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The 10 Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
- Café des Artistes • $$$$
- Mariscos Cisneros • $
Casual, local seafood diner with cheerful décor and a friendly vibe. The restaurant keeps a taco truck in front for a quick lunch, though the main restaurant has a larger menu and more seating – indoors, or in their backyard patio. Local favorites include the aguachile ceviche and manta ray tacos, while travelers rave about their shrimp burritos and strong margaritas. This simple, family-friendly restaurant is incredibly popular, so arrive early to avoid a wait. During peak lunch and dinner times, the line gets long enough to wrap around the building, especially during the high season when the food tours stop here.
- Kaiser Maximilian • $$-$$$
Upscale, Austrian bistro, with a casual, sidewalk café in front and an intimate, fine-dining restaurant inside, all with white table-cloths, fresh flowers, and candles. The menu features authentic Austrian and European recipes, along with Mexican favorites, and some of the best espresso in the city. Expect rich flavors, warm hospitality, and great people watching from its central perch in Zona Romantica no matter what time you visit. The restaurant is open all day but is most popular for breakfast (pastries, large portions, great mimosas, and liquor-spiked coffees) and dinner (succulent meats, chocolate, and fruit desserts, over one hundred wines).
- 116 Pulpito Gastro Bar • $$-$$$
Trendy spot for tapas and cocktails with a lively atmosphere. Cocktails are super refreshing, using fresh-squeezed or pureed fruits and local spirits. Contemporary spins on classic drinks include cucumber margaritas and chili-mango mojitos. Their tapas menu is seafood-heavy with Mexican favorites, alongside Spanish and international flavors; octopus and calamari dishes are the most popular, closely followed by their thin, crispy pizzas. This is a small spot with a few bar stools and mostly two-seat tables. Reserve in advance for larger groups or if you prefer outdoor seating, otherwise the wait during happy hour and dinner is usually around 45 minutes.
- La Palapa • $$-$$$
Contemporary and classic Mexican dishes, with dashes of Asian and French flavors, are served in casual, elegant style here. Diners may choose al fresco tables under their main thatched roof or in their beach club section under shady thatched umbrellas with their toes in the sand. This family-owned, four-diamond restaurant, open since 1957, is one of the oldest and best-known spots in the city and remains especially popular for Sunday brunches, romantic sunset dinners, and special occasions. Seafood dishes are most raved about here, especially the ceviche trio. The Mexican coffee comes with a fun fire show.
- Restaurant Pajaritos • $$-$$$
This hidden gem is a local favorite, best known for its seafood tacos; choose shrimp, octopus, or fish, all of which come wrapped in bacon. Their chile en nogada, though, offers a truly outstanding blend of savory, rich, and sweet flavors with picadillo, poblano, pomegranate seeds, and walnut sauce. Great margaritas are a staple, as are aguas frescas with different flavors every day. The humble restaurant features a small sidewalk bar in front, covered dining inside, and tables on their garden patio in back. Tucked away on a residential street in El Centro, Pajaritos is open seven days a week from 1:00-7:00 pm.
- Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana • $$-$$$
An excellent restaurant for fresh, authentic flavors and a warm atmosphere. Fire-roasted salsas and fresh guacamoles are made tableside with a customized level of spice. Their carnitas Michoacán, barbacoa de res, and shrimp molcajete are the stand-out dishes, a change from the usual fish-based menus in Puerto Vallarta (though they do have amazing green ceviche here, too!) Nightly live music usually features a two-piece band or mariachis. The restaurant is across from Guadalupe Church, so expect lots of tourists. In spite of this, recipes remain traditionally Mexican, rather than Americanized versions.
- Pancho’s Takos • $
Fantastic, little street restaurant specializing in tacos al pastor: pork cooked over charcoal, sliced to order, served on fresh, soft, piping hot corn tortillas, with roasted pineapple and cilantro. Though al pastor is the star, their queso fundido (with chorizo or mushrooms) and quesadillas are not to be missed. Be sure to top your meal with some of their house-made salsas, ranging from a mild green to spicy red to an atomic orange (mango habanero for a sweet and fiery treat!) This casual hole-in-the-wall offers just a couple of tables inside, with the rest spilling off the sidewalk and into the street. There is usually a wait, but the line moves quickly.
- El Brujo Vallarta • $$-$$$
A beloved local restaurant known for its stuffed fish dishes. The Brujo Negro is the recipe that got them started, a fish fillet stuffed with shrimp and huitlacoche with a squid ink sauce on a bed of corn and rice. Their Santa Cruz, stuffed with crab and cheese and served with a crab enchilada, is another local favorite, along with the Pirey, stuffed with shrimp and octopus with a tomatillo sauce. Most of the recipes are prepared mild; do ask for a spicy preparation or request salsa on the side if you prefer more heat. This family-friendly restaurant is great for younger kids; they have a kids menu and a playroom with lots of toys for preschoolers.
- River Café • $$-$$$
Upscale restaurant on Cuale Island serving a range of international fare all day. Regional Mexican food feature more prominently at breakfast and lunch, while Italian-inspired options are most popular during dinner service, especially their lamb lasagna. The ambiance is romantic and service is friendly and attentive, perfect for a date night or special occasion. Nightly live music and exceptional cocktails complete the experience. Reservations are recommended, especially for their Sunday brunch or if you prefer seats in the gazebo overlooking the river.
Creative French fine dining with Mexican flair, using fresh, local ingredients. The decadent menu features popular mainstays like duck confit with mole or pork belly in a hibiscus merlot sauce, as well as an ever-changing selection of seasonal dishes. Ambiance is romantic and celebratory. Diners may choose a table on their jungle garden patio or in their white and crystal dining salon. Their extensive wine list showcases varieties from ten countries as well as several regions in Mexico, though their cocktail menu is equally tempting with regional spirits and fresh fruits. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially if requesting outdoor seating in the winter months. Children eight years and over are allowed. Located in El Centro, three blocks from the Malecon in a gorgeous hundred-year-old house.