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.
The coastal beach city has literally hundreds of restaurants to tempt your taste buds (some reports say up to 500 Puerto Vallarta restaurants). Its food is one of the reasons we love PV!
(Of course, we also like its beaches, PV’s ArtWalk and art galleries, and little nearby villages you can visit by boat. But we’re getting side-tracked…)
Best Puerto Vallarta restaurants
Tucked away up side-streets and along the malecon (PV’s seaside walk), 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.
Here are three of the best Puerto Vallarta restaurants:
1. Barcelona Tapas
Walk up to the 3rd floor dining room or rooftop terrace and you’ll 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.
Go on and dress up a bit here – you’ll see young Mexican ladies in short slinky dresses and stiletto heels dining with their sexy dudes.
“Small plates… big tastes” is the logo. 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 also hits a high note. Other dishes include bacon-wrapped dates with red pepper sauce, spicy garlic shrimp and as a larger plate, paella (highly recommended).
Artisanal bread: 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.
Sangria: Big, bold, beautiful wines average $9 to $10 glass – or go for the sangria (red, or melon with white wine), about $5 glass.
Chocolate dessert: 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.
2. Daiquiri Dick’s
Don’t judge this restaurant by its name. It isn’t a tourist trap, and the food is more creative than “Daiquiri Dick’s” would imply.
Pacific Rim menu: Described as “Pacific Rim with a Mediterranean flair,” the menu includes grilled giant prawns in a pistachio romesco marinade and shrimp tacos with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. We like the option of half-order entrées (about $13) for the cornmeal-crusted perch and BBQ spareribs (about $10).
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.
Beachfront setting: 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 spiralling lights tower over travertine tables, set with silver charger plates.
Killer margaritas: Try the Margarita Linda, made with smooth Sauza tequila and Cointreau $11 – one of the best margaritas we’ve tasted (and we’ve tasted many :-). Their private label Napa chardonnay with citrus and lemon zest notes (slightly oaky but not overpowering) is great value at $7 glass.
The Deli: Take out freshly-made items like curried chicken salad for your condo or lunch to go from the popular new deli inside Daiquiri Dick’s.
3. La Palapa
The setting is the draw at this oh-so romantic dining spot on the beach.
Puerto Vallarta’s first beachfront restaurant, La Palapa (which recently celebrated its 50th birthday) is the sister property to Vista Grill (which boasts bay views up in the hills). 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.
Seafood focus: 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.
Bottom line: There are certainly less expensive and equally as good (some might say better) restaurants in PV. But for an elegant beachfront atmosphere, La Palapa can’t be beat.
Thanks to Barcelona Tapas, Daiquiri Dick’s and La Palapa for hosting us for dinner. But the verbal dishing here (oh, bad pun!) is our own – and the restaurants didn’t pay us for expressing our views.
Have you been to PV? What are the best Puerto Vallarta restaurants in your view?
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.