I am many different things, but three of the most prominent ones are an avid researcher, a borderline obsessive foodie, and a Mexico fangirl. This cocktail means that I returned to Mexico armed with an enormous amount of lists, mostly focused on where (and what) to eat in Puerto Vallarta.
Having spent most of my previous time in Mexico outside of Oaxaca, I was prepared for the food to be different. Jalisco is famous for tequila, biria and torta ahogada; I would recognize quite a few changes from the lands of mezcal, chocolate and mole.
To say I wanted to was an understatement. Armed with my encyclopedia-like lists and guided to the nearby Barrio Las Canoas, where we were to begin our adventure. So, in this edition, the restaurants are located around the areas of Emiliano Zapata (Zona Romántica), Centro and 5 de Diciembre.
Without further ado, here are the best restaurants I tried during my first month in Puerto Vallarta.
A handy map of Puerto Vallarta restaurants
If you want to try any of the places mentioned in this post, you can find them on the map below:
Marisma Fish tacos
Naranjo 320, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
I did my research and Marisma’s was ranked as one of the best fish taco spots in town. This made it one of my first stops after being away from Mexico for a few years, and yes, I would agree, great fish tacos. My favorites still come from Puerto Escondido, but they are a great alternative.
Marisma has a well-priced menu of Baja-style fish and other seafood tacos, but the real draw is the great selection of salsas that come with them. I went down in the afternoon and was treated to a full booth, but be warned, this place is popular and I hear there’s quite a line at lunchtime.
Cuates y Cuetes
Francisca Rodríguez 101, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta in search of Chilaquiles, my favorite Mexican breakfast. I’m still not convinced that anywhere is as good as Oaxaca, but I was willing to change my mind. So I did my research. Cuates y Cuetes turned out to be a great choice to not only eat some chilaquiles, but to curl my toes in the sand and hear the ocean lapping while I did it.
Since that first visit, we’ve been here more often than anywhere else. The view is amazing, the staff is second to none, and they make great margaritas. I love bringing guests here to Puerto Vallarta and continue to recommend.
Fonda el Cuco
Lázaro Cárdenas 520 C, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
At the far, upper end of the Zona Romantica, newcomer Fonda el Cucon was one of our AirBnB’s most convenient restaurants in the Las Canoas neighborhood. We were immediately welcomed like locals. We have since been returned as friends. The food is amazing and I can’t recommend this little place enough. Great for any meal of the day, I especially love their red enchilada sauce.
C. Honduras 145C, 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
The best tacos in town, it turns out, is a completely subjective thing. But Pepe has my vote every time. I especially love their Hawaiian on a crispy tortilla, just amazing. But so far nothing we’ve ordered has been disappointing. El shepherd is worth walking on his own. Open late, super fast, always delicious. no complaints from me.
C. Fco. I. Madero 453, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
Soco’s place is a small joint on the corner of Emiliano Zapata’s riverfront. We’ve only been to them once so I don’t have much to say. But the chilaquiles were great and that’s all that really matters… right?
Isla Rio Cuale 4, Zona Romántica, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
River Cafe is always lively. Maybe it’s the Isla Rio Cuale in the heart of the tourist zone, maybe it’s the great live jazz. Most likely, it is the wonderful peaceful paradise they have created on the edge of the river.
The food here is good. ok, but the real attraction is the atmosphere. Go here for the experience of being here and enjoy a hidden paradise in the vibrant Downtown area.
Taqueria De Birria El Banquito
Libertad 189, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
El Banquito is a small lunch spot in the heart of Downtown, just off the tourist trail. It quickly became our favorite lunch spot and we now eat there frequently. They are best known for themselves (excellent) birria tacos, but the cubano torta is worth a try.
We discovered this cute, typical taco stand while looking for somewhere near Vallarta Cowork to grab lunch when we first came to town, and we’ve been back many times since. Be prepared to use your Spanish skills here and don’t miss their amazing agua murals either.
Pino Suárez 321, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
After two years away from Mexico, one of the things I needed the most was a decent margarita. So, first thing. I got to work asking local expat groups where to find a great margarita.
I have to be honest. the results were incredibly divisive.
Some recommended the margarita grill for excellent margaritas, others found it super touristy and a bit gimmicky. It turns out both are true. Either way, they make great margaritas and the coquinita pibil is pretty awesome too.
Hidalgo 339, Proyecto escola, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
In search of pozole, my research led me to the foundation of Paróquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and to the unsurpassed traditional style El Campanario.
Cheap, tasty, traditional. what’s not to love? I’ve been back a lot since then. pozole is excellent, comida even better. Plus, for somewhere so central, everything is surprisingly affordable too. Since that first visit, we have continued to return to El Campanario many times.
Joe Jacks Fish Shack
Basilio Badillo 212, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
Joe Jacks is a frequently recommended dinner spot that has been on my radar many times. So for a nice dinner in the Zona Romantica, we decided to check it out.
The rooftop terrace is charming and the food was excellent. They also mix a great cocktail. The only downside is that it gets quite busy in high season and is generally quite full of tourists.
Mole de Jovita Vallarta
Basilio Badillo 220 B, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
I’m a self-professed Oaxaca fanatic. Mole is one of my favorite Oaxacan delicacies, and even though I’m in Jalisco, I still wanted to track down some delicious Oaxacan cuisine. As it turns out, opportunities to eat Oaxacan in Vallarta are few and far between.
But luckily there is still an option and they make some delicious different moles. Mole de Jovita didn’t quite hold up against me (unfairly high) Expectations after living in Oaxaca, but it’s the best I’ve found in Puerto Vallarta and I’d happily eat there again.
Los Muertos Brewing
Lázaro Cárdenas 302, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
We found Los Muertos early in our time living in Puerto Vallarta, as it is just a few blocks from where we were based in Las Canoas for the first month.
Los Muertos brews some great beers, El Duderino (delicious vanilla java porter) to be a personal favourite. They also make great (albeit massive!) pizza, and everything I’ve tried on the menu is good too.
This is a great place if you’re looking for a beer and a momentary break from Mexican food, or if you’re just craving a slice of pizza.
Monzón Brewing Co
Venustiano Carranza 239, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
Monzón was the second brewery we quickly checked out in our first few weeks in town. They also make really good beer and I love how often they branch out and try new things. although I have yet to find anything I love as much as El Duderino. (above)
What I really love about Monzón are the tacos.
They’re more American in style and price than the kind you’d find on the street around town, but hey, they’re delicious. Right now I’m particularly raving about their Baja Fish, but the Caramelized Pork Belly is great too. Monzón quickly became our go-to spot for a late Friday lunch.
Mariscos and cholera
Lázaro Cárdenas 505, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal.
At the far end of Emiliano Zapata, next to the mercados and fruterias bordering the Rio Cuale, is Mariscos el Colera. We’ve only eaten there once, but I can vouch that their fish tacos are excellent, and they mix up a mean racilla margarita.
There are plenty of tables, it’s great to watch life go by in a less touristy part of a tourist-heavy neighborhood, and the prices are excellent. Many locals in the neighborhood eat here and it’s a great respite from the throngs of vacationers closer to the malecón.