If you've been craving a taste of the real Mexico, you could do worse than to come to Vallarta for a bite. The small restaurant offers the type of Mexican food you can find at modest seaside restaurants throughout Mexico: simple, unpretentious and hearty.
Seeing the restaurant from the outside can be a little disconcerting. The building looks like a Swiss Chalet, though it's too small to have been an IHOP in a past life. Once inside, you may feel you've gone into the jungle. The restaurant is bursting with hanging plants; watering them alone must be a full time job. The tables, chairs and booths have seen better days, but contribute to the atmosphere of the restaurant - as did a band of mariachis playing there when we last visited (a Sunday evening in May 2004).
Unless you love ranchera music you may be better off visiting Vallarta on some evening when the band is not playing. The restaurant is really small and the players stand right next to the tables, so that their instruments are no more than a few feet away from your ears. I don't know much about music, but I have to wonder if it needs to be played so loudly. It was impossible for us to carry any conversation unless we shouted directly into each others' ears. The band also showed amazing stamina - they only stopped for about a minute between songs.
I have always liked the food at Vallarta. As I mentioned, it's unpretentious but generally well-made. I've had chicken mole and chicken with chilaquiles in the past and been quite pleased with it. This time, however, we were mostly disappointed by the food.
I ordered a milanesa (breaded cutlet) with french fries. The milanesa had obviously been fried in old/cold oil, giving the thick breading a slightly bitter taste and preventing it from sticking it to the meat. The meat was very tender, but the milanesa itself wasn't very large, I expected more for the price (~$10). The french fries suffered from a similar malaise. They were rather soft, probably a product of too-cold oil.
Mike had the three-way-fajitas, a combination of shrimp, chicken & steak fajitas. They came covered with a mild tomato sauce that I didn't like very much (but then again, I'm the kind of person who prefers to taste the actual flavor of meat) but Mike didn't mind. Still, he wasn't impressed by the dish, though his annoyance over the music may have had something to do with it.
Our friend Boris had the pork with chile verde sauce. It was very tender and quite yummy - certainly the best dish of the evening. Regina had a vegetarian burrito and she thought the taste of the vegetables kind of overwhelmed the whole thing.
Another minus was that sodas were brought at room temperature. Ice was provided but sodas tend to go flat when they hit the ice.
All in all, this was a disappointing dining experience. Because our previous experiences were very good I'd still recommend you give it a try.
14366 E 14th St
No Checks or Credit Cards Accepted