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Best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta in 2012?

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My boyfriend and I are taking a 5 day trip to Puerto Vallarta, a first for both of us, for Valentine's Day this year. We're both big foodies and I want to make sure I hit some of the highlights. From looking at previous board posts, it seems like Trio, Barcelona Tapas and El Arrayan are all good bets, but a lot of the other recommendations I found seem to be outdated since the places have since closed.

Does anyone have advice for other places we should try? We'll probably try to get dinner reservations for the restaurants mentioned above and go to La Palapa for breakfast, but otherwise I don't have a clue where to go. The only restriction is that I'm allergic to seafood (all kinds), so variety on the menu is key. Ideas for places to grab an after dinner drink would also be helpful - we're not really into loud and crazy margarita bars with flaming drinks and flashy lights, so something a little more relaxed would be nice.

We'll also be doing some hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Animas and will go to Bucerias for an afternoon, so recommendations for those areas would be welcome as well!

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El Arrayan
Allende #344, Puerto Vallarta, JAL 48304, MX

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  1. Trio is pretty good. I don't think Barcelona Tapas is worth climbing all the stairs. Recent reviews of El Arrayan haven't been very complementary No Way Jose is probably a better choice. La Palapa is good for breakfast but I prefer lunch because there's more action on the beach. It's also a romantic spot for dinner and their bar for a late night drink. For really fancy Hacienda San Angel, Cafe des Artistes Cocina de Autor, or Bianca Blue. For French La Cigale near the Cathedral is very good.
    Bucerias is divided into north and south sides by a ravine. Most south side restaurants are not on the beach so the north side is better for an afternoon visit. Just get to the main square and walk along the beach road till you see one you like, Adauto's is often recommended. Best restaurant Mezzogiorno isn't open for lunch. Here's a Bucerias reference http://www.bestofbucerias.com/index.php

    Unfortunately being on the ocean seafood is everywhere but I'm sure you will still find lots of choice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mexivilla

      hi

      maybe i can help you
      google my place and check out the reviews

      there are so many places to chose from, hope you enjoy your food journey

      Bruce chef and owner

      1. re: mexivilla

        La Cigale is awesome! Really underrated. If you're into casual/hip, Joe Jack's Fish Shack is the spot.

      2. bbelin --- I love Barcelona Tapas not only for the food but the ambiance. Go for dinner and be sure to sit on the top level! Beautiful sunset view. I also like No Way Jose, Vitea, and Daiquiri Dicks. For cheaper meals, more casual, we always hit Joe Jack's Fish Shack (don't worry, they have burgers and chicken) and Cheeky Monkey. Trio is very nice, expensive too. La Palapa is expensive too -- breakfast is a good idea. For breakfast, we love Fredy's Tucan and Memo's. On the beach, we like the El Dorado for lunch. Archie's Wok is good for Asian food. Dolce Vita is Italian on the Malecon. I like sitting at the front of the restaurant so you can see the bay. Plenty of non seafood options there. For a taco stand, try Takos Panchos for the tacos al pastor (pork). There are so many choices!!! Have a great time!

        1. I meant to mention after dinner places as well. We like to go to The River Cafe or Le Bistro for an after dinner drink and/or dessert. They often have live music. A louder place but unique experience is La Bodeguita del Medio, where they have a live Cuban salsa band most nights. Wide age range of guests there. Also, you could always have dinner at one restaurant, and then walk to another for dessert/drinks. Ones that come to mind are Barcelona Tapas, Daiquiri Dicks, Vitea, La Palapa, Hacienda San Angel. Most of these places have websites, so you can check them out. Before your hike to Las Animas, you could pick up some food "to go" at The Deli, which I heard has moved to a new location by Daiquiri Dicks (same owner). Have a great time!

          1 Reply
          1. re: casadelsol

            I will second Cafe des Artistes, it is a not to be missed restaurant.

          2. There's a nice list here. Two others to consider: The best lunch on the beach is at Green Chairs (next to the famed Blue Chairs) where you can be waited on kicking back in your chair with your feet in the sand under an umbrella. It's a delicious casual lunch and the best in town. Las Margaritas is worth the cab trip up the hill. The food is okay but the view is memorable. Nice place for casual drinks at sunset is the rooftop bar at the renovated Vallarta Cora. It's a friendly gay crowd and everyone is welcome. I'll be PV the same time. Enjoy

            1 Reply
            1. re: fergus4933

              I don't know a Las Margaritas with a view. I think you mean Las Carmelitas. Haven't heard anything about it for a while and phone number shown in local guides is not in service but taxi drivers should know if it's open.

            2. Thought I would post our PV dining experiences here since I used these boards a great deal to decide which restaurants to visit. We stayed in the marina but ate in town a lot, so i broke this down by location and ranked each restaurant within the location.

              Marina:
              1. Victors Cafe - very good, basic Mexican fare. The real fun is the fact that you get a tequila shot with each drink ordered, and usually Victor comes over to do a shot with you. He's very charming and fun to chat with. We had two entrees and one drinks each (didn't need much more with the two shots of tequila plus the complementary after dinner drink) and two entrees for about $40 US inclusive of tip. We had the beef tacos and Mexican plate. The tacos were very basic, served with guacamole, cilantro and onion, but very tasty. The Mexican plate is a great meal, filet (really more like a hanger steak but well seasoned), a taquito, and enchilada and a stuffed pepper. With the chips they give, it was plenty of food and tasty. Note: this place is cash only.

              2. Porto Bella - good change of pace to have Italian food. The starters (bruschetta and caprese salad) were both great, very fresh, good sized portions and tons of flavor. We then had the linguine with shrimp and clams, which was reportedly delicious (I don't eat seafood so had to take his word for it). I had the tricolored pasta, basically tricolored rigatoni with grilled chicken, arugula and asparagus. The pasta was very good, perfectly al dente. The chicken also good, I didn't get much asparagus but what I had wasn't as fresh as I would have liked. It was all in a pink sauce, not a vodka sauce, a bit thicker and darker. It was tasty, but a heavy dish. Finished up with a gelato (pretty authentic) and an espresso. All that plus two drinks and service was just under $75. Probably a bit pricey for what we had (compared to other places we've ate) but not a disappointment.

              Breakfast/Lunch - Coffee Cup - great spot for takeout or eat-in. Super casual, super cheap. We each had a burrito with cheese, eggs and sausage and it was delicious. Coffee was definitely better than what we have at the hotel, and for less than $10, the perfect spot for a cheap, good breakfast.

              Breakfast - Mr Cream - great spot. In and out very quickly, but we weren't rushed. We had the chorizo scrambler (I live chorizo so rarely have a bad thing to say about it) which was very good, also had chilaquiles with green sauce and a fried egg, which I loved. I love a good chilaquiles so was very happy. Both dishes were great. Food came out amazingly fast (almost scary how fast) but was fresh, tasty and filling, just like a good breakfast should be. And the price was perfect. The two entrees with coffee and two small juices came in just around $20.

              El Centro/Zona Romantica
              1. Cafe des artistes - fantastic. The ambiance (we sat in the garden) and the service could not be beat. The food was also wonderful. We started with tuna tartare and duck confit chilaquiles. Can't comment on the tuna, but I can say there was not a bit left on the plate when my husband was done and he loved it. The chilaquiles had great flavor. My only complaint was that the tortilla strips in it were soggy when it arrived, but that's a small complaint. The favors all came together and it was great. We then shared the tomato soup, delicious. It was just slight spicy and slightly smokey, incredibly smooth in texture and the corn added great flavor. For our main courses, we did the fish of the day (a grouper served with enchiladas) and the beef petals. Again, can't comment on the fish dish except that once again, not a bite was left on the plate. The beef dish was surprisingly good. It was a thinly sliced beef, perfectly tenderized and seasoned. Usually those alternative cuts of meat are flavorless and tough, but this was the opposite. It was served over a camembert cheese and chipotle sauce, which was really tasty. Not a single complaint about either dish. With five drinks and service, the total was only $105 which was awesome. We had totally expected to pay more, and for a level of service and food in our hometown of Philadelphia, we would easily pay twice that. Also worth noting it has been rated the number one restaurant in Mexico for 2011/2012.

              2. Daquari Dicks - great. Great location, superb service, and surprisingly good food (which you don't expect given the name of the place). We started with the calamari and shrimp appetizer, which was fine...breaded in cornmeal rather than flour which was a nice surprise. Then we had the black bean soup, which was creamy and delicious and the arugula salad. More Bibb lettuce than arugula, but very good none-the-less. Finally, we had a half order of the spare ribs and the pork special. The ribs were great, the meat fell of the bone, was drenched in (maybe a bit too much) of a really nice savory yet slightly spicy sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. The pork was a special, a well cooked, juicy pork loin in a green curry sauce with jasmine rice. Lots of heat, but delicious. We finished it up with a key lime pie to share and an espresso. The great view of the sunset really helped make the meal. All of the food, plus two drinks each and tip, came in just over $90 US and was well worth it.

              3. Barcelona Tapas overall fine. The view is great for the sunset (albeit the final moments of sunset are blocked by a building). The food was good, larger than normal tapas size, we had 5 plates and were very full. We had the Spanish tortilla to start, very good. Served warm, as opposed to room temp as I've often had it before. The aioli it comes with is very good. Then we had the pork and beef brochettes. The pork was very tough, definitely overcooked, but add in the accompaniments and it was fine. The beef was not particularly flavorful on its own, but combined with the carmelized onions and aioli was really tasty. The next two courses were the eggplant and the goat cheese. The eggplant was great, melted in your mouth. The goat cheese dish was almost like a large slice of goat cheese in a tomato soup, very tasty, but not phenomenal. We had two drinks each and with service. The total was about $60. All in all. Not a bad meal.

              4. Eldorado - great spot, great view, eat with your feet in the sand, just steps from the ocean. We were mixed on the food...the appetizer (duck carnitas) was great, then we had the lime tequila chicken fajita which was quite good. I had the beef medallion, which was just ok. It was kind of a strange cut of beef, almost brisket like, and cooked medium rare, which is ok for me on a filet but not so much on other cuts. The lunch menu is more varied and may be the way to go here, both variety and price-wise. Again, the place itself is really cool and has great ambiance, the food is fine but not great. Two apps (also had guac and chips), a soup, two entrees and three drinks plus service was just about $75.

              On a side note, we never found the street tacos I was looking for, specifically tacos al pastore...we ended up having them for lunch at the Vista Vallarta golf club and they were fantastic. I did not expect a good meal, but there was a perfect combo of pork and pineapple on good tortillas.

              2 Replies
              1. re: call5105

                I'll second Porto Bella in the marina. Great food and service, and as mentioned, the price is very reasonable. Good option for a break from Mexican food.

                1. re: TeacherFoodie

                  Same people but Porto Bello in Nuevo Vallarta is much better http://www.portobellovallarta.com/ing...

              2. Has anyone been to Taste at Casa Cuploa?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Charles

                  Just got back from PVR and had a wonderful trip. Thought I would answer my own question as well as some other reviews.
                  First skip Taste at Casa Cupola. We were staying there and decided to have dinner for my husband’s birthday. Overpriced and not very good, we also ate there xmas day dinner, mostly because we thought nothing would be open disappointing and expensive.
                  My first piece of advice is to put your prejudices about restaurant naming conventions aside “No Way Jose” and “Daiquiri Dicks” are two places I would probably have dismissed out of hand if it had not been for the positive mentions here. Both were quiet good.
                  I cannot say enough good things about Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, ate here twice, one night got the whole snapper “ala plancha” perfectly cooked fantastically seasoned. One of the best things I ate in Vallarta, our second trip was less successful got some octopus that I didn’t like, they were great about it, took it off the bill even though I told them I thought it was just that I had ordered poorly.
                  The Taco stands near the Guadalajara pharmacy were very good as was the taco stand Memo on Aguacate and Basilla Bodia. For some reason the Pancake House is also called Memo’s coffee, although my husband liked his pancakes, the Chiliquilles were not good.
                  We also ate at Vista Grill a “view restaurant” that I thought was very good. They had the best Hibiscus (Jimica) Margarita I had with a spicy Hibiscus salt that was to die for.
                  Finally we went on a Raicilla distillery tour at Hacienda El Divisadero near the town of El Tuito. They served us a fantastic lunch complete with gondo (Mexican “blueberries”) and Passion fruit Raicilla margarita’s. Were told that the owner/chef had another restaurant in old town near the Malecon, Mariscos Tino’s. I was expecting great things after such a fantastic lunch. Unfortunately it was TERRIBLE. Ceviche was barely marinated, under salted, other foods we just picked at & the wait staff couldn’t have cared less. In the end the hostess tried to sell us a zip line tour.
                  Can’t wait to get back to PVR soon.