Puerto Vallarta Restaurants
740 Guadalupe Sánchez
Tel: 52 322 222 3228
Chef Thierry Blouet's multiroom fantasia, Café des Artistes, is the fanciest restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, with some fancy prices to match. From the rooftop garden to the exclusive Cocina de Autor dining room with its tasting menus and hand-rolled cigars, the whole place is as dressed-up as Puerto Vallarta gets. The extensive menu, with dishes hailing from France, Mexico, and southeast Asia, ends up reading like what you'd find at a trendy Santa Monica bistro: escargot ravioli, glazed pork belly with tamarind vinaigrette, seared foie gras with a cranberry cookie, chicken stuffed with pine nuts and lemon confit. Don't be fooled into thinking Blouet is a dilettante, though; his influences may be scattered, but his meals are reliably delicious. The high-maintenance desserts—like chocolate fondant with caramel sauce and nutmeg ice cream—are big enough to be two-spoon affairs. Blouet has also opened Thierry's Prime Steakhouse in the hotel zone and Café des Artistes del Mar at the Hotel des Artistes in Punta de Mita.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 6 to 11:30 pm.
314 Olas Altas
Tel: 52 322 222 0566
The name is tacky, but the lobster tacos are transcendent at Daiquiri Dick's, a palapa restaurant right on Los Muertos beach in Puerto Vallarta. Tissue-thin tortillas envelop chunks of juicy lobster and asparagus drizzled with tangy hollandaise sauce. Sadly, they're only available when the lobster is fresh, but the shrimp tacos give them a run for their money. You also won't want to miss the seared dorado slathered with a bell-pepper sauce, grilled whole huachinango (snapper), and coconut shrimp risotto. Breakfast and lunch are equally superb, making Daiquiri Dick's an all-day hangout, popular with artsy expats. The beachfront setting means you just might spot a sea turtle lumbering onto the sand near your table in summer, and you'll surely survey a parade of vendors selling high-quality folk art in winter.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 9 am to 11 pm, November through April; Wednesdays through Mondays 9 am to 11 pm, May through October.
Tel: 52 322 222 7195
Owner Carmen Porras relied on memories of her grandmother's kitchen to create El Arrayán's clever style. At this café, votives flicker beneath religious pictures, tin pots hang from industrial-chic metal pipes, and floral oilcloths cover wood tables in a brick-walled courtyard. The cooking is equally vibrant, reviving old family recipes with locally sourced ingredients. Heady aromas accompany shrimp pozole, beef tenderloin with mole, and cochinita pibil (Yucatan pork marinated with bright-orange annatto seed and roasted in banana leaves). Sip a shot of smoky Oaxacan mezcal to start, order a Santo Tomas tempranillo from Baja California with dinner, and finish with café de olla (coffee simmered with cinnamon) and silky passion-fruit sorbet. Groups gather for animated dinners early in the evening. Later on, things get more romantic as couples claim candlelit tables in quiet corners and nooks around the courtyard.—Maribeth Mellin
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 6 to 11 pm.
Playa de los Muertos
Tel: 51 322 222 4124
Chef Juan Zuno's fans vie for prime sunset seats at this redo of a 50-year-old favorite on Playa de los Muertos. Duck carnitas, miso sea bass, and chipotle-glazed ribs suit the beach setting. If you prefer your food sans sand, choose a table on the long wooden deck or in the dining areas beneath the A-frame palapas. The spiffy restaurant/bar also doubles as a casual beach club where flamenco performances, fire shows, and Middle Eastern music entice diners to stick around well into the night. Mornings at El Dorado begin with hearty chilaquiles verde and shrimp omelets with lobster sauce.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 8 am to midnight.
Carretera 200, Nuevo Vallarta exit
Tel: 52 322 224 5584
Come to La Laguna on a Sunday afternoon and you'll soon feel like a part of the family—or multiple families, who while away several hours under a gigantic palapa beside a lagoon (don't feed the turtles!). Leisurely lunches begin with a pitcher of sangria and soda glasses packed tight with shrimp or oyster cocktails. If you're with a large group, share the one-pound platter of steamed shrimp and the whole red snapper Zarandeado, rubbed with spices, slow-grilled, and served with tortillas, marinated red onion, and salsas. The seafood al ajillo with shrimp, conch, octopus, and scallops in a guajillo chile sauce is mighty tasty as well. In fact, you can't do wrong even if you chicken out and order the fajitas de pollo.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 11 am to 8 pm.
Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio, Km 2.5
Zona Hotelera Norte
Tel: 52 322 293 0900
Cynics beware: Judgments must be held at bay when encountering the milky-white color scheme and quirky aesthetic (ink-doodle facade outside, metal shelves with towers of white canisters inside) at this casual bistro. La Leche Almacén is the go-to place for locals seeking a chic bar and dependably excellent meal. The duck, whether served in tacos, chimichangas, or as a seared breast, gets rave reviews all around town. Chef Alfonso Cadena's daily menu is described in detail by waiters in white gym shoes. The simplest dishes are best: local greens like endive, red leaf lettuce, and romaine with silky goat cheese; delicate shrimp ravioli; fresh-caught tuna as sashimi or tartare; lobster risotto; and, should you still have room, chocolate mole over popcorn ice cream. Dress is resort-casual, unless you're lounging at the bar, where short skirts and fit bodies dominate.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 5 pm to 1 am.
Avenida Tercer Mundo
Tel: 52 311 258 4123
Although Puerto Vallarta's hungry masses have plenty of choices right in town, they'll happily drive 30 minutes north to the town of San Pancho (a.k.a. San Francisco) to swoon over the hearty offerings at La Ola Rica: coconut shrimp with mango sauce, pasta primavera, barbecued pork ribs. The owners opened the café in 1996 as a dessert and coffee house and have expanded over the years as their fans demanded more choices to go with all those pitchers of frosty margaritas (the pasta primavera was the first dish they introduced). The dining room now fills a half-block-long stucco building festively decorated with Frida Kahlo posters, colored lights, and plenty of pink bougainvillea. There's live music some nights, and reservations are advised in winter.—Maribeth Mellin
Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, November through July.
Calle Quilla at Calle Proa
Tel: 52 322 221 3124
Arrive for lunch by noon or you'll be waiting for a seat at Mariscos 8 Tostadas, a bare-bones dining room in Marina Vallarta where families, office workers, and fishermen crowd every available table by 2 pm. Seafood rules here: Try the camarones en aguachile (shrimp with lime juice, cucumbers, and serrano chiles), octopus ceviche, and an unusual sashimi of thinly sliced tuna in a puddle of soy sauce with green onions and lime (available only if the fishermen reel in tuna that day). Thick corn chips and saltines accompany most dishes, and a variety of hot sauces add even more spice, if your tongue's made of iron.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 11 am to 6 pm.
The Aztecs considered chocolate to be an aphrodisiac, and if the sensory intensity of Trio's molten chocolate cake is any indication, this dish may just prove them right. Keep that in mind as you choose among the consistently excellent starters and entrées, from cilantro- and ginger-marinated calamari to oven-roasted rabbit, mushroom-coated sea bass, and braised goat raised in the nearby ranching town of El Tuito. Chefs Ulf Henriksson and Bernhard Güth have endeared themselves to legions of fans who wouldn't consider visiting Puerto Vallarta without spending a special evening or two amid the dining room's frescoed walls and marble pillars or out in the romantic, ivy-laced, brick-walled courtyard. The same duo also operates the laid-back Vitea Oceanfront Bistro on the malecón, which serves refreshing dishes like a fresh vegetable, avocado, and feta cheese sandwich and yummy crab cannelloni with salsa verde.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 6 to 11:30 pm.
Colonia Alta Vista
Tel: 52 322 222 3570
Even the most jaded Vallarta locals propose to their lovers and celebrate anniversaries at Vista Grill, an old-school restaurant on a hill high above downtown Puerto Vallarta. Dining room tables with all-encompassing views of the city and bay are in high demand, and conversation stops whenever fireworks explode over the bay (chances are good you'll catch some explosive action coming from tour boats, resort parties, or other events most Friday and Saturday nights). But do pay attention to the food. Ancho chiles and edamame purée accompany the shrimp starter, a chipotle glaze lends zest to the walnut-crusted rack of lamb, and the grilled beef filet comes with a ten-chile sauce. Top it off with a flaming Sexy Coffee (made with Kahlúa and whipped cream) and watch the sparks fly.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 5:30 to 11:30 pm.