If you are heading to Puerto Vallarta and planning to eat exclusively on the beach, you are wrong. Granted, Puerto Vallarta has plenty of memorable restaurants along its sandy coastline, but if you want to find out what really cooks in its kitchens, head inland.
Foodie stories about Mexico are nothing new, especially when it comes to Puerto Vallarta. The city is home to restaurants that have topped the charts for years – Café des Artistes, are you up to it? And it’s not just haute cuisine. Puerto Vallarta also scores high points for its street food and beachside dining.
But as the city grows, its culinary offer grows, including in its neighborhoods which are becoming hot spots. I recently revised my entire list of foodie favorites when I was exposed to what is simmering, bubbling, grilling and grilling on the streets of PV.
A good place to start
I have to start with Tintoque, a fine dining restaurant serving dishes that tell the story of Puerto Vallarta in an elevated yet low-key setting. Its chef, Joel Ornelas, is from Puerto Vallarta. The restaurant is not new, but its location is. Previously, the restaurant was located in the marina, but has since moved to Zona Romantica, overlooking the Rio Cuale. Tip: Opt for a seat on the patio to enjoy a view shaded and surrounded by foliage and the sounds of the murmur of the river.
It is difficult to recommend dishes at Tintoque as its creative menu changes regularly, depending on the season and the ingredients available. However, I can tell you that it is better to order a little of everything and expect to leave completely drunk.
From tuna caper sashimi, sliced duck and fresh burrata to a short rib of the bone that would make any caveman bump his chest with pleasure, you can’t go wrong in Tintoque. He’s also known for his sexy cocktails and his mixology, although I always go for the Mexican wine list. With this particular meal, we tasted a bottle of Mariatinto 2018, a cellar in Ensenada.
Breakfast at Casa Kimberly. Photo credit: Meagan Drillinger
Another highlight? Room service at Casa Kimberly. The entire boutique hotel is a work of art in its own right, and the main restaurant, the Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar, needs little help gathering fans. But room service is reason enough for me to book a stay at this luxury villa hotel.
Maybe it’s the sweeping views from the European-style wraparound balconies, or maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling white curtains slipping through the French doors. Add to that the amazing quality of the food and what you have is a dreamy and unforgettable experience.
Upon check-in my travel companion and I ordered a fantastic lunch of grilled octopus in a fragrant garlic sauce as well as a Caesar salad. A Caesar salad may be the obvious choice for room service, but sometimes you just want something cozy, and Casa Kimberly definitely took it up a notch with fresh anchovies and Parmesan crisps.
Of course, there’s nothing like having breakfast al fresco on your Casa Kimberly terrace. I had a weakness for huevos a la Mexicana with a side of fresh fruit and, of course, the morning views of Zona Romantica.
Tour de force
An El Puerco de Oro pork belly taco. Photo credit: Meagan Drillinger
But perhaps the most memorable dining experience was my Vallarta Food Tour adventure through the lesser-known neighborhood of Versalles.
Versalles is a residential area across from the main highway from the hotel zone, an area I never even considered exploring (you can usually find me in the Centro or Zona Romantica). But by sticking to my routine when visiting the city, it’s now clear that I was depriving myself of some of the city’s hidden culinary gems.
The three hour walking tour took us to about six locations within a short distance of each other. We started on Calle Espana with, of course, tacos. But not just any tacos. Here we visited El Puerco de Oro, a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves pork belly tacos – and pork belly tacos only. Tender and juicy meat is served as simply as possible; a table full of toppings, toppings and sauces offers plenty of possibilities for customization.
From there, we headed to Abulon, an outdoor seafood restaurant that serves amazing snacks but with its own innovative cachet. Everything here revolves around camaron al pastor tacos. Traditionally, al pastor tacos are made with pork, but Abulon uses the spice blend on the shrimp for a lighter, more refreshing taco. And yes, pineapple is included. The tuna tostada was also absolutely decadent, filled with plump chunks of fresh fish.
Another highlight is Barra y Lena, an open-fronted bar and seafood grill with grilled octopus and bone marrow tacos topped with jalapeño salsa. The tacos stuffed with shrimp, melted cheese and bacon alone are worth the price of your plane ticket.
And if you still have room (though at this point it’s doubtful) you’ll want to stop by Lamara, a beach-themed ceviche restaurant serving a mix of Mexican and Asian flavors in their excellent creations. . I managed to find room for the tartar ceviche, which included tuna, cucumber, onion, peanuts, soy sauce, ginger, and sesame seeds.
Of course, you don’t have to see all of Versalles’s highlights in one day, and you maybe shouldn’t; Spreading them out will allow you to make the most of them.
But trust me: Even if you’re Puerto Vallarta’s most seasoned foodie, you’re sure to discover something you’ve never tried before when you venture out of your comfort zone. And who knows? Maybe you’ll revise your master list as well.