Thursday, November 08, 2007

Puerto Vallarta dining guide

One last post about our trip to Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago: I wanted to mention some of the eating establishments we visited while we were there.

There are a few places we enjoyed during previous trips to PV (The River Cafe, Isla Cuale; Vista Grill, Pulpito 377; Rio Grande, Av. Mexico 1775; La Bodeguita del Medio, Paseo Diaz Ordaz 858) that we simply didn't get to eat at this time around. With the caveat that I haven't eaten at any of them recently, I'd still recommend these places if for no other reason than I haven't heard any recent reports that any of these establishments have "gone downhill." We did eat at the following places during our most recent vacation, and here's our assessment:

The Blue Shrimp (Morelos 779): As the same suggests, shrimp is this place's specialty. They offer shrimp by the kilo, half-kilo or quarter-kilo, cooked any number of ways, including tequila shrimp, coconut shrimp or garlic shrimp (check out their menu). Appetizers include shrimp ceviche, guacamole prepared at your table, or the delicious calamari that Lori and I ordered. Their salad bar is unique as well. It's a bit on the expensive side, as far as Puerto Vallarta dining options go, but the delicious food and the attentive service make it worth it. (Tip: instead of ordering their bottled water, which is fancy and expensive European spring water, order a beer or one of their margaritas instead - it's cheaper!) Recommended.

Memo's Pancake House (Basilio Badillo 289): During our one-week stay in PV, Lori and I ate here three times. That should provide an idea as to how much we enjoyed this place. Pancakes - served several different ways - are their specialty, but their omelets, french toast, fresh fruit plates, coffees and huevos rancheros are all pretty good too. Besides, there's nothing like ordering a bloody mary along with your morning omelet and reminding yourself that you're on vacation! Highly recommended.

Pipi's (Guadalupe Sanchez 807 at Pipila): This place is very popular (especially with tourists), so make reservations or be prepared to wait for a table during busy periods. The food is good, the atmosphere is festive, the prices are reasonable and they take special pride in their margaritas (they have a big sign over the bar which reads: "don't drink the water, drink margaritas instead") Fajitas are their specialty, which is interesting considering that fajitas are really an invention of "Tex-Mex" cuisine and are not a type of food native to Jalisco state. As a native Houstonian who has grown up eating some of the world's best beef and chicken fajita plates (think Spanish Village, Doneraki, Lupe Tortilla's or Ninfa's), I found the ones at Pipi's to be rather good. Recommended.

Viejo Vallarta (Morelos 484): located above the Malecon opposite Puerto Vallarta's famous "seahorse" sculpture, this restaurant is as notable for its people-watching as it is for its delicious and reasonably-priced food. The view from their third-story open-air balcony is excellent and the service was good. I especially liked their ceviche. Recommended.

El Andariego (Av. Mexico 1358): This restaurant is located on the north side of the old city. It is moderately, but not outrageously, pricey, and the food, service and atmosphere are first-rate. The free internet access they offer to customers is a nice touch as well. Expect to be offered a sample of their in-house tequila while you are dining. Lori liked the chicken enchiladas; her only gripe was the dessert menu, which she found to be a bit sparse. Otherwise, we enjoyed eating here. Recommended.

Cilantro's (Abasolo 169): This upscale restaurant's specialty is its cilantro margarita. As strange - or even disgusting - as it might sound, I actually found this concoction to have a unique, refreshing and enjoyable taste. Unfortunately, the cilantro margarita turned out to be the best thing about this restaurant. I just can't say that the food (which tasted good, but the portions were ridiculously small) or the glacially-slow service justified the cost. What really put me off was the treatment I received because I paid by credit card: they crossed out the tip line on my receipt and asked me to leave a cash tip. I found this presumptuous, especially since I didn't have a lot of cash on me to begin with. Needless to say, the waiter didn't get a big tip from me. Which is probably appropriate, given the slow service. Cilantro margarita aside, I cannot recommend this place.

Pollo Feliz (Av. Mexico at Honduras): "Asado" is the past participle of the verb "asar," which means "to roast." Rotisserie-roasted chicken is as popular in Latin America as fried chicken is in the United States, and Pollo Feliz is one of many Mexican chains that serve this dish. Needless to say, this isn't an upscale restaurant; it's a featureless fast food joint in the old town opposite the Pemex station. But that's okay; sometimes the most unassuming pollo asado joints have the best food at the best price (a Houston case in point: the "Que Pollaso" kitchen-bus on the side of Telephone Road near Griggs, which offers an entire roasted chicken, with rice, beans, tortillas and sauces, for twelve bucks). Pollo Feliz's roasted chicken is a great value, as are the sides they offer with it. I suggest that visitors to Puerto Vallarta who are looking for a quick and inexpensive bite to eat check this place out before they wander into the McDonald's or Carl's Jr down the street.

Salsa Mexicana (Av. Mexico at Honduras, cater-corner from Pollo Feliz): there's nothing particularly special about this restaurant, but its proximity to our timeshare as well as its moderate prices made it a place that we ate at often. I thought the margaritas were fine, but Lori didn't like the greasy tortilla chips. There's no need to go out of your way to eat here, but if you're strolling down Av. Mexico and come across this place, it's probably worth stopping for a drink or a snack.

There you have it: the official Mean Green Cougar Red Puerto Vallarta Dining Guide! This list is, of course, not even close to exhaustive. There were several places recommended to us that we simply didn't get to visit during our week-long stay there. Online dining guides, such as vallartaonline.com or vallartarestaurants.com, can be helpful to visitors as well.

One last thing: if you do plan a trip ot PV, please us a favor and refrain from patronizing anything with the name "Carlos O'Brians" or "SeƱor Frogs" on it. Help us fight the Cancunization of Puerto Vallarta!

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