A city of undulating cobblestone streets strung along a broad sweep of the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta has been welcoming visitors to one of the best culinary scenes on Mexico’s west coast since Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor first put this former backwater fishing town on the map back in the 1960s. Burton was in town to film The Night of the Iguana and the two made headlines by holding hands and canoodling—while they were married to other people. Since then, some of the best chefs in the nation have flocked here, attracted by new opportunities and fresh ingredients. 

Signature dish

Traditionally served before noon in a corn tortilla, birria is the iconic dish of the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located. It’s best eaten from one of the city’s busy street stands, which do a brisk business serving up this stewed goat (or mutton, chicken or beef) marinated in adobo spices and topped with onion and lime. Try it at Robles, a family-run taco stand in the Zona Romantica cooks up birria for a mostly local crowd, selling them for 10 pesos apiece until they sell out.

Don’t miss

El Arrayan is a restaurant whose setting—an open courtyard, with Huichol art on the walls—is almost as good as the food. Try culinary favourites from all over Mexico, including roasted crispy cricket tacos and chocolaty mole sauce from Oaxaca. Or stay closer to home with something like duck carnitas—a house special.

The best part

A city of very walkable neighbourhoods, Puerto Vallarta is a place where you can feel free to explore the diverse food scene on your own. You’ll stumble across a variety of charming spots—like Tony’s Please, a family-owned hole-in-the-wall on a back street where the food is delicious and the name makes no sense.

Delicious Stay

Richard Burton’s former casita—and a few neighbouring villas—have been converted into a beautiful boutique hotel, Hacienda San Angel. Its rooftop restaurant, featuring authentic mariachi bands six nights a week, serves a legendary cabreria (fillet steak finished with a mild, three-chili sauce) and an excellent stuffed chile poblano. 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the March 2015 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.