on May 4, 2008
It was a miserably hot and humid day in Puerto Vallarta. Only a few places in the romantic zone have air conditioning. We headed for El Torito. It is a sports bar known for showing boxing matches (it tunes in all the other sports too) and it is a restaurant famous for its ribs (its other food is pretty good also).We walked in hoping for chilly goodness but found bearable warmth. The a/c wasn't up to the job this stifling day. A kind waiter lead us to a table under a fan, took our drink orders and was back in a jiffy. Airconditioning plus fan, plus cold beverage equals total comfort. We turned our attention to the long menu. There are plenty of appetizers. Chicken wings, peel-and-eat shrimp and nachos seem to be favorites among the sport enthusiasts. A handful of soups and salads are offered. There are fish and shrimp dishes and the kitchen will cook your catch for you if you want. Under Mexican foods are the usual items – tacos, enchiladas, burritos and such. Here you will find the token vegetarian dish, the Mexican plate. It comes with a quesadilla, a potato taco, a bean enchilada, rice, beans and guacamole. It is quite good. Meat is El Torito's strong suit. Barbecued ribs is their specialty (between two and four in the afternoon you can get two orders for the price of one) and the BBQ chicken and shrimp are great too. Hamburgers, steaks, and the pig party finish the meat selections. The pig party is a whole suckling pig and must be ordered two days in advance. Prices are reasonable with mains costing from 85 pesos for the burger to 210 pesos for the barbecued shrimp.The look of the place is sports bar a la Mexicana, with a chaotic color scheme, tvs everywhere, sporting photos and memorabilia on the walls, and piñatas hanging from the ceiling. There is also seating upstairs but it seems to be open only when the place is packed.The clientele here varies. From two to four in the afternoon (2-4-1 ribs) it is all Canadian and American at other times it depends on the sport – football (American), Curling (Canadian), boxing (mostly Mexican) and so on. I guess crowd could be defined as ribeaters and sport fans.The waiter, bearing chips and sauce, took our order. The salsa here is really good. It looks watery but is full of flavor and usually only mildly hot. Lunch was quickly served. Linda and Sails had the ribs. A nice big slab served with fries and coleslaw. The French fries were nicely browned and crispy – two thumbs up. The slaw received mixed reviews - "just right" and "too sweet". The ribs, of course, were great. I had the carne asada. I eat this often here, sometimes it is incredible, sometimes just OK. I think it depends on how hot the fire is. This day it was awesome. The steak, cut paper thin, was cooked over the fire. It had charred spots but remained juicy. Perfect. It is served with grilled baby onions, guacamole, beans, rice, radishes and a teensy salad (more like a lettuce garnish).We polished off lunch but had no desire to return to the steamy heat. Our waiter was attentive. Sails watched the game. We drank. Sails said, "Mmmmm, good ribs. Two for one? Does that mean I'm eating for free? Shut up, I'm watching the game."sample menuChris Chicken Wings............65 pesos/US$6.20served with ranch dressing and BBQ sauceOnion Soup............37 pesos/US$3.50with toasted croutons and melted cheeseBBQ Chicken............85 pesos/US$8.10served with coleslaw and friesReno’s Shrimp Scampi............110 pesos/US$10.50served with rice and vegetablesEnchiladas in a Red Mole Sauce............75 pesos/US$7.10served with rice and beansEl Torito is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am to midnight and is open Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00am. Visa and MasterCard are accepted.DirectionsEl Torito is on the corner of Ignacio Vallarta and Venustiano Carranza. From the southeast corner of parking/plaza Lazaro Cardenas (the ocean is to the west) head east on Venustiano Carranza one block. The restaurant is on the left.
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