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Jun 13, 2011 09:09 PM

Local restaurants and Street Food in Puerto Vallarta

There is outstanding street and local eating in PV. El Carboncito, *(Honduras and Peru) made famous by Rick Bayless, is a bare bones restaurant that is as plain and simple as its single claim to fame, its tacos al pastor. There are surely tens of thousands of al pastor spits in Mexico, but here the meat is lean, thick cut and smoky, similar to Hunan smoked pork. Add your own salsa, or just eat it plain. Two doors down is lookalike Rocko's with the same al pastor setup, but their meat is not quite as lean, and the tacos smaller. But Rocko's brings a side bowl of pineapple and a couple of excellent salsas, from mild to numbing. The Al Pastor stand at Naranjo and Cardenas is one my favorites: rich, smoky al pastor with 5 salsas and pico de gallo to choose from. Pepes on Honduras (one block from El Carboncito) smothers their al pastor with fried onions, a completely different concept. Pepes is a PV institution and serves up all the taco variants; gringas, volcanos, tostadas. Right next door to Farmacia Guadalajara at Insurgentes and Cardenas is the stand 'La Hormiga' where they make terrific fresh sopes. Their 5 exquisite salsas are what make their sopes and Volcanos shine (their carne asada is tough, however; we go veggie). Finally, finish off your street roaming at the corner of Cardenas and Jacaranda in the evening at the churros cart, where fresh churros are hand cranked into hot oil and served piping hot.

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    1. According to the folks at trip advisor, El Carboncito has closed. Rocko's is still there, and Pepe's will of course always be there (for better or worse).

      I went to El Carboncito in 09, and though I thought it was very good and liked the uniqueness of the charcoal heat and their great salsas it wasn't my favorite al pastor in the city. That honor goes to the little sit down taquería in the zona romántica Takos Panchos. It's at 162 Basilio Badillo Here's a google streetview link.

      1 Reply
      1. Your review was very helpful, however, you didn't mention the hours of operation for El Carboncito. Also, 1 of the reviews on Trip Advisor mentioned that it was closed, so I'm confused! Will only be in PV for 1 day, & desperately want an authentic Mexican lunch, where the locals go! Don't care about the atmosphere--just want GREAT food!! Please advise!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: corrine48

          Trust the people who wrote that on trip advisor, they live there.

          If you want authentic al pastor give Takos Panchos a try, open at 6pm, closed Sundays. I thought it was better than El Carboncito and its also more central, next door to the well known Cafe De Olla, though any taxista will know where it is.

          1. re: deeplennon

            Isn't there a place where we can get this authentic food for lunch? Unfortunately, we will not be there in the evening. I'm a little frustrated, so any recommendations are appreciated! Thanks!!

            1. re: corrine48

              Howdy, I keep traveling to Puerto Vallarta during the fourth quarter every year; for the last 26....
              I would like to recommend the best taco place in Puerto Vallarta, Pepe's taco !!!
              Truly the best pastor tacos and lots of combinations; beef, pork, chicken, spicy sausage with vegetables or/and cheese. ..really delicious.
              Located across the street from the Solorzano Pemex (gas station)

        2. Thank you so much for this info--can you please recommend the best place for tacos al pastor @ lunch?

          4 Replies
          1. re: corrine48

            The reason you may be getting frustrated and the reason you are not getting the answer you're looking for (and judging by the date of your last post you may know this already) is that most of the taco stands that make the best tacos operate only in the evenings and into the late night. You can find some that are open for lunch, but the best ones IMO are Mr Taco located on calle abasolo and the aforementioned Takos Panchos. Both use pineapple while cooking the spit roasted pastor and both have a variety of salsas. The taco stands are super cheap and aren't going after the daytime cruise ship crowd, they instead wait until the locals get off of work and people start drinking and partying. Mr. Taco stays open until 4AM.

            You can still find great Pastor tacos. Just about any stand you eat at will be better than any alternative you've had in the states. The options across the bridge in old town are less touristy and that is where you will find some of the best food. If you walk to the corner of Olas Altas and Francisca Rodriguez and turn towards the ocean, you should see a Taco cart that has been operating for years and is usually open for lunch (I wanna say the name includes "Carmen" and something). Cafe de Olla does not serve pastor tacos, but is a great lunch option. As is Joe Jacks Fish Shack, owned by a former San Francisco restaurateur.

            1. re: JimKlein

              Yes, you should visit Joe Jack's. I bartended in Chef Jack's first restaurant in San Francisco (Luna Park). He does things right and he does it rockin'. You won't be disappointed.

              1. re: JimKlein

                JimKlein, so relieved to see your Jul 20 post mentioning Mr. Taco, and that it is still open. We go there at least twice during our week there, but last year, after making it there upon our arrival, we were afraid it closed during our visit. Stopped by two other evenings to find doors closed. That was in March, 2011. Going to PV soon, and thought I would google Mr Taco in hopes of finding reference to it, so thanks again. Can't wait for the chorizo con queso!!

                1. re: JimKlein

                  I totally disagree that the best taco stands operate at night - Moreno's is my favorite quesadilla & meat taco place - i don't think the name is on the stand - it is right off Constitucion going east toward Insurgentes about 3 blocks from Rizo's - also, many morning taco stand up & down Constitucion. I believe they are closed on Thursdays but i'm not sure.