This restaurant is in an unlikely location—housed in the restaurant portion of a Howard Johnson’s motel refurbished in 2005—but the Nuevo Vallarta (9359 US Highway 19 N., Pinellas Park, FL 33782; 727-577-3746) passes the two main first-glance tests for a promising restaurant: (1) lots of cars and (2) I’m the only customer speaking English!
The food is good. There are many Mexican restaurants, but most are just one notch about Taco Bell (some are a notch below). Nuevo Vallarta means it when they say authentic.
I’m not an authority on the many, many different styles of Mexican cuisine, but just based on my time living in, and numerous visits to, US/Mexican border-towns, and my experiences with good restaurants there, I can safely say that the food at Nuevo Vallarta makes me homesick for the Southwest.
They have a full bar with margaritas by the pitcher and more imported Mexican beers than I knew existed. (I can see the advantage of being attached to a motel!) I started eating there well over a year ago and I have a certain affection for this enterprise. It’s family owned and operated. It’s such a pleasure to see everyone in their family pitching in. They have a good product. I hope they continue to thrive.
Their menu includes a vegetarian section, all the usual Mexican dishes, plus a number you may never had heard of. My favorite dish is the chicken fajitas. That’s standard fare, I know, but they pull (shred) the chicken in an authentic style. Its marinade gives it an elusive but addictive taste.
This restaurant isn’t near my usual stomping grounds. It’s just north of Wal-Mart, way, way up Highway 19. But, whenever I make the monthly trek up to Costco, I pass right by it. That’s when I treat myself. I highly recommend Nuevo Vallarta to all you other budget shoppers.
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