Updated Spring 2004
If you head down the coast from Puerto Vallarta towards Manzanillo,
there are some exquisite places to visit along the way. However,
assuming you got here through my updated page on Puerto Vallarta,
you already know things ain't what they used to be. In fact, many of
these beautiful places are on the verge of being completely trashed
by too many tourists and travel writers. (If you missed it, check out http://www.eljefe.net/pvtips.html )
Barra de Navidad and Melaque
These two towns are on opposite ends of a small bay about 120
miles south of Puerto Vallarta. Barra is known for excellent fishing
and surfing. Melaque is sheltered by the rocks and used to be about as
peaceful an inhabited spot as you were likely to find. The bad news
is: both were pretty battered by the October, 1995 earthquake.
The good news is they are gradually rebuilding. The other bad
news is that:
- Barra has been discovered by gringo speculators,
who are rapidly turning it into tacky housing developments and
a playground for the leisure class.
- Melaque is being overrun with tourists, both gringo
and Mexican, and is no longer the peaceful little enclave it was several years ago.
- Across the Barra lagoon, on the Colima side of the state line,
somebody with an awful lot of money to launder has built the quintessentially
butt-ugly hotel complex. It is so out of place it almost defies description, but here goes: Imagine
waking up one morning with a huge zit on the tip of your nose, and no matter what you do you
can't make it go away. Then imagine your zit is state-sanctioned, and the hiway department is building new roads just so people can come visit your zit. Then imagine your
zit spawning dozens of smaller zits, til your face looks
like a cheese pizza. Then imagine Princess Cruises starts dropping anchor
in the bay, and ferries people over to play golf on your 22-hole zit -- all the while making sure nobody patronizes the poverty-edged zit-keepers from the nose across the lagoon.
Let me know when the imagery starts working for you.
Needless to say, I no longer encourage people to go to these places.
But on the off chance that you do wind up in the area, here's my restaurant review.
These are my friends Mario and Cuca Hernandez. They used to run an outstanding little place called Restaurante Los Arcos, located at Mazatlan #163 in Barra. However, due to Mario's recent health problems, they were forced to close the restaurant and move elsewhere. The restaurant is for sale, in case you're interested. The good news at this point is that Mario is reported to be doing well. The sad news, of course, is that two of the nicest people on the planet are no longer in Barra. Consequently, for all practical purposes, I don't have a compelling reason to visit that town anymore.
Remember how I teased you on
the Greeting page with tales of "World's Greatest Chicken
Mole Poblano?" Well, here it is. Cuca made it using at least 35 exotic ingredients. I have no idea where I'm gonna get my mole fix from now on.
From the archives:
Yup, that's my plateful in the foreground. Lalo's working on his soup
(he's already had the mole three nights in a row), but Lynnie
is just diving into her very first Los Arcos Mole Supremo. Quite
a cook in her own right, she'd been hearing me and Lalo and
Gigante rave for an entire year about Cuca's mole, and she was
skeptical. "It can't be that good," she persisted. Heh. She started
out with a guacamole appetizer, and three bites into it she shrieked,
"This is the best guacamole I've ever had in my life!" Me an' Lalo,
we said nothing. We just gave each other that "wait til she tastes
the chicken mole" look.
By the end of the night Miz Lynn was literally on her
knees, begging Cuca for cooking lessons. Maybe the
Presidente brandy had something to do with it, but here you see
a very happy Los Arcos patronista...
...getting a lesson from a certified professional...
Other decent places for chow include:
- Restaurante Paty -- a dynamite BBQ chicken place in downtown Barra.
- Seamaster -- on the bay side of Barra, formerly Corrales (for you old-timerz), a little more formal and pricy, but good.
- The central market in Melaque. There are numerous small eateries in the market that feature great local food. You can even pick out the fish you want at the fish stall, then take it across the walkway to Juanita's, where she'll cook it up the way you like it.
- Maya -- on the beach in Melaque, about as high end as you can get (which means it MIGHT cost you $25-$30 US for a killer meal!). The seared ahi is to die for...120 pesos.
- Pelicanos -- far west end of the beach in Melaque. New owners have turned it into a very credible Italian place.
Viva Maria 1910 at Melaque's west end also has new owners. Didn't get a chance to check it out. Former owner Roberto Pimienta Woo, guitarist, singer and town doctor, now has his own band and plays around town occasionally.
Dos Medicos -- Jefe y Roberto
- "Chez Fabian" -- Benito Juarez #60, Melaque. Veronica, Fabian and the family have split Melaque. Their former palapa is now occupied by a guy who turns out excellent roast/bbq pollo.
- Restaurante AVA -- on Calle Obregon, across from what we used to call Dead Cat Corner. (If you were ever there you know why.) Probably the best all-around club in town now. Decent food, usually has live music at night. When the gringos are in town mid-Winter, you might be lucky enough to catch the Santa Maria Banda Grande, a six-piece blues/R&B/rock band made up of veteran musicians who stay at the Santa Maria Hotel.
All things considered, it's pretty hard to go wrong with food in Mexico. My general rule of thumb: If it looks good, eat it.
Jef Jaisun -- El Jefe
E-mail: eljefe (at) eljefe (dot) net
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