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Puerto Vallarta Mexican Grill (Closed)

7200 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX

Puerto Vallarta Grill on North Mesa

Just about every Mexican style seafood restaurant in El Paso serves the type of fish that is found on the Mexican Pacific coast, with fish tacos and shrimp cocktails being some of the most popular items. The city of Puerto Vallarta is due south of El Paso, and this seaport has exerted a great influence throughout northern Mexico and adjacent areas of the United States, including exports of its seafood throughout the inland regions.

Puerto Vallarta Mexican Grill is appropriately named, being an inland version of the authentic Mexican style seafood restaurants found on the coast. Everything from the fish fillets (with all the choices including veracruzano, breaded, and achiote) to the extras (fish ceviche and either chowder or fish soup served with every meal) reminds one of being in Mexico. While I have not been to the city of Puerto Vallarta myself, the fish I have eaten on the Mexican gulf coast has been one of the biggest treats of my life.

Even though I was impressed with the way Puerto Vallarta Grill prepared the fish, the biggest difference between here and either of the Mexican coasts is the freshness of the fish. I have never had fish in El Paso that compares with the fresh catches available along the Gulf of Mexico, and it would be unfair to expect anything like this in a desert city. Instead, I just have to see if the fish is reasonably fresh and if a good preparation makes up for a slight degredation that will inevitably occur in the transportation process.

In the case of Puerto Vallarta Grill, the freshness is about as much as can be expected, and is about equal to other restaurants in the city. The problem I have is with the pollack that is used for both the fillets and the fish tacos. This is most likely a variety of fish that transports well, but it has never been one of my choices for good fish. Even though I like just about everything else about this restaurant, I frankly do not care much for the pollack that is served.

If you do order the Fish Tacos, they have the benefit of being cooked in white wine (as are the fillets). The fish tacos are quite substantial, and come with good condiments, but there are several restaurants in which I prefer the tacos.

Mojarra with ranchero sauce
Mojarra with ranchero sauce

When it is available, Puerto Vallarta Grill offers other types of fish, and sometimes at just about the same price. One example is a Tilapia Mojarra I ordered with ranchero sauce made with tomatoes and green chiles. When I looked up "mojarra" it was described as yellowfin, or generally as a small fish not more than 16 inches in length. The mojarra at Puerto Vallarta Grill was small enough for an individual meal, and I was very pleased that they served the whole fish as I had experienced on the Gulf coast. While I do not usually eat the skin, I find tilapia to be much more flavorful when it is served as a whole fish. This fish was a bit dry, but it did not taste "fishy," so overall I thought it was very good.

Mojarra with garlic
Mojarra al mojo de ajo

Another popular whole fish is the Mojarra al Mojo de Ajo, covered with roasted garlic. I enjoyed this one more than the one with ranchero sauce, and I do not know if the fish was actually better or if it just tasted better with the garlic. In any case, I thought this was one of the better versions of tilapia served in El Paso.

The mashed potatoes served with the whole fish were very good, and the salad and rice were acceptable. Other side dishes are available but I enjoyed the ones I had to the point that I probably would not want to change them.

I have always liked the bread at Puerto Vallarta Grill, but recently they have been serving such a small amount that it is barely enough to last through the meal.

I have not tried the shrimp but it seems to be the most popular item sold, and is likely the specialty of the restaurant.

Fish soup and ceviche
Complimentary fish soup, ceviche, salsa, chips, and bread

The restaurant serves a complimentary Ceviche before the meal that is one of the reasons I enjoy eating here even though some of the fish may not be memorable. Even when my experience with the pollack discouraged me from coming back for an extended period of time, the prospect of having free ceviche and a very good fish soup made Puerto Vallarta much more attractive. Now that I have had good experiences with the tilapia, the restaurant is even better.

At one time I thought the Fish Soup was some of the best I've had outside of Mexico. Recently it has not impressed me the same way, but I still thought it was quite good.

Clam chowder and ceviche
Chips, ceviche, clam chowder, and lemonade

Clam chowder is available instead of the fish soup, and was also good. It does not compare with the clam chowder served in Boston, but nothing outside of New England does (that I have experienced so far).

The Chips are very thick (Mexican style), and with the Salsas served (an excellent green sauce) it sets the mood for the rest of the meal. Other than when I have ordered tilapia, the appetizers have been the main reason for coming to Puerto Vallarta Grill.

Fresh squeezed Lemonade is served that I think is a perfect drink to go with seafood. This lemonade is a little thinner and less sweet than is normally found in American restaurants, and there is a vast difference between most lemonades and the agua natural drinks served in Mexican restaurants that perpare it the traditional way. Puerto Vallarta makes it the way I think it should be done, and it is among the best in El Paso (although I would include any restaurant that prepares it properly on the same list).

The restaurant serves tacos and tortas, but otherwise is purely fish and shrimp. They follow the motto: stick with one thing and do it well. I do not care for the pollack they use as the "default" fish, but some of the other choices are quite good. I would say they really do not need to add anything else to the menu. I just hope they keep serving the mojarra, which is listed as a special on what seems to be a semi-permanent sign.



Cuisine: Mexican Seafood
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Additional Location: 1611 Montana Ave.
Smoking: No Smoking
Special Features: Complimentary Ceviche

Chile Index:

Most Recent Visit
Mar. 19, 2008

Number of Visits: 7

Best Items
Mojarra, Fish Soup, Ceviche, Chips and Salsa, Bread

Special Ratings
Mojarra: ajo
Mojarra: veracruzano
Fish Tacos:
Fish Soup:
Fish Ceviche: