Where to eat and drink
Most tourist guides will point you to the beautiful Café des Artistes, Puerto Vallarta’s best modern fine dining restaurant, or to Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, its always-packed expat headquarters. Both are fantastic, but don’t miss these laid-back local favorites.
Mariscos el Guero
296 Francisco Madero
One of the most beloved stops for tourists and locals alike is Mariscos el Guero, which grew from a street cart to a proper restaurant on the corner of avenue Francisco Madero. Its best-sellers — which rank among Vallarta’s greatest culinary hits — include smoked-marlin-stuffed green chiles; fried shrimp tacos dressed with shredded cabbage and salsa verde; and tostadas topped with the classic ceviche preparation of the region, meaning white fish ground with carrot, onion and chiles.
Robles’ Birria Cart
Corner of Cardenas and Constitución
At this cart specializing in birria, beef or goat is stewed till soft with bay leaf, cinnamon and other spices then shredded and piled atop a taco. You can get it with regular soft corn tortillas (ask for soave), or they’ll also fry two thin tortillas in the birria fat. Top these tacos with purple onion relish, hot sauces and shredded cabbage to your liking, and don’t forget to ask for a cup of the broth on the side. Just go early — both versions are often sold out by mid-afternoon.
252 Calle Mina
Originally Gaby’s was a tiny dinner-only diner serving three-course comida corrida for $6. But workers from a nearby bank begged Gaby to open earlier, and she turned her former apartment into a second floor dining room. You can also eat on the patio, next to a waterfall and live trees. The tortilla soup is beloved as is the “la banda,” aka three shots (tequila, sangrita and lime juice) in the colors of the Mexican flag.
4 Isla Río Cuale
This open-air restaurant offers romantic views of the River Cuale and the occasional iguana, plus a fountain, white tablecloths and fancier Mex-French fare. But the real reason to go is their margaritas: Sold frozen or on the rocks and in many flavors, they’re some of the best in town. If you don’t want to stay for a whole meal, have a molcajete of guacamole and a round at the bar by the walkway up front.