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A Taste of Riviera Nayarit: Hidden Gems Along the Coast Await Discovery
Charming restaurants in tiny fishing villages offering gourmet cuisine by international chefs and authentic Mexican seaside cuisine are the culinary rewards awaiting travelers exploring Mexico’s newest destination, Riviera Nayarit.
By: Carrie Hyman
Just opened in January 2008, the newest gourmet restaurant is the Café des Artistes del Mar in Punta de Mita created by award-winning chef, Thierry Blouet of the famed Café des Artistes and Cocina del Autor restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. Café des Artistes del Mar’s menu exhibits a strong French-Mediterranean influence with heavy emphasis on fresh seafood latches from the area.
One of Riviera Nayarit’s finest restaurants, El Delfin at Hotel Garza Canela, is located in the heart of the sleepy little town of San Blas. El Delfin is headed by chef Betty Vasquez who studied at The Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts in Paris and then worked under celebrated chef Juan Mari Arzak of the famed restaurant, Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. Arzak is a three starred Michelin restaurant that is a regular on Restaurant Magazine’s “Top 50 Restaurants in the World List.” At El Delfin, Vasquez uses Mexican ingredients fused with classic European cooking techniques. San Blas is worth a visit beyond its fine dining. The legacy of the Franciscan friar, Junipero Serra who founded the California Missions, can be seen in this town in the shape of a beautiful Spanish fort and ruins of a cathedral. Visitors are also drawn to nearby La Tovara National Park, known for its mangrove forest reserve, bird sanctuary with almost 250 species of birds, crocodiles and turtles.
Nuevo Vallarta is Riviera Nayarit’s most developed area and offers world-class resorts and of course, a wide variety of restaurants. Tino’s La Laguna is known for its Huachinango Sarandeado, Nayarit’s most famous dish which is red snapper grilled with lime and savory spices. La Portena serves quality steaks such as its specialty, the “vacio” a tender Argentinian steak. If you are staying at Grand Velas Resort & Spa, you can dine at one of its two AAA Four Diamond 2008 Restaurants – Luca or Piaf.
Kick back and relax in Bucerias which offers affordable inns and bed & breakfast lodgings as well as quality restaurants and bars like Marks Bar & Grill. New Zealander Jan Benton welcomes you to Marks Bar & Grill with its artistic tropical decoration, extensive wine list and a superb menu featuring contemporary cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian-inspired flavors. Other options in the area include El Chivero, a colorful Mexican seaside restaurant and bar which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Adauto’s on the Beach, a beachfront restaurant and bar serving fresh seafood (lobster, jumbo shrimps, red snapper and langoustines)
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle recently unveiled a luxury 400 slip marina named “Riviera Nayarit Marina & Yacht Club” and is expecting further development with the opening of boutique hotels in the future. Whisper it quietly but La Cruz’s Frascati Ristorante is a favorite among Nayaritans. This attractive restaurant serves fine Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, homemade pastas and a wide variety of fresh sauces. For delicious fish tacos and chilaquiles, head over to La Glorieta which is run by the Ramirez family.
Miramar on La Cruz’s La Manzanilla Beach offers fresh seafood and Sarandeado fish. A little taste of Europe can be found at the Britannia Bar or Black Forest Restaurant with German cuisine.
Bohemian Sayulita is a haven for an eclectic mix of surfers, artists and expats so it offers a wide variety of bars and restaurants. Don Pedro’s is the ideal spot to watch the surfers and offers dining under a giant palapa. Don Pedro’s chef Nicholas Parrillo, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, prepares Mediterranean specialties with Mexican and Californian influences. Try Sayulita Fish Tacos which serves a signature Baja-style fish taco as well as homemade salsas, guacamole, empanadas, quesadillas and burritos. Rollie’s is a popular breakfast and gathering spot amongst locals and expatriates.
The fishing village of San Francisco, also known as San Pancho, is famed for its natural beauty and Polo Club matches which take place between November and May. Mar Plata Restaurant recently opened and offers seafood dishes and steaks beside the sea. Another one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets is La Bottega dei Sapori Italian Bakery which produces tasty pastries and snacks.
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Riviera Nayarit is Mexico’s newest travel destination stretching along 100 miles of pristine Pacific coast framed by spectacular mountains that unfolds minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta Intl Airport. The region features luxury resorts and eco-tourism boutique hotels, world-renowned surfing, professional golf courses, rare native wildlife including sea turtles and tropical birds and much more.