A large percentage of visitors to Puerto Vallarta go the all-inclusive route, opting to simplify their vacation by combining their accommodation, food and beverages all into one tidy plan. In terms of convenience, this strategy makes sense, I guess. However, those who tie themselves down this way miss out on so much that Puerto Vallarta has to offer, not the least of which is the plethora of fantastic restaurants in this oceanside city.
Puerto Vallarta has literally hundreds of restaurants, from the humblest street fare right up to luxurious five star restaurants that wouldn’t look out of place in Manhattan or Paris. In today’s article we are going to focus on some of Puerto Vallarta’s best inexpensive restaurant options. These places offer budget-conscious travelers delicious food without breaking the bank. Here are our picks for the tastiest food to be food in PV for thrifty travelers:
Memo’s Pancake House
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Memo, owner of The Pancake House has done his best to ensure that anyone visiting will walk out with a smile and a full belly, ready to tackle the day. The restaurant’s ambiance is a big part of its charm – the indoor garden is very relaxing, and the freshly roasted coffee will have your mouth watering as soon as you walk in the door. As the name implies Memo’s specialty is his pancakes, and there are a ton of mouthwatering options (or waffles if you prefer) to choose from. For those who don’t want to start the day with a meal that is essentially a dessert, there are dozens of delicious alternatives including heavenly cheese blintzes, eggs benedict, huevos rancheros and much, much more. Wash it all down with a huge glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and you’ll be ready for a full day of sun, fun and shopping in Puerto Vallarta, and you probably won’t even need lunch. Find Memo’s (AKA: The Pancake House) on Basilio Badillo in the Zona Romantica area of Puerto Vallarta.
If the line is too long at Memo’s then a few short blocks away on Badillo you can find Freddy’s Toucan, another of Zona Romantica’s best breakfast places. Colorful and bright, the ambiance is a little more frantic than the relaxing atmosphere at Memo’s, but it isn’t the uncontrolled chaos you’ll find at an IHoP or Denny’s. The menu is maybe a little pricier than Memo’s but the food is just as good. Waffles are a specialty here, and the whipped cream on top is so thick you can stand a fork up in it. The Vallarta Waffle is highly recommended, featuring melon, papaya, pineapple, pecans and topped off with a big glob of that aforementioned heavenly whipped cream.
If you started your day with breakfast at Fredy’s Tucan or Memo’s then you probably aren’t going to have much of an appetite come lunchtime. If this is the case then a stop at Sea Monkey for a light snack will fit the bill nicely. Located right on the beach, Sea Monkey doesn’t have a large menu, but the chicken wings and onion rings are cheap and tasty. We won’t lie though. The best thing about Sea Monkey – besides its fantastic beach location – is not its food, but rather its one dollar cervezas and margaritas. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting for an hour or two and sipping Pacificos (did we mention they are only a dollar!) under the shade of a palapa and watching the waves. If you’re hanging out at the other end of the Malecon keep your eye peel for The Cheeky Monkey – Sea Monkey’s sister restaurant. It doesn’t have the beautiful beachside setting, but it overlooks the busiest part of the Malecon, so it is a great people-watching spot, and the drinks are a dollar here too!
If you don’t have an hour or two to spare to sit and watch the waves then a stop at Langosta Loca is another budget-friendly, light meal option. If you’ve spent any time on the beach in Zona Romantica then you’ve likely seen the vendors walking around selling skewers of prawns or marlin. Sure, you can purchase one of these mouth-watering treats from them, but who knows how long they’ve been walking around in the hot sun before they finally made it around to you. Want to play it safe and make sure your food is fresh? Go right to the source! Langosta Loca will grill you up a skewer while you wait, and the price is still the same measly two dollars! If you’re feeling really adventurous then treat yourself to a plate of raw, freshly caught oysters. A plate of a dozen will only set you back about ten bucks.
A tiny sidewalk cafe in the Romantic Zone, Cafe Vayun is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a great spot for people watching while enjoying some of the cheapest eats in the city. The food isn’t fancy, but it is tasty and it is plentiful. Really want to get some bang for your buck? Try their all you can eat spaghetti with meat sauce. You get unlimited spaghetti and bread for just 63 pesos (roughly five bucks).
Though it’s always fun to try the local fare while traveling abroad sometimes we just crave the comfort foods we are more familiar with.Pizza is an especially popular option among travelers who are craving a taste of home. Cafe Roma makes the best pizza we’ve found anywhere in Puerto Vallarta. The restaurant is one of PV’s hidden gems. Yes, it can be a little difficult to find – it is located on Calle Encino, right along the river – but once you track it down you’ll be tempted to return again and again. Not only is the pizza to die for, but the service is every bit as good as the food. The wait staff is super friendly and very funny as well. Whether you go for lunch or dinner you’ll not only get a great meal, but you’ll get to enjoy free entertainment as well. We recommend the meat lover’s pizza with the coconut crusted onion rings to start.
Rib lovers take note – this is the place to come if you want to feast on delicious fall-off-the-bone pork ribs without dipping too deep into your wallet. If you time your visit right (between 2:00 – 4:00 PM) you can get two orders of their delicious ribs for the price of one, an incredible deal. Really, these ribs are cheap even at regular price! 165 pesos for a big rack of meaty ribs with a side of fries and coleslaw. You can’t beat that! If you are after lighter fare then we recommend the Sopa Azteca, a delicious tortilla soup with avocados for just 55 pesos. This place should be high on your list if you are a sports fan. The restaurant features numerous flat screen televisions with coverage of all the major sports through their comprehensive satellite TV package.
La Dolce Vita
There is always a lineup at this popular Italian restaurant right in the heart of the Malecon. Yes, it enjoys a prime location, but it is the delicious food that keep regular visitors to Puerto Vallarta coming back again and again. It boasts the second tastiest pizza we’ve found in Puerto Vallarta (trailing only the aforementioned Cafe Roma), but their pasta is where it’s really at. They have almost two dozen options ranging from familiar options like lasagna and spaghetti bolognese to more exotic options like linguine with shrimp and zucchini and their Heaven on Earth Spaghetti. Of course, a nice big Italian meal isn’t complete without wine, and La Dolce Vita has one of the best wine lists in the city. Don’t forget to save a little room for Italian gelato!
Though a little pricier than most of the other options on this list, when it comes to value few, if any, restaurants can compete with this quaint seafood house. If you are a seafood lover then you will have found your slice of heaven at Polo’s. If you don’t care for fish then you probably want to make other dining arrangements as seafood dominates the menu with only a couple of options available for those you don’t enjoy the bounty of the sea.
Unlike most of Puerto Vallarta’s acclaimed seafood restaurants, Polo’s is not a massive establishment overlooking the ocean. Rather, it is a small, yet cozy, unassuming little place, hidden away on a side street. Those who take the time to search it out will be richly rewarded. When you look over the menu you’ll be challenged to choose from the myriad of mouthwatering options. Our recommendation is to try their famed Seafood Sampler Platter. At 275 pesos it is a little steep for the penny-pinching traveler, but that is a steal when you consider what you get. The platter comes with a full lobster tail, crab a pair of the biggest prawns you’ll ever set eyes on, and a matching pair of giant scallops. That amount of high quality seafood would set you back at least 50 bucks at most other restaurants around the world.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best cheap places to eat in Puerto Vallarta. We hope you have the opportunity to try them all. Oh, one more budget friendly eating tip: Don’t forget to try Puerto Vallarta’s street food. There are some truly delicious options throughout the city. If you want to find a good spot just go where the locals are congregating. The busier the better!