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From scandalously delicious food as art to simple-but-oh-so-fresh shrimp tacos, Puerto Vallarta is a culinary hotbed.
Next to Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta has the best dining scene in Mexico.
There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. Some estimates peg the number at more than 500.
Visit in mid-November (when the ocean is warmest for swimming), and you’ll catch the annual International Gourmet Festival. Chefs from around the world fly in to work with local restaurants to create deliciously inventive menus.
We’ve visited Puerto Vallarta a few times now.
When we go, we make it our mission to track down the best Puerto Vallarta restaurants. The city’s food is one of the reasons we love PV!
Best Puerto Vallarta restaurants
Tucked away up side-streets in the Old Town and along the sculpture-studded Malecon (seaside promenade), you can find Italian trattorias, sushi joints, tapas bars, Mediterranean bistros, Mexican cocinas and a host of other eateries serving cuisines from around the world.
The following 5 are some of the best places to eat in Puerto Vallarta:
1) Barcelona Tapas
Fine dining in Puerto Vallarta
Walk up to the 3rd floor dining room or rooftop terrace and you find this wine and tapas bar-cum-restaurant, abuzz with a sophisticated Mediterranean vibe.
Set in the hills, several blocks up from the north end of the malecon, Barcelona Tapas has a smart urban feel.
It’s recently been renovated (with a whole new addition added), so if you haven’t visited since 2018, you’ll find it looks even more spiffy now. (It boasts a new elevator too.)
Go on and dress up a bit here – you’ll see young Mexican ladies in short slinky dresses and stiletto heels dining with their handsome dudes. After all, this is one of the higher-end restos in PV.
Tapas and more:
“Small plates… big tastes” is the theme.
Order 2 or 3 tapas-sized plates each, ideal for sharing, and you’ll be happily sated.
The Angus beef brochette with caramelized red wine onions hits a high note. Other tasty dishes include the bacon-wrapped dates with red pepper sauce and spicy garlic shrimp.
The menu is always being updated, so you might see different dishes when you visit.
For a larger plate, we highly recommend the paella, which is a staple.
We love the crusty, home-made brown bread, which comes with olive oil infused with fresh rosemary herbs.
Nice touch: It’s accompanied by a complimentary house-starter of potato salad.
Barcelona Tapas offers big, bold, beautiful wines by the glass – or go for the sangria (red, or melon with white wine).
Just make sure you leave room for the warm, made-to-order, chocolate lava cake for dessert. Served with raspberry sauce and homemade vanilla ice-cream, it’s sinfully delicious!
If lucky, you get complimentary Kahlua and cream with ice when you finish your meal.
Barcelona Tapas, Puerto Vallarta: Website
2) Daiquiri Dick’s
Best seafood restaurant in Puerto Vallarta?
You can never judge a restaurant by its name. While the name “Daiquiri Dick’s” might sound like a tourist trap, this restaurant is far from it. The food is more creative than the resto’s name implies!
There are many good seafood restaurants in Puerto Vallarta – and this is one of them.
Pacific Rim menu:
Blending Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, the menu includes grilled giant prawns in lemon butter (served with mashed potatoes), whole broiled fish and shrimp tacos with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.
We like the option of half-order entrées for the cornmeal-crusted perch and BBQ spareribs.
Daily fresh sheet:
A daily fresh sheet offers tasty and well-crafted choices like steamed mussels in a creamy but light Pernod sauce; pan roasted corbina (fish) with spicy yellow mole over soft polenta and cherry tomatoes; and celery, grilled grape and mushroom salad sprinkled with toasted almonds.
A big draw is the modern beachfront setting, which makes dining at this casually elegant restaurant a very pleasant experience.
On the lower outside patio, palm trees with spiraling lights tower over travertine tables, set with silver charger plates.
Killer margaritas and drinks:
Try the Margarita Linda, made with smooth Sauza tequila and Cointreau – one of the best margaritas we’ve tasted (and we’ve tasted many :-).
The restaurant’s private label Napa chardonnay with citrus and lemon zest notes (slightly oaky but not overpowering) is great value.
Take out freshly-made items like curried chicken salad from the popular deli inside Daiquiri Dick’s.
Daiquiri Dick’s, Puerto Vallarta: Website
3) Fredy’s Tucan
Best breakfast in Puerto Vallarta
There’s a reason Fredy’s Tucan is the best place to have breakfast in Puerto Vallarta.
You can choose from 70+ dishes, the portions are huge and the food is incredibly delicious.
A favorite haunt for both locals and visitors, there’s often a line-up to get in during the busy winter season.
You can sit inside in an air-conditioned area or outside in the garden. (We prefer the garden with lots of greenery.)
The eggs Benedict served on smoked pork loin are a favorite. But there are many other choices on the extensive menu.
How about fluffy pancakes with fresh strawberries and cream?
Or go for waffles with sweet peaches, raisins and cream. (The fruit in Mexico is always so delicious!)
If you’re in a Mexican breakfast mood, the chilaquiles are a hit (you can add chicken and/or eggs).
Fredy’s Tucan: Website
4) La Palapa
Most romantic of the Puerto Vallarta beach restaurants
The first Puerto Vallarta restaurant on the beach, La Palapa has been around for some 60 years now.
The setting is the big draw at this oh-so romantic dining spot on the beach. Listen to lapping waves as you enjoy white tablecloth service by candlelight!
Toes in the sand:
The best tables are those right in the sand.
Others are sprinkled about under a thatched palapa roof supported by wood columns, encircled with spiraling ropes of white mini-lights.
Classic entrées emphasize seafood dishes like pan-seared red snapper with green asparagus and grilled Pacific shrimp with potato puree and crisp parmesan.
(If you’re salt-sensitive, you may find the kitchen a bit too liberal with the salt though.)
But we love the salads.
Try the fresh spinach, jicama and panela cheese mix – the crispy tortilla bits add a nice crunch, and the citrus and tequila vinaigrette is tangy and flavorful.
And big enough for a main, the appetizer of fresh mussels is served in a deliciously rich chipotle and red pepper cream sauce.
Open throughout the day, La Palapa offers one of the nicest beach clubs too in Puerto Vallarta.
Extendable chairs, umbrellas and tables invite you to nosh on the beach while reading a good book or indulging in a little people watching.
La Palapa, Puerto Vallarta: Website
5) Archie’s Wok
Best Asian food in Puerto Vallarta
Former chef to Hollywood film director John Huston, Archie passed away in 1993 after establishing Archie’s Wok in 1986.
But his widow Cynthia Alpenia, daughter Kiyoki and son Sergio carry on the legacy of this lovely restaurant, one of the top restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for Asian fusion food.
The menu pays tribute to most of the Asian cuisines – lumpia Filipino eggrolls, Cantonese-style cashew chicken, fragrant Cambodian red beef curry simmered with tamarind and coconut milk, and Vietnamese fish wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over charcoal.
But Thai classics – like their popular Pad Thai, Thai garlic shrimp with fresh ginger, and beef tongue in Thai coconut sauce with basil – stand out.
The spice-averse will be happy to know that the kitchen goes easy on the heat, letting the delicate flavors shine on their own.
Salad lovers shouldn’t miss the spinach and watercress with caramelized pecans, feta cheese and roasted red pepper, tossed in a refreshing hibiscus flower vinaigrette.
Finish with the delightfully light citrus cloud dessert. (We really shouldn’t have tried splitting this lovely lime concoction…)
Ask to sit in the serene garden courtyard (though the small indoor room is also attractive).
On weekends, a harpist plays live classical music, adding to the ambience.
Line-ups outside the door most nights attest to this restaurant’s continuing popularity. Be prepared to wait for a table. (Archie’s doesn’t take reservations.)
Prices are reasonable – another bonus.
Archie’s Wok, Puerto Vallarta: Website
Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta? Read our post on 5 beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta
Don’t miss! Be sure to check out our ultimate Mexico travel guide (it’s packed with lots of great travel information and tips)
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We were hosted as media guests at some of these restaurants, so we could check out the Puerto Vallarta dining scene. The verbal dishing here (oh, bad pun!) is our own, however.
Photo credits: 12, 13 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1, 2 La Palapa | Remaining images courtesy the respective restaurants