Other Reviews


Thursday night (late September 2001), a friend and I went to see "Tortilla Soup" - a Mexican-American version of Eat Drink Man Woman - which made us incredibly hungry for good, authentic Mexican food. We didn't want the Tex-Mex stuff, which can be quite good (I love the steak fajitas at Chevy's!) but is another thing altogether. Fortunately if there is something we have in San Leandro, it's plenty of Mexican food.

I decided to go to Vallarta as Mike and I had been there before and had thought it was pretty good (and authentic!). That time I had the chicken mole, and had been surprised by how good it was. Still, I hadn't been back in a while and was afraid that the restaurant would not measure up to all the gorgeous, mouth-watering dishes we had seen in the movie. I shouldn't have been /too/ worried.

Vallarta is a very homey restaurant that would likely be at home in Puerto Vallarta itself. Well, I haven't been there, but you can find restaurants like Vallarta all over Mexico. The outside resembles a Swiss chalet - I wonder if there was an IHOP or something like that previously in that building - but inside it's decorated like a beach-front dive. There are plants and more plants hanging from the ceilings, and nice murals of traditional Mexican scenes. The booths and tables are not exactly refined, but they are quite in place at the restaurant.

The clientele is mixed, all locals, I'm sure, including many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. They obviously know that they can come here to eat like at home.

Service is good, though a little bit sloppy. Our waitress was very nice, and she brought both drinks and the food promptly, but after clearing the plates she both failed to ask us if we wanted dessert and to bring us the bill. I'm not sure, however, if this is bad service - or there is an expectation that one will go to the counter to pay the bill when ready (that's what we ended up doing).

The menu is quite ample and includes a large selection of fish and seafood (that's their specialty), as well as meat, chicken and pork dishes. Most dishes are under $10, though beef dishes are a bit more expensive and some of the seafood specials reach about $14. The portions are very generous, making Vallarta very good value.

The food, however, is what makes Vallarta a great place to dine in. It's very simple and unpretentious but very good. This time I had the carne asada con chilaquiles and I was very impressed. The very thin steak wasn't terribly tender, but it was very flavorful. It tasted, basically, of steak - just like mom used to make (though my mom is not Mexican). The chilaquiles were also better than expected (I haven't had good chilaquiles in the US before). They were made with tortilla chips, though I personally prefer them with soft tortilla pieces, and came with a red sauce, cheese and sour cream. Yummy and highly recommended. They also came with a side of refried beans, which I didn't touch (I don't eat beans), and a "small salad" which basically consisted of two slices of tomato.

My friend had the chicken enchilada and tamale combination, also accompanied by refried beans. She said that these two were absolutely delicious. She also raved about the beans, nominating them as some of the best beans she's had in her life. In all, she thought this was among the best Mexican restaurants she's been to, probably the best in the Bay Area. High praise, indeed, from someone from Southern California.

We also liked the chips and salsa. They weren't as light as those you get at Chevy's (yes, I'm addicted to them), but they were both quite savory and the runny sauce was more authentic.

We skipped dessert, so I can't comment on it - next time I'll try it and let you know about it.

We will very likely go back to Vallarta . I think this place is best for when you want some very simple, very homely food. It's not, however, a "destination" type of place - unless you are really into Mexican food.

14366 E 14th St
San Leandro
(510) 352-7340
No Checks or Credit Cards Accepted