Byron Recommends: Arty Lunch at Fonda Franchesco

Art is everywhere in this town, in the air, on the walls of countless galleries, deep in the hearts and souls of the citizens, even inside its name: VallARTa.

One can eat or drink at quite a few art-galleries that double as restaurants/cafes, but my favorite is a tiny (seven tables) idiosyncratic place stashed away on an ordinary street just outside downtown, serving daily, inexpensive breakfasts and comida corrida (lunch specials) from meal-soups to a wide range of meat dishes.

What makes Fonda Franchesco so attractive is the charm of its surround-paintings that cover every inch of its wall-space and which are indeed for sale, but most casually so: no one pushes it, it’s just there as part of the owner’s collection, as much for his own enjoyment as that of his clients.’

That owner, the eponymous Franchesco, spins around, serving all the meals and even doing dishes when he gets a moment, but he always seems to find time for a chat. It’s very much like visiting his home.

Much of the art on the walls is by the very amusing David Chavez, who happens to be present when I check in for my lunch. He recounts stories about Vallarta (not all of them suitable in a family newspaper) and talks about how he chanced on art a dozen years ago, making it his passion and his profession; as well he should: his work wittily and colorfully portrays episodic vignettes of this very diverse, dynamically evolving, vibrant-alive city.

The lunch, which I choose to have on a Friday, the traditional “fish-eating” day according to Catholic canon, kicks off with perky Jamaica juice and a tasty lentil soup, on route to butter-tender nuggets of pargo-fish in a lively “Cuban” recipe of tomato, onion and peppers. Alternately, the pargo can be had breaded-fried with an even more melting texture, its deli- cate petals needing not much more than a single juicy chew.

FONDA FRANCHESCO is at Calle Colombia #1220 in 5 de Diciembre, Puerto Vallarta.

Byron Ayanoglu
Byron Ayanoglu is a writer of many hues. Memoirist, travel columnist, cookbook author, film-scenarist, playwright, restaurant reviewer, novelist. His most recently published novels are A Traveler's Tale and Fresh Blood, which followed Istanbul to Montréal (simultaneously published in a Turkish version); a memoir, Crete on the Half Shell (published in four languages; optioned for film); and a satirical romance Love in the Age of Confusion. Widely traveled, Byron speaks five languages and lives about forty miles north of Montreal.