4727 California Avenue
Mexican Food, Chain
Thursday July 17, 2008
5:30pm to 7:30pm
Keri & Eric joined by Kristie and Nolan
Noon to 7:00 PM Mon-Fri
Specials: Alcohol: Signature Margharitas (lime) - $4.75 Well Drinks $3.25
Beers - Unknown
Keri drank the lime margaritas (blended) a couple of them to be exact... :) They were cool, crisp and tasty for a warm summer evening. Eric had a lime margarita on the rocks, and a well drink, gin and tonic. Nolan and Kristie drank premium margaritas, which were not on the happy hour menu, but they were strong and tasty.
Limited selection of foods for Happy Hour. Quesadillas, nachos (premium includes sour cream and guac) and regular, the happy hour appetizers were half price.
This place is a typical chain-style Mexican restaurant…except there was no piped in Mariachi music. The music in the bar ranged from Bel Biv Devoe to Sarah McLachlan, so it was an interesting mix of pop and easy listening. The standard ads graced the walls and typical chain restaurant colors often associated with Mexican restaurants. There was a large screen television behind us was tuned to airplane races, which provided visual stimulation for anyone facing that direction. We sat in a booth which was comfortable and spaciously appointed…there were 4 booths, 5 multi-person tables and 6 bar stools. When we got there at 5:30 there was a crowd of about 8-12, this number grew to be more than probably 24 by the time we left at 7:30pm. Our waitress was decent and the service was fine, the more crowded the bar became, the more difficulty she had keeping up with all the tables.
There were 5 beers available on tap and a decent wall of spirits. The strawberry margaritas looked phenomenal, but were not on the Happy Hour menu so we didn’t check them out.
Bar Hooks: Yes
Foot Rail: No
Cost of Happiness: $36.00 (for Keri and Eric only).
Overall rating (1-10 and personal thoughts):
I give Puerto Vallarta a solid 5, maybe a 5.5. While they have an extremely impressive time period for “happy hour”, hence the extra half-point, I found everything about it average, or slightly below average. Even though the appetizer menu was half-off during happy hour, they were pricey outside of happy hour…who charges $10.00 for Nachos??? The chips for the chips and salsa were warm and non-greasy, the salsa was pretty spicy and fresh, so I would just stick with those in the future. I drank 3 lime margaritas and didn’t really feel the effects of drinking them at all. The food, the drinks and the atmosphere didn’t make me that “happy”…fortunately the company was excellent and the strange music selections gave us conversation fodder. Oh, and, why oh why are there ceiling fans in places like this? They turn slowly (to make you feel like you’re someplace with a slower pace of life?), and really, instead of a cool breeze, or even air circulation, the only thing they provided was irritation! It was extremely warm in this place and all I really wanted to do was reach up there and turn them either up or off!! Although I liked our waitress, and might come here for normal dinner and drinks, I felt that this wasn’t really a walkabout happy hour, more like meeting pals after work at the local Mexican Restaurant for nachos and margaritas.
I have been to quite a few Mexican restaurant happy hours in my life. Some have been great and some have been forgettable. Puerto Vallarta will be forgotten. There are three things going for this place. The happy hours are from Noon to 7:00, the rail drinks were stiff, and I only ate the nachos and did not get diarrhea. Seven hours are really hard to beat. This should be the standard that all places try to achieve. But then again if the seven hours are crap, then what is the point. Puerto Vallarta is your typical looking American Mexican restaurant. Maybe that is my big problem with this place. I would rather see one extreme or another. Either attractive waitresses service microbrews and smoky chipotle Kobe beef fajitas or a dusty floored cantina with two sombrero wearing amigos with cockroaches crawling on their ponchos enjoying an afternoon siesta. I had a hard time figuring out what was on special. They have mostly domestic and a few Mexican beers. I might be in the minority on this but I don’t go near Mexican beers. If you have to put a lime in the bottle to make the beer drinkable, I will pass. Also if you can’t drink the water, how can you drink the beer? I started with the basic margarita because it was the only margarita on special. I ordered a few well drinks that had some punch to it. Our waitress was attentive but was distracting by her unappealing tattoos and piercings. I have yet to get a great plate of nachos from a Mexican restaurant. For some reason, brewpubs have the best nachos. The best part of the nachos was that they were ½ price. Ten dollars would have been a rip off. There was refried beans pasted on the chips which turned them into a soggy mess within three minutes. The pork served on the nachos was chunked instead of shredded. The abundance of melted cheese saved the day. There were a lot of people shuffling in and out during our two hours there. I can see where this place might have its appeal to the regular customer but to the casual person coming off the street looking for a little happiness, I would do the Mexican hat dance to the cantina down the road.
Nolan (Guest Blogger): 6
It started so well... the Waitress was friendly and mentioned there were specials on beers, wells and mixed drinks. Plus half priced appetizers. Did I mention happy hour runs from Noon to 7? It had the right atmosphere of a dive bar with locals, but with a real kitchen attached. Why o why did it go wrong from there... My first clue should have been that there wasn't really a "Happy Hour Drink Menu". It was always whatever the waitress felt like mentioning. So my final take was that happy hour is more of an informal event controlled by the whim of the server and bartender. I suspect regulars get excellent deals on a top shelf margarita, while a tourist is stuck with a bad rum&coke and a bud-light happy hour special. The nachos were serviceable, but more what I would expect from a bar and not a place named Puerto Vallarta.