Food Shopping on the South Side/Zona Romantica
According to the Visitor’s Bureau, Puerto Vallarta is the restaurant capitol of the western world. And there’s some truth to that. But you may want to cook in, explore the local markets, save some serious dinero during your visit. There are plenty of choices within walking distance south of the Rio Cuale.
I highly recommend the Emiliano Zapata mercado, the local farmer’s market, which has a good variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, in addition to various sausages and bulk products. It is on Lazaro Cardenas street, near the river. Go inside the courtyard and find the “Cremaria” – a little shop along the west wall and ask for their homemade sugar-free greek yogurt, crazy thick and good, along with freshly made salsas with roast peppers and home-made chips. Fresh bacon with no nitrates or preservatives. A good place to buy authentic vanilla and all sorts of good things. You will see the market marked as a blue square on the right (east) side of the following map, created by John Ross, owner of VallartaInfo.com – a wonderful resource for visitors.
http://vallartainfo.com/south.html south side map
There are two local food and craft markets to explore. On Friday, the Hotel Marsol hosts a smaller market inside their lobby, right behind popular bar Cuates & Cuetes, by the Los Muertos Pier. On Saturday, a larger market is held at the Lazaro Cardenes Park, a block from the beach. All sorts of crafts, specialty foods, organic cheese and coffee, and prepared items are available for sampling and purchase. There are also information booths and live music. Both are handy places to get take-out food, or enjoy lunch at the Park, with many ethnic choices available. You can get fresh vegetables at the Park Market, although at a higher price than the Emiliano Zapata community market.
The little grocery stores (tiendas) run by local families offer a quick stop for the odds-and-ends you run out of, eggs, milk, chips, a few vegetables. They are on nearly every corner, with some good ones on the beach side of Olas Altas. Check the plastic cooler for fresh tortillas. The ever-present OXXOs have 7/11 type of offerings. The roast chicken stands offer a quick tasty meal, perfect for a picnic at the beach or to take home for a lazy supper by the pool. They come with a few peppers, tortillas and salsa. You can add roast potatoes for a few pesos more. They tend to run out by 4-5PM, so keep that in mind. The fresh fish stands are a great source of shrimp and all types of fish. “Dorado” is similar to what we call red snapper. They also close early. There’s a popular fish stand on Constitucion a few steps south of Aquiles Serdan, and one inside the courtyard at the Emiliano Zapata market.
A store named “Mercado”, painted bright yellow and a half block east of Vallarta Street on Aquiles Serdan, sells high-quality deli and produce items, along with imported items and a wonderful bread outlet. Priced to match quality. Next to it are two vendors of fresh coconut water. Bring your own container or just sit there and put a straw into the coconut. Cold and wonderful and very healthy. Just the thing for a warm day. Ask for the “carne” either plain or spiced up with lime and pepper powder. It’s all 18 pesos per coconut.
Outside of the south downtown area, you can find larger supermarkets for stocking up. Since the demise of local and well-loved Rizo’s, you will need to take a bus or taxi to either Mega or Ley’s to get a wider selection of items. Both of these stores are marked as blue squares on the following map. Further afield lie Soriana, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.
If you can manage a bit of space in your suitcase, bring reusable grocery bags, like the ones you might use at home. Please leave for the next guest. Mexico is increasingly “green” and your efforts to reduce waste will be appreciated. And be aware that the kids that bag your groceries generally aren’t paid and rely on a couple pesos to take home with them to their families.
Have fun, explore, enjoy!