at PV?

                            1. re: kattyeyes
                              dennisl Mar 29, 2010 10:46 AM

                              What I can remember: skirt steak taco (the meat was pretty fatty.) The re-fried beans were like soup on all our plates. I can't even remember what hubby had, though he wasn't happy either, kids were ok, but they had a cheese quasadilla (sp) and burrito, so hard to screw those up. We each had 1 margarita & wanted more but just wanted to get out!

                              I've had a 'good' experience here before, and I know it was probably an off night, but off+off+off= done (to me!)

                    2. stuck in Hartford County Mar 31, 2010 07:01 AM

                      My son heard a rumor that Blue Back Square in West Hartford is getting a new Mexican restaurant. We already have a good burrito place, plus Besito. I wonder what's coming?!

                      -----
                      Besito
                      46 S Main St, West Hartford, CT 06107

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