buen provecho

The best places to eat in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica

Author Matthew Schueller in Puerto Vallarta in Feb 2024
Author Matthew Schueller in Puerto Vallarta in Feb 2024

Few places are as close to my heart as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. And what better way to someone’s heart, than through their stomach? No matter where you decide to enjoy your meals, the city is full of culinary flare that will intrigue and delight your taste buds.

Puerto Vallarta is teeming with great food. Tourism has exploded in this coastal city, and so has the culinary culture. Alongside Mexican classics, you’ll discover fresh seafood, innovative twists, and bright flavors, unlike any other place along the Pacific.

Here are 2024’s top recommended restaurants you should try on your next visit to the Zona Romantica.

Panchos Takos

Panchos Takos $

Panchos Takos is a cult classic in Puerto Vallarta. This unassuming taco shop has held strong as one of the most popular and well-known eateries in the entire city. When planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, don’t be surprised if someone asks you if you plan to stop at Panchos Takos to try their famous tacos al pastor.

Walking by on any given evening, you’ll find a long line of hungry patrons waiting for the first available table. No need to worry; Panchos always does a great job ensuring everyone in line is well-hydrated with an ice-cold Pacifico or margarita.

Al Pastor, or “shepherd style,” is an assortment of spit-grilled pork slices freshly charbroiled before being piled onto small tortillas and topped with cilantro, onion, and pineapple. For street tacos, the portions are huge. It just takes three to make a full meal. Try alongside the guacamole!

La Palapa

La Palapa $$

La Palapa is the perfect place for a picturesque meal right on the beach. Featuring fresh-caught seafood and regional produce, La Palapa serves an array of delectable dishes. The star of the show is the coconut-crusted shrimp.

There’s no other place in Puerto Vallarta where you can truly appreciate fresh seafood served right on the beach at a reasonable price like this. Kicking off your flip-flops and enjoying the sunset while sipping a maracuya margarita will certainly become a favorite moment from your trip. Other top menu recommendations include the Zorandeado local Mahi Mahi or Red Snapper, oven-roasted beet salad, and braised adobo octopus.

Be sure to make a reservation, as La Palapa tends to book up, especially on weekends.

El Dorado

El Dorado $$$

Situated beachside directly next to La Palapa, El Dorado represents quintessential elegance with top-notch Mexican and seaside fare. The menu highlights include a variety of seafood platters, including fresh scallops, shrimp, octopus, mussels, and chorizo. 

If you’re looking for a venue to act as the grand finale of your trip, look no further than El Dorado. Zona Romantica contains a plethora of great restaurants, but none match the ambiance and quality of El Dorado.

Cenaduria Celia

Cenaduria Celia $

Some of the best restaurants are off the beaten path, and Cenaduria Celia is one of them. Owned and operated by Celia herself, this no-frills eatery features Celia’s family cooking behind the counter and managing orders. It really emphasizes classic Mexican home cooking.

As one of the best authentic restaurants in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica, the trip to Cenaduria Celia is well worth it to try the homemade flan! Be sure to get an order of the pazole, as it’s super filling and flavorful. The pan-fried chicken tacos are another filling and delicious option if you aren’t craving soup.

MACARENO

MACARENO $

As a popular brunch spot amongst locals, MACARENO serves huge portions and fresh Mexican fare. Choose your favorite dish with toppings of chorizo, cochinita, pastor, birria, asada, tinga de pollo… the list goes on! The handmade Oaxacan-style tamales are fragrant and fluffy, strikingly different from others in the area.

While Huevos Macareno is their signature dish, the Burrito Bañado is a showstopper. Bathed in sauce and cheese, this dish can last you for multiple meals. Plus, you’ll see the tortillas being freshly made next door.

The restaurant is spacious, trendy, and very fitting for an optimal brunch experience before a day of exploring Zona Romantica.

The taco carts

Taqueria Food Carts (Calle Fco. I. Madero & Highway 200) $

If you’re looking for authentic street food where you won’t find many tourists, stroll down Calle Madero just past Highway 200 and find a long line of food carts alongside the road. Here, you’ll find fresh tacos in nearly every fashion they can be prepared – fried, double-fried, pastor, carnitas, and even steamed. Trying a few different varieties is a real treat that will give you a unique experience of the region’s flavors.

This is a great stop for an evening snack, or to make a full meal before a night out. 

Casa 449

Casa 449 $

Another well-known brunch spot, Casa 499 is renowned for its chilaquiles. Try the chilaquiles divorciados with half the top smothered in green sauce, while the other half holds the red. Topped with fresh cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and onion, it’s the best chilaquiles in the district.

If you’re looking for something classic, you can opt for their American breakfast with eggs, hotcakes, bacon, and potato crisps. The naturally lit interior is warm and welcoming, with dark wood earth tones, muted green walls, and many smiling faces.

Michael Lindsay & Matthew Schueller in Puerto Vallarta

Honorable mentions go to Birria Robles for the best birria, Archies Wok for Asian fusion, and Joe Jack’s Fish Shack for classic fried fish tacos.

The city has much to offer alongside its pristine beaches, blue waters, and golden sun. As the Jalisco coastline has become one of the top vacation destinations in Mexico, the culinary scene continues to diversify and thrive. Make sure to mark these spots on your map and enjoy as many as possible on your next trip. ¡Buen provecho!

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