Culinary getaways to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on any budget

Dining in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The one thing I had always heard about Puerto Vallarta – aside from it being a hot spot for snowbirds – is that it is one of Mexico’s culinary capitals.

It wasn’t until I ate my way through Puerto Vallarta in a week that I found out for myself that the rumours were true.  Puerto Vallarta has tons to offer a culinary traveller: from budget street eats to fine dining restaurants as high end as it gets in Mexico.

Budget dining in Puerto Vallarta

Chicharrones on the boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

On Puerto Vallarta’s famous boardwalk, the Malecon, you can catch the city’s famous sunsets against the Sierre Madre Mountains or give some of the street food a try. 

Tuba (pronounced tu-vah), a light, sweet drink made from the juice of the heart of a palm tree, mixed with nuts and apple pieces, is perfect for walking on the Malecon.  Elotes en vaso or corn in a cup is another must-try: a cup filled with roasted corn, mayonnaise, sour cream, parmesan cheese, lime juice, and hot chili powder.  Finally, get a cup of boiled chicharrones, or pork rinds, served in a cup with lime juice and chili sauce.  

Casual dining in Puerto Vallarta

Tortilla Soup at River Cafe, Puerto VallartaOur Mexican culinary adventure began at our hotel, the NH Krystal Puerto Vallarta’s Las Velas restaurant.  Each night, a lively roster of entertainers keep the evening alive under the restaurant’s giant palapa roof – but it’s the restaurant’s private beach dining that’s worth spending a meal here.

For a great lunchtime meal, we discovered the River Café Restaurant on Isla Rio Cuale hidden away down the stairs from the road into the city’s romantic district.  The River Café blends casual dining within its beautiful surrounding tropical garden.  Don’t miss out on the tortilla soup for a hearty way to start lunch and finish off with a traditional flan.

Fine dining in Puerto Vallarta

On our second evening, we made our way to Vista Grill Restaurant & Lounge.  Set hillside high above Puerto Vallarta, Vista Grill offers some of the best views of the city, especially at night.  The menu is contemporary with a creative flair and regional flavours, with dishes like a beef carpaccio with papaya or a leg of lamb with fresh corn tortillas.

Dish at Cafe des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

For a higher-end beachside dinner, I’d recommend Las Casitas at Puerto Vallarta’s Casa Magna Marriott, helmed by the award-winning Chef Fred Ruiz.  Here, he creates authentic regional cuisine blending both traditional and modern elements of Mexican food.  Don’t miss out on the restaurant’s stellar tamarind margaritas, a perfect pairing for Las Casitas’ many seafood specialties. 

Finally, Cafe des Artistes located in Puerto Vallarta’s artsy district is one of the city’s crown jewels.  Internationally acclaimed chef Thierry Blouet brings French and Mediterranean flavours to Mexican ingredients.  I quickly fell in love with Café des Artistes once I stepped into the restaurant’s garden terrace that creates a beautiful setting for an incredible meal with dishes like tuna tartar with chili bubbles, red snapper Veracruz style, and three types of homemade butter. 

Other highly recommended spots: Dolce Vita for Italian and especially pizza, El Arayan for authentic Mexican fare, Trios for contemporary dining, and finally, Pepe’s Tacos for what is considered the city’s best tacos – best consumed in the wee hours of the morning.

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