Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for all-inclusive vacations as well as a busy cruise ship port. As a result, many of the tourists traveling there will probably be eating in their hotel or on board their cruise liner. But those willing to make an excursion into the historic downtown of the city will be rewarded with a rich experience and the flavors of real Mexico. Even better, some of the street food stands, with their inexpensive meals, will go easy on the pocketbook. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights of a foodie walking tour in Puerto Vallarta.
Tacos, the Real Mexican Street Food
Tacos – maize tortillas folded around food – are an absolute staple of Mexican cuisine. Birreria Robles is a family-owned taco stand that has been serving birria tacos since 1986. “Birria” is the Spanish word for slowly braised meat, and at this stand you’ll be able to sample goat or beef birria topped with onions and cilantro. The tasty meat is stuffed inside two fried tacos; the outer one is nice and crispy while the inner one soaks up the juice from the meat.
When eating at a street food stand in Mexico, pay attention to hygiene and popularity. The more people lined up at the stand, the cleaner and better the food will be. At Birreria Robles, people are often lined up three-deep, a sure sign that you’ve arrived at one of Puerta Vallarta’s best taco stands.
Explore Puerto Vallarta’s Restaurant Row
Just steps away from Birreria Robles is a street called Basilio Badillo, unofficially known as Puerto Vallarta’s “Restaurant Row.” Mama Rosa, for example, is a popular destination for anyone in search of traditional Mexican cuisine. One of the favorites here is a “sopa tarasca,” a tasty bean soup that originated in the state of Michoacan. This street is full of all sorts of eateries with names such as Memo’s Casa de Hotcakes, Margarita Grill and Joe Bob’s Fish Shack, which is renowned for its whole Red Snapper flavored with garlic and red pepper.
Try Some Divine Chocolate
Also on Calle Basilio Badillo is a chocolate store that was founded by two Canadian women who moved to Puerto Vallarta years ago and were inspired by the fact that Mexico is the birthplace of chocolate. Combining Meso-American traditions with European confectionary techniques, XocoDiva Artisan Chocolates has been delighting locals and tourists alike with sweet treats and confections since 2007. The motto of this store reflects that chocolate is the “Food of the Gods,” and chocolates with flavors such as champagne, chili, coconut lime, jasmine Earl Grey tea, margarita, passion fruit and vanilla indeed provide a heavenly treat for the taste buds.
Watch the Beheading of Coconuts
Another authentically local experience can be had at Cesar’s Coconut Stand, where the owner slices the tops off one coconut after another with an extremely large machete. He then pours the sweet coconut water into small plastic bags outfitted with straws. Next, you can watch the coconut flesh be scooped out, cut into small strips and also put into plastic bags. In keeping with Mexico’s sweet and savory culinary traditions, it will then be spiced up with a squirt of fresh lime juice, brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne pepper and just a tiny bit of salt. In business since 1984, Cesar is a fixture on Aquiles Serdan Street and sells more than 900 coconuts a week.
Try a Ceviche to Die For
Ceviche is one of Latin America’s most popular seafood dishes and is usually made from fresh, raw fish that has been cured in lemon or lime juices and spiced with chili peppers or Ají peppers. Additional seasonings include chopped onions, salt and cilantro. At Cevicheria El Guero on Franciso I. Madero Street, you can sample “ceviche tostada” on corn tortillas. The ceviche is made from the freshest red snapper or mahi-mahi fillets and can be accompanied by “agua de Jamaica,” a delicious, deep-red, sweet drink made from hibiscus flowers.
Sample Some Tuba Water to Quench Your Thirst
For something completely different, look for Tuba by Concepción. An older gentleman – with a deep tan, mirrored sunglasses, a cowboy hat, and dressed all in white – is one of Puerto Vallarta’s local celebrities. He can usually be found on different squares or various intersections in the historic part of Puerto Vallarta. His big plastic container contains “tuba water,” which consists of slightly fermented palm tree sap sweetened with honey and spiced with small chunks of apples and walnuts. Tuba water is a very refreshing drink, perfect for taking a break during a downtown walking tour.
Finish the Food Tour with Mexican Candy
After this veritable smorgasbord of Mexican flavors, finish your Puerto Vallarta culinary walking tour with authentic Mexican candies from a store named Orgullo Azteca (which translates to “Aztecan Pride”). This colorful store is brimming with traditional Mexican candies such as candied pecans, caramelized nuts, Oaxacan peanut butter bars, candies made from “dulce de leche” (slowly simmered milk and sugar), coconut candies and many other sweets made from local ingredients. The owner, Geraldo Leal, comes from a family of candy-makers, and tourists love to get their photos taken with him because he looks like a dark-haired Patrick Swayze.
Leaving the big resorts and well-known restaurants behind and exploring the food on the streets of Puerto Vallarta will be a very enriching experience. It will connect you with the culture and traditions of Mexico, and the complex and contradictory flavors will delight your taste buds.
Susanne Pacher, MBA, is an award-winning writer and publisher of www.travelandtransitions.com, a popular online portal about unique travel and interesting life journeys. She also publishes the Niagara Travel Guide, the Ontario Travel Guide and the Styria Travel Guide on Facebook. Susanne is a passionate photographer and among the top global Youtube travel video creators with more than 8.5 million views. With a strong background in business and entrepreneurship, Susanne also provides tourism marketing, content creation, publicity and tourism consulting services. You can read her travel reports from countless fascinating destinations at http://www.travelandtransitions.com/our-travel-blog/.