I recently visited Puerto Vallarta during their famed Restaurant Week, when the best restaurants in the area offer temporarily discounted tasting menus for up to 50% off. The 17-day festival (held every year from May 15-31) just ended, but the beautiful Mexican beach town still makes for an incredible culinary destination—even without the discounts.
Here are some of the standout restaurants and dishes that I discovered on my epicurean pilgrimage:
Trio (Guerrero 264, El Centro)
Chef Bernhard Guth, a transplant from Germany's Black Forest, fell in love with Puerto Vallarta when he first visited and now displays his affections to a local and international fan base via his exceptional style of Mediterranean cuisine. Guth's cuisine, along with Trio's warmly inviting atmosphere and excellent selection of Mexican wines, all combine to create an exemplary dining experience no matter what the occasion. Try the beet salad with local goat cheese as an appetizer and don't miss the house special, cabrito, or baby goat, for a hearty entree.
El Arrayan (Allende 334, El Centro)
El Arrayan, voted "Best Mexican Food" in Puerto Vallarta for six years in a row, serves up traditional Mexican cuisine with a twist. Brave foodies should try the chapulines, or crickets, wrapped in homemade flour tortillas. They crunchy critters are roasted with a lot of flavor and taste almost like dry, seasoned soybeans. And for the sweeter toothed, the flan de cajeta, a traditional custard dessert made with local goat's milk and caramel, is divine. Restaurant Week might be over, but you can always get 10% off your meal at El Arrayan if you pay cash with US dollars or pesos. And that can go a long way after a few of the famous Arrayan Margaritas!
Blanca Blue (Km. 7.5 Carr. a Mismaloya)
Blanca Blue is the ultimate destination for those looking for chic cuisine and cinematic views of Puerto Vallarta's coastline and stunning sunsets. The ceilings here are high enough to make you feel as if you're inside a chapel and, appropriately enough, the food is heavenly. To start, order the fried snapper chips with guacamole"”you'll be hooked after one perfectly salty bite. The daily seafood specials are consistently spectacular and are prepared with contemporary, French-based techniques, but whatever the entrÃ©e, save room for dessert—namely the Chocolate Oaxaca, a decadently rich and slightly spiced chocolate cake paired with sweet potato ice cream and candied pecans.
La Leche (Francisco Medina Ascencio Km 2.5, Hotel Zone)
La Leche's interior is white, white, white and the ultra-modern space is the perfect blank canvas for Executive Chef Alfonso Cadena's colorful creativity. There's no set menu here and no recipe book at that—newly innovated recipes and menus are created daily. The avant-garde shoe definitely fits, so order whimsically and expect the unexpected. Your food can be served up on everything from a mousetrap to a toothpaste tube. My personal favorites: the roasted duck and popcorn ice cream for dessert.
Ramona Flume is an insatiable world traveler who has spent the past two summers exploring her favorite country, Colombia, alone and armed only with her notebook and film cameras. She stayed in Austin after graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism, and writes about her travels at her blog: http://ramonaflume.wordpress.com.