EATING OUT ON THE
Let me introduce myself. I live
here year round. I eat out often.
I am quite the cook myself (references available on request).
I prefer restaurants that do simple things well or that
create meals with flair and flavor. I give few points
for quantity. Finally, I recognize the limitations under
which restaurateurs operate here in the small towns north
That said, let us move on to my
recommendations on places to try. Houseguests agree, quibbling only about the rankings of
my choices for Best and Next Best.
I pick Mark's Bar and Grill in
Bucerias. This garden spot can compete with Vallarta's best in any category---cuisine,
setting, thoughtful bilingual service, good wines. To my mind, it is also far superior to
either of the restaurants at the Four Seasons. I invariably order the medallions of tuna
and, for the table, a bottle of Los Vascos Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon. And even here
in the Land of Flan, the coconut flan is superb. Recent guests from large U.S. cities
thought the prices low for such quality; locals tend to judge the pricing more harshly.
Enter Karen's Place. My choice for next best, others rated it higher, based
on an interesting menu offered up by the young chef from California, better prices,
personable wait staff, and its location on the beach in Bucerias. Being open for
breakfast, lunch, and dinner is also a plus. For a light evening meal, this is your place.
Try the "gourmet tortilla wrap" ---it's lovely and nutritious. Some like the
informality of Karen's; I would suggest it is a bit too informal for a special evening
meal. You be the judge.
On to the BEST OF THE REST and the
categories in which they win:
-BEST VIEW: Hidden Paradise in La Cruz. Go when the moon is full for the simply
stupendous sight of its rising and then settling over the Bay. Don't be fooled if the
place appears closed; they'll open when they see you coming (they have to conserve solar
generated lighting, they say). The garlic shrimp are delicious, the open air setting is
secluded and romantic, and the host is engaging. This is a unique experience if you don't
miss their sign (immediately before the entrance to the La Puntilla development) and your
car survives the bumpy ride in.
-BEST LUNCH SPOT: Etc in Nuevo Vallarta. On the beach and muy tropical, the setting is so perfect, you
almost don't care about food quality. But not to worry. The fajitas and the burgers,
especially the shrimp burger, are very good. Stroll down the beach after lunch and take in
the mansions of the rich and famous (word has it that Julio Iglesias is one of the
-BEST BREAKFAST SPOT: Villa Amor in Sayulita. This pretty little place on the water is
worth the trip. You can even order eggs Benedict and champagne. Take your fledgling surfer
guests here and fortify them for the Sayulita waves, which are gentle and long enough for
a good learning experience. If you don't feel like driving for a cup of coffee, there is
always the old faithful in Bucerias, El Famar. A must drink is the pineapple liquado made
with orange juice instead of milk.
-BEST EXTRAVAGANZA: Wahoo's in San Francisco, a.k.a. San Pancho. Friday night at
Wahoo's in the Costa Azul Resort is Mexican buffet and mariachi night. First timers in
Mexico get a kick out of the show, which includes a folkdancing couple in full regalia, a
piņata for the kids, and a mariachi group that is long on enthusiasm if short on talent.
Buffet table food is varied and the usual buffet quality, i.e., good enough. The very
reasonable set price also includes all drinks so this is a bargain.
-BEST ON BUCERIAS' WATERFRONT ROW:
A tie between Dugarel's and Pacha's. Both are friendly, inexpensive spots serving quality,
if uninspired, seafood and grilled meat. Pacha's is arguably prettier and its grilled meat
menu more extensive. Dugarel's is more of a conversation piece, the conversation often
focusing on whether you and the entire place will slide into the sea during dinner (the
angle of the building is precarious enough to be a photo op).
A few words on Punta de Mita's
waterfront restaurant row. In my opinion, one is as good as the next and you might get
better food out of your own picnic cooler. The hawkers will be just as much of a
nuisance at any one of them, too. Really, something should be done about the constant
stream of vendors. Never mind that I succumbed and bought a lovely set of wooden salad
tongs for only 60 pesos.