Eating Out Strategy
Where should we eat? With hundreds of PV-area eateries competing for your attention, it may seem like a daunting question. But fret not—we’ve eaten our way around town on your behalf. The selections here represent the best this destination has to offer—from tacos at street-side stands to five-star haute cuisine. Search "Best Bets" for top recommendations by price, cuisine, and experience. Or find a review quickly in the alphabetical listings.
Upon rising, locals start with coffee and pan dulce (sweet breads) or chilaquiles (broken fried tortillas in chili sauce) for desayuno (breakfast) at the area’s coffee shops and small restaurants. Schedule permitting, Mexicans love to eat a hearty almuerzo, or full breakfast, at about 10. The day’s main meal, comida, is typically between 2 and 5 pm and consists of soup and/or salad, bread or tortillas, a main dish, side dishes, and dessert. Cena (dinner) is lighter; many people just have milk or hot chocolate and a sweet roll or tamales between 8 and 9 pm.
That said, PV is tourist-friendly, and most eateries accommodate travelers by serving breakfast until noon and main meals from noon until late in the evening. Restaurants have long hours in PV, though seafood shacks on the beach may close by late afternoon or sunset. Outside the resort areas, restaurants may close at 7 or 8 pm. Nayarit State is on Mountain Standard Time (an hour earlier than PV), but since 2011 restaurants from Punta de Mita south officially follow Central Time (as in PV). Unless otherwise noted, restaurants in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Avoid paying for water; instead ask for un vaso con agua or agua de garrafón—either should net you a glass of purified water from the jugs used for cooking and rinsing vegetables. Most restaurants offer lunch deals with special menus at great pricesthough at more traditional restaurants, the lunch menu may not be available before 1 or 1:30 pm. Some small or casual restaurants accept only cash.
Though it's unusual to see children in the dining rooms of Puerto Vallarta’s upscale restaurants, dining with youngsters here does not have to mean culinary exile. Many of the restaurants reviewed in this chapter are excellent choices for families.
It’s possible to get a same-day reservation if your timing's flexible. With a bit of luck it's possible to just show up for dinner, even at the nicest places; go early (6 pm) or late (after 9 pm) and politely inquire about any last-minute vacancies or cancellations. Occasionally, an eatery may ask you to call the day before your scheduled meal to reconfirm; don't forget, or you could lose out. You'll find that with the exception of small mom-and-pop establishments, many places provide valet parking at dinner for reasonable rates (often around $2–$3, plus tip).
Tipping and Taxes
In most restaurants, tip the waiter 10–15%. (To figure out a 10% tip, move the decimal point one place to the left on your total; add half that for 15%.) Some restaurants include a service charge, so only tip more if service has been exceptional. Tip at least $1 per drink at the bar. Never tip the maître d' unless you're out to impress your guests or expect to pay another visit soon. Even in the tonier restaurants, tax is typically already factored in to the cost of individual menu items.
What to Wear
Dining out in Puerto Vallarta tends to be a casual affair—even at some of the more expensive restaurants you're likely to see customers in dressy shorts or jeans. It's extremely rare for PV restaurants to actually require a jacket and tie, but all of the city's more formal establishments appreciate a gentleman who dons a jacket. Let your good judgment be your guide.
Beer and Spirits
Jalisco is far and away Mexico's most important tequila-producing state, and its green-agave cousin, raicilla, is gaining in popularity (though still hard to find). Mexican beers range from light like Corona and Sol to medium-bodied and golden like Pacífico and Bohemia; great darks include Negra Modelo and Indio.
Gourmet Festival. Puerto Vallarta's annual gourmet festival has brought international attention since 1994. During the 10-day food fling each November, chefs from around the world bring new twists on timeless classics. Events include classes and seminars, and restaurants and guest chefs create special menus with wine pairings. Attendees can sample food from otherwise inaccessible restaurants of all-inclusive hotels, all of them at better-than-usual rates. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. www.festivalgourmet.com.
The law forbids smoking in enclosed areas, including bars. However, smoking might still be allowed, especially if there is an outdoor patio. Call ahead to find out a restaurant's policy.