When my feet first hit the tarmac in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, in 1979 dining was a dilemma. We had several places which were recommended as good and food safe. Many places did not cater to tourists and did not wash their vegetables or fruit sufficiently. “Tourista” was very common but usually a short bothersome time. Even dining at those spots was hit-and-miss.
La Palapa, El Dorado, Carlos O’Brien’s, other places on the malecón [which ended before the river] and mom and pop spots were our choices. I remember one called Chavas which was very good, tasty, reasonable and safe. After several years, the restaurant was gone.
Around 1981, a place popped up on La Isla Río Cuale called Le Bistro. Thierry Blouet now of Café des Artistes repute devoted some service there before deciding to open his own place. Money had started to flow in from the Western United States and portions of the East Coast and Canada. With that, owners branched out to separate their venue from the usual local spots. The gourmet transformation started.
As each year passed bringing visitors from cities with very good restaurants, similar spots began to flourish. More and more this community was becoming known as a food destination with visiting tourists who were chefs from Italy, China, France, Central and South America, Germany and England fell in love with the aspects of this Bahía de Banderas area similar to today: climate, people, culture, art and food. This opened the gastronomical field to worldwide offerings and opportunities. Local entrepreneurs expanded their preferences, too, with Italian becoming the main non-Mexican cuisine offered and many of them flourish, up to this day. The countrywide and eventually worldwide reputation of Puerto Vallarta encouraged chefs in the area to organize two food festivals: November’s Gourmet Festival with guest chefs and May’s Restaurant Week [now seventeen nights long] which enabled diners to sample offerings at fine places at a reasonable cost. Many gourmands plan their trips here to coincide with one of these events.
More and more local restaurateurs observed their competitors’ successes and revised their menus appropriately. Some became very popular and are still open today. The main thrust of the industry is to offer good food at fair prices, attentive service and a pleasant environment.
The community of local Mexicans, full-time residents from other countries and visitors from every country are now blessed with a plethora of choices to visit and decide for themselves if it pleases their palates.