The Mexican Cuisine scene in Puerto Vallarta surprised us everywhere we went. This bay on the western side of Mexico is a Foodie’s paradise. It has very nice restaurants that can be quite pricey, but there are so many small taco shops, hole in the walls, and street food, that it is very difficult to choose one. All inclusive resorts are great as well, but they don’t include the “local flavors” that food lovers crave. Even the seafood surprised us to the point where people would walk around the beach with fish on a stick. We loved the places we ate and want to give you a Foodies Top 5 Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, to save you the trial and error.
1. Cafe Des Artistes
Fancy is one word to describe Cafe Des Artiste. When we booked our trip to Mexico, the first thing that we looked up was the food. This restaurant was the one we were most excited to try. Thierry Bloue, the chef and founder, has outdone himself as he has created an experience that we will never forget. The atmosphere swept us off our feet as soon as we walked in. Pianos were playing, beautiful art on the walls, they served us sparkling rose, and this was only the first 2 minutes. The table was located in the middle of a rainforest, and to our surprise, it was even covered with rose pedals! Check out our video on Cafe Des Artistes here.
The food was among the best we have ever had, it excelled in flavor, uniqueness, and presentation. The service was impeccable and we had two waiters serving us at all times. The violinist began playing us Perfect by Ed Sheehan when we were beginning our main course and this was the cherry on top. All in all, this place was pricey, with the bill coming out to be $150 for 2, but it included an appetizer, 2 main courses, dessert, a bottle of wine, and the experience of a lifetime. We highly recommend going here for celebrations or special occasions. This is our favorite when it comes to a foodies top 5 restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
2. The Happy Lobster
Every time we would get in a Taxi or interact with a local our first questions was “Do you have any recommendations for food?” 9/10 people told us to go to the Happy Lobster! This hole in the wall in the middle of a neighborhood is known as the “Happy Lobster,” but it is actually called La Langosta Feliz. The restaurant is upstairs and is a local favorite. The service started off ok because it took so long for our waiter to take our order. The lobster was to die for…obviously! We split a fresh lobster tail and a shrimp skewer covered in garlic. The margaritas were as big as G’s face and were delicious. Our favorite part is the dessert coffee. The coffee comes with a show where the waiter pours alcohol from glass to glass before pouring it in a cup and adding ice cream.
The dessert was definitely the grand finale after a delicious meal. We recommend taking a taxi to this local spot because it is pretty far off the main drag. Stephen wanted to save some money and it ended up being a long walk in the dark through a sketchy part of town. If you want to take a walk, go during the day for an enjoyable lunch for the whole family. It is not as romantic of a spot as the Cafe des Artistes, but it is a really good bang for your buck and they let us take 2 margs for the taxi ride back! An appetizer, 2 main courses, 4 margaritas, and 1 coffee dessert came out to around $30. Don’t forget to ask your hotel or AirBnB for recommendations because they will you give you discounts!
3. Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana
The first night we decided to go walking down the Malecon to look for food after a long day of travel. The Malecon has so many restaurants it is almost overwhelming. I tend to trust Yelp when it comes to finding food in the area and it did not disappoint. La Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana has everything that we wanted from a Mexican restaurant. If you want to see videos from our experience here check out our video here. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was so fun, the servers had so much energy, and the Mexican Culture was thriving. We always decide to split our meals when we go out to eat.
I ordered the fish of the day which was incredibly fresh and was paired with a side of beans and vegetables. G ordered their Fajitas that came out on a cast iron pan which they dumped tequila on and set on fire. I know. AWESOME! The experience here was a great introduction to our first night in Mexico. The waiters were really fun and gave great recommendations. Our server even took a shot with us for FREE to finish the meal. This place also had the best guacamole in Mexico. G was on the hunt and tried guac at every place we ate. The conclusion was that we loved the fresh guac served in a Molcajete. The price was fairy cheap and we got guacamole, salsa, 2 margaritas, 2 entrees, and a shot for $30. Bring the family or make a romantic evening for 2, you will not be disappointed.
4. Pancho’s Takos
Tacos are in every corner in every direction that you look. Here are some rules of tacos that we found when we were looking for a Foodies Top 5 Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. Check to make sure the cooks are wearing gloves! We saw a lot of Taco shops where they were just using their bare hands. Next, watch them make the tacos in front of you so you know they are fresh! Lastly, make sure the tacos are served on CLEAN paper plates. These are small details that we recommend checking before eating at any Taco stand. Pancho’s Takos passed all these checks and much more.
The fun begins in the line. Drinks are served while you wait in line and people watching is made very easy. There is going to be a line without a doubt. The line moves quickly and is well worth the wait. The tacos are served fresh and our favorite was the Pastor. Take in the scene and enjoy an authentic Mexican made taco. Remember they are CLOSED on Sunday, so go sometime during the week to make sure you are not disappointed.
5. El Dorado
Located right on Playa Los Muertos, El Dorado is a stunning spot to eat. The location is the best part of this restaurant. It is located right next to the Puerto Vallarta Pier and you can sit at a table in the sand. Sunsets from the restaurant are amazing but we decided to go for lunch. The beach is filled with restaurants but this one caught our eye. The prices were reasonable, and the service was great. The only down side about this restaurant was the amount of vendors that walked by to try and sell us something.
The food is very good here but the margaritas are very expensive. We recommend going for an ice cold Corona, because it never tastes as good as it does on a beach in Mexico. G went for the nachos because she was feeling something cheesy. The portion was good and the carnitas on it were to die for. I decided to go with the Shrimp burger because it sounded intriguing. The burger surprised me and was very flavorful with a good texture. Sitting beach side is also fun because of the people watching. There were so many cultures and types of people all enjoying the same famous beach. Go for a day in the sun, or start your evening watching the sunset from this restaurant.
We did not indulge in too much street food, but when we did we were not disappointed. Street food is all sold for a great bargain and help the locals make a living. We decided to grab a quick snack on one of our last days near the Malecon. It was such a simple dish, potatoes, corn, cheese, and some type of sauce. The snack was only 50 pesos, aka VERY CHEAP, and had so much flavor we almost went for seconds. Shop around when it comes to street food. You might see something you want on one corner but the next will be significantly Cheaper. One thing we always like to do is to tell the local “make me your favorite.” This has not failed me yet and it is always a surprise that my inner foodie loves.
The cuisine in Puerto Vallarta is filled with a fun atmosphere and so many locals flavors. The port has a vast amount of fresh seafood that we learned to love more every day. Go out and explore until you find your favorite local secret. Food is such an important part of every trip we go on. It can really make or break a trip depending on the experience you have. We will never forget the moments of laughter and surprise at each place we recommended. This is a Foodies Top 5 Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, but don’t take our word for it, go out and explore them yourselves.