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DINING: Is Puerto Vallarta authentic? Maybe. Good? Yes.

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Dining - A&E

Not long ago, going out for Mexican food in Indianapolis meant a trip to El Sol on the east side or Acapulco Joe’s downtown. These days, though, grabbing a cheap Mexican lunch is nearly as common as picking up a $5 foot long.

Is there a dramatic difference between these inexpensive taquerias? I’m not sure, even though the preponderance of Mexican eateries has led to a territoriality once exclusively the domain of Chinese restaurants. Like those, everyone seems to have a favorite Mexican joint—and that place conveniently happens to be near one’s home or workplace.
 

A&E Yes, there are chips somewhere under the mound of beef, chicken and shrimp in Puerto Vallarta’s Nachos Locos. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

So when I tell you that Puerto Vallarta (multiple locations, including 5510 Lafayette Road, 280-0676) is my go-to spot, I don’t mean to imply that it’s better or worse than others of its kind. I only mean to make clear that I’m hooked on the Nachos Locos ($8.75), a meal that seems to never be completely devoured no matter how hungry I am. The nachos themselves are basically irrelevant, buried as they are under a massive pile of beef, chicken and shrimp, prepared fajita style with sautéed onions, jalapenos (PV isn’t shy about spicing it up) and tomatoes in a creamy cheese sauce. Inevitably, I finish the rest the next day for lunch.

At such places, it’s easy to fall back on the familiar combination plates—of which PV has 30 on the dinner menu. We haven’t gone wrong yet with any of these, which are priced in the $7 range and are a mix of tostadas, burritos, tacos, chalupas, etc. (although the salsa is a bit on the thin side).

On my most recent trip to PV, though, I tried to push into some less familiar territory, including the Ismael Special ($9.99) which proved a bit too similar to the Nachos Locos, only without the nachos and the steak. Still, a pleasure. If you really want to stretch beyond the standard fare, the El Burrito de la Roqueta ($6.99) packs in chunks of beer-simmered pork while the Mojarra Dorada ($8.25) features deep-fried tilapia with fried rice, avocados and the usual Mexican toppings.

And although I’ve never had a problem with service, it’s nice to see a note on the menu that patrons should allow ample time to prepare the food. There’s a fine line between efficient and too fast: The speedier the food is served elsewhere, the less I’m convinced anyone in the kitchen cares a whole lot about the quality.

Desserts? We usually pass—instead investing spare change in the ubiquitous plastic jars of Canel’s Chiclet chewing gum. We’re not sure if that’s part of the “authentic Mexican food” promised by Puerto Vallarta, but it works for us.•

__________

Second in a month-long series of consecutive-letter-restaurant reviews.

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  1. "bike lanes, specialized lighting, decorative signage, public art, grass medians, trees and rain gardens" These are all nice things to have, but can we freaking get the hundreds of potholes all over the city fixed first?!?!?!!?!?!

  2. When a criminal with multiple prior convictions serves five days of a one year sentence and later kills a police officer with a weapon illegally in his posession, residents of Boone County need to pay a tax to drive to work... PERFECT Progressive logic.. If, on the other hand, a fund were to be set up to build more prisons and hire more guards to keep the known criminals off the streets, I'd be the first to contribute.

  3. Not a word about how much the taxpayers will be ripped off on this deal. Crime spirals out of control and the the social problems that cause it go unheeded by an administration that does not give a rats behind about the welfare of our citizens. There is no money for police or plowing snow (remember last winter) or or or or, but spend on a sports complex, and the cash flows out of the taxpayers pockets. This city is SICK

  4. Sounds like a competitor just wanted to cause a problem. I would think as long as they are not "selling" the alcohol to the residents it is no different than if I serve wine to dinner guests. With all the violent crime happening I would think they should turn their attention to real criminals. Let these older residents enjoy what pleasures they can. Then again those boozed up residents may pose a danger to society.

  5. Where did the money go from the 2007 Income tax increase for public safety that the Mayor used to stir opposition and win the election and then failed to repeal (although he promised he would when he was running for election)? Where did the money go from the water utility sale? Where did the money go from the parking meter deal? Why does the money have all these funds for TIF deals and redevelopment of Mass avenue, and subsidy for luxury high rises, parking garages in Broad Ripple, and granola chain grocery stores but can not find the money to take care of public safety. Commuters shouldn't have to pay the tax of failed leadership in Marion County by leaders that commuters have no say in electing. Taxation without representation.

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