Best Food Cart Ever

I headed down to Puerto Vallarta last Thursday morning, escaping just one hour in front of a wet and heavy Colorado spring snow.  It was a very fortunate morning, as I had expected to arrive very late or not even arrive Thursday at all.

I didn’t partake in anything of cultural or social significance during my stay, which makes it difficult to write a travel blog about local flavor and culture.  However even though Puerto Vallarta is a tourist destination with its time share hucksters and beachfront highrises, the contrasting Zona Romantica neighborhood, south of the Rio Cuale, is a beautiful old area and the ONLY place I’d recommend for establishing a base in town.   This being the gay friendly part of the most gay friendly town in Mexico it’s not surprising it’s the best area.   There are a few bars on Calle Olas Altas (tall waves,) luring in packs middle of age couples with mutiple tequila shots and Mexicans belting out La Bamba, (probably while rolling their eyes,) but overall this area is far more subdued – and I really did enjoy it.

There were  of course tourists, (like me,) however we met a lot of guys vacationing from Guadalajara and Mexico City, along with many expats living or working there.  It was definitely not the rowdy spring break crowd in this older part of Puerto Vallarta.

In addition sitting on the beach with friends I spent time wandering the neighborhoods hugging the steep hills, visiting the markets, taking pictures of tile, and practicing my Spanish with locals.    And I got another haircut.   This baffled my friends, however I explained that at a Peluqueria, (salon or barber,) I pay $7 which includes a substantial tip.  At Floyds here in Denver I pay $24 with tip.  Hence I sometimes time my haircuts to occur when visiting countries where the dollar is strong.

This was my friend’s first time in Mexico.  He’s from Bulgaria, so he made a point of telling the local guys he wasn’t American.  His boss and family had warned him of the insanity and lawlessness in Mexico – which he was laughing about by his third day there. I haven’t read the official travel warnings, but you’d have to try really hard to find yourself in trouble here.

On the subject of unnecessary fear, one of them has to do with food stands like these.  Many folks with your best interest in mind advise to remain as far from them as possible.  They’re completely wrong.  LOCAL stands are fresh with a wide selection of eats, very filling, and extremely inexpensive. You can portion together a full meal for few dollars, so it’s a good way to keep your budget in check.

I might abstain from mobile vendors in tourist areas or along the beach, as they fill a one time hunger need and don’t rely on return business. However places like these are staples of the community, and when you encounter one like this it can be well worth it.  Locals that serve their friends and neighbors do not gamble cooking an inferior product and aim to keep their repeat business.

These ladies were here working late nights til 3am serving young people taking a break from the clubs, police officers on the beat, and nearby restaurant staff getting off from work.    Check out the big bulbs of onion in the lower left.  We returned to this place two times more and were amazed at how great a meal it was for under $2 US.   And we got to sit on the block and eat with the locals.

If this crew set up shop in LoDo I’d imagine the line at 1:30am would be to Brighton.

Unrelated: This house next to the condo I rented is for sale. It’s perched on a hill and has a great view of the town and ocean. If I weren’t such a city person it would be very tempting – that is provided my boss and coworkers would allow me to work from “home.”

6 thoughts on “Best Food Cart Ever”

  1. I write and publish the restaurant guide of all PV and I just love your remarks about street food/taco stands. I love the mom and pop spots. Had a cheeseburger and trimmings plus a baked potato [!] with butter and crema last night at Tacos Memo’s for total 50 pesos, around $4USD, a bit more. Super. I go from one to another taking notes and sharing with foodies who live and visit our paradise! Yum…

  2. Thanks Gary. Another great meal was was some chorizo I bought from the big grocery store, (east of the old town zocalo by the river,) and cooked up in my condo for breakfast. Cooked up with some eggs, peppers, fresh tomatoes, fruit and pan dulce.

    Had a great brunch Sunday at Roberto’s too. I found it interesting how just a few blocks east of Olas Altas the prices drop and the places to me seem more local, mellow atmosphere and enjoyable. I don’t like having to yell through noise just to talk with friends. Can do that later at the clubs :)

    Would you be able to tell me the name of a certain restaurant? It’s on Basillo Badillo between Olas Altas and Pino Suarez – across from a row of vendor stands. It’s primarily Mexican food – but I had really good barbeque chicken. They have the grill halfway into the sidewalk and you can watch them cook from outside. My friends and I ended up here three nights – but as mentioned this was a relaxing/party trip so I didn’t do as much documentation as i normally do.

    Cheers and thanks for post! Nice yahoo group too – very helpful.

  3. James – maybe Gary has already gotten back to you but the name of the restaurant you’re interested in is Cafe de Olla (closed Tuesdays). It’s almost always packed so I recommend going before or after the dinner crush. Provecho.

  4. While I don’t think there is any reason to panic don’t be lulled in to complacency in Puerto Vallarta (even the Zona Romantica). As the economy there deteriorates in response to slowing U.S. tourism crime is on the rise. My condo was broken into twice this season and there was a break-in at La Palapa resulting in the murder of a U.S. citizen. Also, beware the local police who can stop you for any reason and shake you down for a bribe to let you go. Caution is completely appropriate.

  5. Thanks for the info Dave. Yeah we ended up late there a few nights and were fortunate enough to get a table for five right away.

    Fred I agree that caution and awareness of your surroundings should be a given. I go out late at night and when walking empty streets I’m always aware of who’s nearby and potential troubles. But I exercise that same caution wandering around sketchy parts of Denver too.

    Hopefully reasonable caution and paranoia and kept in their appropriate mental compartments – and I certainly hope as you mentioned the decline in tourism levels.

    There’s for the note and visiting!

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