Puerto Vallarta Street Food: A Walking Adventure of Deliciousness
Before heading to Puerto Vallarta, I did what you are probably doing right now, reading travel books, searching reviews, and checking out food blogs. What I read excited me, and got my eating juices flowing as I planned out my trip. But the level of deliciousness actually found in Puerto Vallarta was beyond my expectations. Puerto Vallarta is a land of Mexican tasty treats one must experience to understand. And that experience is best found while walking the streets of Veijo Vallarta.
Incredible Fresh Seafood on the Malecon Walkway
The Malecon Walkway way runs from new Puerto Vallarta clear through Veijo (old) Vallarta. It runs along the bay shoreline, and is absolutely beautiful with it’s blue-water views, palm trees, and cobblestone path. It is lined with shops, tourist traps, restaurants, and more tequila bars than you can imagine. There are beautiful fixed statues, and even some live human statues, my favorite of which were the sand people. These guys were a total trip sitting perfectly still, occasionally “cracking” as they’d adjust their positions.
The Malecon is also home to the beautiful “The Crown of Our Lady” Catholic church. Built in 1883, this church is a Puerto Vallarta landmark, and worth stopping by to see and reverence.
And though these different sights may be treasures, the real treasures for me were all the tasty little fresh seafood treats found along the way. There were several different grilled shrimp stands and walking hawkers, grilled fish stands, and fresh oyster stands, all of which were exceptional!
Our single biggest food regret of our Puerto Vallarta visit was not eating more of these oysters! They were incredible! Just pulled out of the bay that morning, they were sitting in ocean-water buckets, pulled out as needed, shucked right before you, and served on a plate of ice with fresh lime, a touch of salt, and hot sauce of your choice. I’m normally not a big fan of raw oysters, but these were so fresh and clean that they were an absolute joy to eat. The fresh lime juice balanced out the briny ocean taste, and the hot sauce added a great little punch at the end. They were so clean, that chewing them rather than just gaggingly slurping them down was not an issue whatsoever. Why did we only get 2 each? Why oh why didn’t we each buy a plate of 20? What fools! Stupid stupid fools.
Also delicious were these fresh grilled shrimp. They were grilled over wood coals, and had a great subtle smoke flavor because of it. They were coated with a mild Mexican spice blend, were very moist, and were probably the cleanest briny tasting shrimp I’ve ever put in my mouth. Plus they were the size of small cats. Just enormous, and truly exceptional. They didn’t blow my mind like the oysters did, but they were very good and well worth the couple bucks they cost us.
As we dived deeper into Veijo Vallarta, we decided to leave the walk way and head east into the streets. Oh what happy little joys we found there!
Yarita Bakery in Old Town Puerto Vallarta
Our first discovery was the ever so amazing Yarita Mexican bakery. Mexican pastries are not nearly as sweet as their USA cousins, and in many ways, that makes them more enjoyable. As such, we were all excited to give Yarita’s a try. Yarita’s is small, but their selection was very robust.
Upon walking in, we were overwhelmed with the smell of butter. Baked butter with a little wheat dough and sugar. “Oh my, what have we just got ourselves into?” I thought. Everything was displayed in beautiful wooden shelves, and all looked amazing. We selected a few things and headed back out into the street to enjoy them. My favorite was the chocolate hand pie. The crust was so flaky and buttery it was ridiculous, and it reminded me of my pie crust recipe. And the chocolate filling was perfect, not overly sweet, with a great chocolate flavor and hint of cinnamon that left me wanting to eat three more. Roll your eyes good.
Best Taco Ever, Wet Street Tacos in Puerto Vallarta
As we headed deeper into the streets, I spotted a little taco cart. Street tacos were what I hit the streets to find, so I anxiously approached the little wheeled stand. There were several people ordering, and there was a little sitting alcove behind the cart, but we were a bit unsure if it looked safe or not. A lady in the line noticed our concern, turned to us, and said, “It’s really good and very clean. Some stands aren’t clean, but this one is, and they have the best tacos in town. Here, I’ll order you some.” We were a little shocked at her taco offering, but gratefully accepted. She knew just what to order, and we let her. Oh my gosh!
All of their tacos were made out of slow cooked meats, which were then shredded/chopped and cooked in a chili based stewing broth. The stand was full of these little stewing pots, each with a different meat in them. I’ve never had a wet taco like these before, and now I don’t want to eat anything but them.
We had chicken and pork, both of which were amazing. They were served simply with some chopped cabbage and onion on fresh corn tortillas. The chili broth flowed all over the tortillas. Each bite was a succulent mouthful of Mexican mother’s milk. I loved these tacos, and am working on duplicating their perfection at home. If you ever see wet tacos anywhere, stop whatever you’re doing and order a plate of them.
Chocolate Sushi Dessert Shop in Veijo Vallarta
We kept walking, stopping in the occasional store or shop, and having a great time checking out the heart of old town Puerto Vallarta, never loosing site of our goal to eat everything we came across. It was very hot and humid that day, so when the air conditioned dessert sushi shop was spotted, we happily headed in. But I thought, “Dessert sushi? This place is going to suck.” How wrong I was.
Their dessert sushi was freaking delicious! It was made with a very lite and fluffy chocolate mouse with little chunks of dark chocolate in it, all rolled up in a super moist striped chocolate and white chocolate cake. It was served with a vanilla cream frosting (cream cheese based I think) to act as the soy sauce dip, and was eaten with chopsticks. A little gimmicky for sure, but was very fun and quite tasty. It was kind of like a Hostess Ding Dong on crack.
Tacos el Pastor Street Tacos in Puerto Vallarta
Cooled and all sugared up, we head back to our gluttonous adventure. In just a short couple blocks, we came across our 2nd street taco stand. This one had a sign that said “Serving tacos since 1982″. Yup, going in. The owners were very friendly, asked where were from, made sure we knew they were the oldest taco stand in town, and happily answered any questions we had about their menu. We selected the Tacos el Pastor, though I’m not really sure why they called them that because the pork was not cooked on a vertical rotisserie spit and the taco was not topped with pineapple. Oh well, they were good anyway. The seasoned pork was heated along side the corn tortillas on a dome-shaped grill. They were dressed with some terrific pinto beans, onions, and cilantro. A bit of fresh squeezed lime juice and their fresh made salsa verde finished it off. Open mouth, enter heaven. Not as good as the wet tacos (how could they be), but some of the best pork tacos I’ve ever had. And, surprisingly, were some of the only beans I had while in Puerto Vallarta.
El Calamar Aventurero Seafood Tacos Review
As we circled back in the direction of the bakery, we passed an open restaurant called El Calamar Aventurero. The Squid Adventure. How can you pass a place with a name like that up? We really weren’t hungry, but come on! The ceiling fans felt nice, and the seafood tacos they served us were pretty nice as well.
The Manta ray Taco was was cooked in a savory tomato, bell pepper, and carrot sauce until falling apart. It was then shredded and cooked even longer, Tossed on perfect fresh corn tortillas, sauce and all, it had a fishy flavor that wasn’t overbearing. It was awesome! If I would have had room, I would have had 4 of them.
The Shrimp Taco was made with battered and deep fried shrimp. They were kind of like the fried shrimp you get at cheap American Chinese restaurants, but much much better. They were very moist and tender, and were topped with bag salad (an interesting choice that actually worked great) and a Baja type sauce that looked like thousand island dressing on the salad mix. A squeeze of lime, and the deliciouness was complete.
The Marlin taco was nearly identical to the Manta ray taco. It was cooked in the exact same broth, and had the exact same taste. However, marlin is a more mild and meatier fish than manta ray, so it was a little less fishy and a lot more “steak” like in texture. Very good, but I think I actually enjoyed the manta ray taco more.
Pie in the Sky Perfect Puerto Vallarta Pies
I had heard about Pie in the Sky from a couple different food blogs, and knew I wanted to try it out. We looked up their address to find them, but just happened to unexpectedly walk right by them. With it’s bright colored paint and funky feel, it reminded me of something I would find in Seattle. Yet here it was in the heart of Mexico. It smelled very much of pies, which is always a good thing. Again, the air conditioning was a huge welcome, as was the incredible mango pie they served us.
Mango pie? I’d never even heard of a mango pie before. Why the hell wouldn’t you make a pie out of mangos? I love mangos, and I love pie. I should have thought of putting the two together years ago.
This thing was very nice, even though we ordered the sugar free version (for what reason I’m not really clear). Mangos are so sweet on their own that I couldn’t tell it wasn’t made with sugar. Great job Pie in the Sky. But as great as it was, I think it would be even better with a bit of pineapple mixed in.
As we were eating our pie and wiping the sweat from our brows, the guy in the picture above turned and asked us what Kosher meant. It was a little startling to be in Mexico and have a Mexican guy ask us suddenly in perfect English what kosher meant. We proceeded to answer his question and he told us he spent several years in New York and was never clear on what Kosher was. His name was Paco, and he was very friendly. We asked him what he would recommend for a great dinner restaurant. Without hesitation, he told us to go to Margarita Grill and to order one of their molcajetes. We visited with him for a bit, thanked him for his advice, and started to say our goodbyes as we gathered up our things. He told us that he owned a souvenir shop and that we should stop by and see him there. We thanked him and parted ways. Oh little Paco, I will forever hold you with love in my heart for your Margarita Grill recommendation.
But our afternoon eating and walking wasn’t done yet, so off we went to spend a a couple more hours before following Paco’s advice.
Shopping at the Street Market in Veijo Vallarta
Veijo Vallarta has a large open-aired street market which sits at the banks of the Rio Cuale. We crossed the swinging foot bridge and browsed the shops. Mostly made up of silver trinkets, random worthless things, hand made carvings, baskets, and textiles, the market was interesting to browse, but didn’t bring much temptation to buy. My girlfriend’s sister bought a poncho after she haggled the guy down by 70%. Impressive, and better than I would have done I’m sure. The constant harassment of the kids selling crap wares was more than we were in the mood to deal with though, so we pushed on back towards the Malecon walkway.
As we did, we passed a little wheeled cart with a pile of deep yellow sweet treats on it. They were Cocadas; baked piles of sugar and coconut. The guy wanted 20 pesos for one, which seemed like too much, so I passed.
Delicious Cocadas on the Malecon Walkway
Back on the walkway, we took a seat on the bridge over the Rio Cuale to enjoy the views of the bay. It gave me a chance to take a few notes for blogging later. But that cocadas cart was haunting me. Why did I pass on them?
Thankfully, my haunting didn’t last long. As I looked up from my writing, the cocadas cart was on the bridge heading my way. As he approached, I waived him over and said “How much? 15?” “No, 20,” was his reply. “15?” “No, 20.” “15?” “OK” Yes! I handed him my 15 pesos and he handed me a pile of sticky sweet nirvana. This amazing haystack of large shredded coconut and caramelized sugar was spectacular. It was oddly yellow, I believe from egg yolks. But boy was it freaking good! We all loved it, and it was large enough to feed us all. But again, like complete fools, we didn’t buy more. I should have bought the entire cart, took them to the hotel, and stuffed them in my suitcase to bring home with me. Duh!
Margarita Grill Puerto Vallarta Review
After our nice rest on the Malecon, we were ready for dinner, so we footed it over to Paco’s recommendation, the Margarita Grill. If you ever go to Puerto Vallarta, and I highly recommend that you do, make sure you eat at Margarita Grill. It is truly amazing. Paco was true to his word that they offer some of the very best meals in town.
We were all roasting hot from spending all day in the sun, so the virgin margaritas sounded mighty good. Mighty good….what an understatement of them. These things were amazing, and large enough to serve 2-3. We ordered a mango margarita and a lime margarita. The lime was superb, and was extremely refreshing. It was clearly made with fresh squeezed lime juice, and the crushed ice was more like snow than ice. The mango was my favorite, however. It was very sweet, but very refreshing at the same time. It had the strongest mango flavor of any mango drink I’ve ever put in my face. Truly exquisite.
Fresh table-side guacamole was on the menu, so we ordered some. How can you resist fresh table-side guacamole? It was perfect. It was made in a stone mortar (a molcajete), and was nothing but the basics. Here’s their exact recipe that I observed:
- 2 avocados
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1/2 tomato, chopped
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 small serrano chili, finely chopped
- Salt to taste (they placed the salt in the molcajete before the rest of the ingredients, which I thought looked cool)
They then mashed it all up in the mortar and served it with the best fresh fried corn tortilla chips I’ve ever had. The chips were very thick, super crunchy, strongly corn flavored, and perfectly salted. They were the ultimate vessel to carry the guacamole to my mouth. We should have ordered another round.
But as good as all this was, it was not what Paco sent us to Margarita Grill to enjoy. He told us that the best thing on the menu were their molcajetes. A molcajete is a stone mortar, which gets heated in a hot oven to 500° or so, and then filled with meats and brothy deliciousness. The spices and seasonings of that broth get in the nooks and crannies of the stone, and add to the tastiness of the next meal served in them. The continuing “seasoning” of the stone is perhaps what helped make Margarita Grill’s so wonderful, or perhaps it was just the culinary genius of the chefs behind the scenes. Whatever the cause, the magic of their molcajete offerings were better than the best David Copperfield show.
We ordered two: the Mixed, and the Seafood.
The Mixed molcajete was filled with grilled, perfectly seasoned and super moist chicken breast, flank steak, shrimp, chorizo, pineapple, Nopal (cactus), fresh cheese (similar to mozzarella), and a chili relleno. The sauce was a very succulent, well spiced/seasoned, lightly sweet, verde sauce. It was ridiculous, and lasted only about 5 minutes. But as good as it was, the Seafood Molcajete blew it out of the water.
A whole crab, tasty cheese filled chili relleno, tons of shrimp and white fish, and octopus that was literally as soft as butter, made up this mouthgasmic inspiration. The red ranchero sauce was super savory, made from chiles, tomatoes, and tomatillos. And just in case the cheese from the chili relleno wasn’t enough, they threw a slab of more cheese on the top of everything. My notes said “holy shit. Now we’re getting somewhere.” My memory says, “I’m about to cry just thinking about it.” This was hands down the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, and is what I went to Puerto Vallarta to hope to find. Long live the fatness and glory of Margarita Grill!
As we were finishing our meal, in walked Paco! He couldn’t have timed that any better. We were so filled with gratitude over the experience he just gave us that we all rushed over to thank him profusely. He said simply, “come see me at my shop.” I was prepared to buy half his store as a thank you.
Paco’s Souvenir Shop
Paco’s shop just happened to be near our bus stop, so we stopped in before heading back to our hotel. The place totally sucked, and I’m guessing the only way Paco stays in business is by randomly asking white Americans what kosher means, telling them about the best eatery in town, and beguiling them to buying his crap trinkets as a means of thanking him. No matter, I love the man all the same.
The Bald Gourmet eats the streets of Puerto Vallarta, and eats the best Mexican Food of his life.
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