I really do have the best husband. While other couples were doing, whatever romantic thing it is other people do on Valentine’s Day, we were methodically eating our way through Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta is an interesting place. Part tourist mecca (think Spring Break for the Over-50 Set), part vibrant local city. If you are interested in local Mexican food, it’s a challenge to know where to go. There are plenty of restaurants, but separating the tourist-traps and “Tex-Mex” joints from the more local, less ridiculously expensive, food is a serious challenge.
That’s where Vallarta Eats comes in. Started in 2011, the company uses just a handful of local guides to show guests a carefully curated list of delicious local eateries. Their #1 ranking on TripAdvisor points to the fact that they are filling a much-desired niche.
On Friday night, Valentine’s Day, we set off with our guide Memo on the Mole, Pozole and More Tour. Tour groups cap out at about six people but it was only the three of us this evening. That might have been awkward if Memo wasn’t such a cool guy.
In fact, we quickly learned just how popular he was: we were barely seated at the first restaurant, a family-owned mole place when it started. “Memo!” a middle-aged woman exclaimed, “Thank you so much for the tour yesterday! We went back to the market and bought a squash.”
Memo looked embarrassed, even more so when not 5 minutes late a group of middle-aged men stopped to thank him again. They were headed back to the fish restaurant they had visited a few days ago on the tour. It happened yet again when we reached the best taco al pastor stand in Puerto Vallarta. Another couple revisiting a spot Memo had guided them too earlier this week.
Friendly interruptions aside, over the course of three hours Memo guided us through the back streets of town, stuffing us full of mole, smoked marlin, pozole stew and more. I grew fuller and fuller but couldn’t stop devouring each new delicacy: a fried shrimp empanada, a hot pink strawberry flavored tamale, a succulent caramel ice pop.
On Sunday morning we set out again with Vallarta Eats, this time on the Signature Taco and More Tour with Yah Yah. The taco tour is the big-daddy Mexican food tours: something like 16 stops where you get to sample more than half a dozen tacos, several street snacks and a couple of desserts. It’s massive, expansive and fascinating and of course I was more than up to the challenge!
Our first stop was a birreria stand: stewed meat (goat is popular but this time it was beef) served in a taco with a spicy serrano pepper on the side. Our tour companions were a sweet middle-aged couple from Minnesota. “I would never, ever have tried this,” the man remarked.
The genius of these Vallarta Eats tours is that they make eating local accessible. While Mike and I are willing to stick out our necks and risk embarrassment or food poisoning eating at some random hole in the wall, many aren’t. That’s why it’s so useful to have an experienced guide tell you not just where, but what to eat.
The following nearly four hours were a fantastic adventure: carnitas, chicharron, ceviche, stuffed jalapenos, paletas, on and on. I’ll be writing a whole post next week sharing everything I’ve learned about the fabulous world of Mexican tacos, a topic so expansive you could probably pen several books on the subject.
Over the years I’ve become a serious advocate for food tours. While other parts of a city can be easy to discover on your own, food is a gray area. A food tour with a local guide can help you bypass the watered-down tourist food and discover not just the tastiest food, but the context behind it. My weekend with Vallarta Eats really brought this home to me.
Also, I mean, so many delicious tacos.
Thanks to Vallarta Eats for hosting me on their two tours.
Find a Place to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Hotel Posada de Roger Puerto Vallarta is a charming hotel decorated with traditional Mexican motifs. This comfortable hotel is located in the heart of old town Puerto Vallarta and offers a rooftop terrace and pool to relax around. Le Petit Bonheur Studio
Le Petit Bonheur Studio is a charming studio apartment a two-minute walk from the beach. Relax on the terrace with sea and mountain views in this beach apartment.
Hotel Cinco22 is a perfect place to stay if you are looking for stylish and modern accommodation with sea views in the heart of Puerta Vallarta. This boutique hotel will make you feel at home.
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