Traffic noise and exhaust smoke sometimes sully the atmosphere in downtown restaurants. The Hotel Fray Junípero Serra restaurant (Lerdo 23 Pte., tel. 311/212-2525, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) does not suffer such a drawback, however, in air-conditioned serenity behind its plate-glass plaza-front windows. Choose from a very recognizable menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches ($3–6), and pasta, meat, and fish entrées ($5–10); credit cards are accepted.
A much humbler but colorful and relatively quiet lunch or supper spot is the downtown favorite Lonchería Flamingos (on Puebla Nte., tel. 311/212-1560, 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m. daily except Wed.), half a block north behind the Presidencia Municipal, where a cadre of spirited female chefs put out a continuous supply of steaming tortas, tostadas, tacos, hamburguesas ($3–5), and chocomiles ($1–2). The tortas ($1–2), although tasty, are small. Best try the tostadas ($2–3), which are served on a huge, yummy, crunchy corn tortilla.
Discover a hidden gem in the homey but refined and tranquilo Restaurant La Sierra (tel. 323/212-0322, 7:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) tucked to one side, downstairs at the Hotel Sierra de Álica. Although the hard-working family owners start the day off with a number of good breakfasts, with all the Mexican trimmings ($2–5), their hearty four-course comida corrida set lunch (soup, choice of entrée, dessert, and natural fruit agua, $5) served 1:30–6 p.m. is the day’s main event.
Another fancier but nevertheless popular downtown restaurant choice is the Restaurant Altamirano (Av. México 109 Sur, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Sun.) in the big Hotel Real de Don Juan at the southeast corner of Plaza Constituyentes. Here, in a clean rustic-chic atmosphere, businesspeople lunch in the daytime, and middle- and upper-class Tepic families stop for snacks after the movies. The appetizing menu includes a host of Mexican entrées plus a number of international favorites, including spaghetti ($6), hamburgers, omelettes, and pancakes ($3–6).
About a mile south of downtown, across Insurgentes from Parque La Loma, a loyal cadre of middle- and upper-class patrons keep the coffee shop–style Restaurant Terraza (tel. 311/213-2180, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, $3–6) bustling morning till night. A major attraction, besides the food, is the racks of books and magazines that patrons enjoy reading, along with the good omelettes, spaghetti, and sandwiches.
Tepic people enjoy a number of good suburban restaurants. On the north side of town, one of the best is the refined Restaurant Higuera (entrées $5–10) at the Hotel Bugam Villas. In the southeast suburb, Chic’s (tel. 311/214-2810, 7 a.m.–10:30 p.m. daily, $4–8), a Mexican version of Denny’s on Avenida Insurgentes by the big Plaza Ley shopping center about 1.5 miles from downtown, offers a bit of everything for the travel-weary: tasty American- style specialties, air-conditioned ambience, and a mini-playground for kids around back.
If Chic’s is not to your liking, go into Plaza Ley nearby for about half a dozen other options such as pizzerias, jugerías, taquerías, and loncherías.
For a deluxe treat, go to Restaurant Roberto’s Internacional (Paseo de La Loma 472, at the corner of Av. Insurgentes, west side of La Loma park, tel. 311/213-2085, 1–11 p.m. daily except Sun., $8–20). Here, attentive waiters, subdued 1960s-style decor, crisp service, and good international specialties set a luxurious but relaxing tone.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition