The unpretentious pueblo known as Sayulita is located on the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico and has a magnetic personality that keeps drawing us back. This beach town is just north of Puerto Vallarta, but as we've noted before, it’s a world removed from the “typical” tourist destination, and exudes a very special state of mind that all visitors experience - what we call the "Sayulita good vibes."
It's a foodie playground, too, with well over 100 dining options from gourmet restaurants to simply cooking for yourself with the abundant fresh local ingredients. The focus of this post, though is on a variety of unique and authentic local specialties known as street food.
Street Food by the Sea: Let's Talk Tacos
Street food in Mexico is usually synonymous with the basic taco in one form or the other, but in typical Sayulita culinary style, here they start with the basics and take it to another level.
Versions of this Mexican food staple vary from coast to coast, but tacos are basically a tortillas filled with the main ingredient (usually a protein) and loaded with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and topped off with a large dollop of sour cream - the default “benchmark” for many of us. But while exploring Mexico, we found what an authentic taco is all about.
Sayulita has many epicurean delights, and one of our favorites is something we call a “craft” taco, offered all over town by talented vendors who look at a fresh tortilla as a blank canvas to apply their creative skills.
Fresh ingredients are prepared using secret family recipes, then cooked to perfection and topped off with unique salsa creations. The process is deliberate and takes a little time, so order some refreshments and enjoy the entertaining street scene consisting of people, cars, trucks, golf carts, motorcycles and an occasional horse or two going by at a leisurely pace.
There is something relaxing about sitting on a narrow cobblestone street enjoying the cacophony going by, and at the same time learning a new skill: how to stabilize a wobbly table with your flip-flop… it takes practice and a margarita or two, but it eventually becomes natural.
Gastronomic Treats with Seafood:
Ceviche and shrimp taco plate
Fish tacos, served Sayulita style
Mixed-seafood tostada , Baja-style fish taco, octopus taco
Some are served with attitude!
"Fast Food" Made Slow – From Scratch Right Before Your Eyes
Maria’s sidewalk restaurant is a string of tables that extend into the main street right after the bridge as you enter the town. She prepares your individual order right in front of you. At first we thought the service was slow, but then realized that the masa she was kneading and pressing into a sopes was for the plate we just ordered.
As you sit and wait you are served freshly made tortilla chips with amazing home-made salsas and relax while slowly sipping on a refreshing margarita - after all, what’s the hurry!
Gastronomic Treats With Beef, Pork and Chicken
El Itacate became one of our favorite spots for exceptional meat tacos, as well as unusual breaded-chicken and vegetarian entrees.
We had the challenging task of sampling most of their menu items just to ensure the quality was consistent… a sacrifice but, alas, someone had to do it and in our opinion they do it right - the word "superior" comes to mind!
Salsa extravaganza waiting for the tacos
Arrachera (flank steak) and asada tacos
Mahi-mahi and sirloin-steak tacos
Eclectic Street Food Choices Abound
Adding savory aromas to the day
The Chicken Lady
Along Main Street there is an entrepreneur grilling chickens. She has it down to an efficient routine and offers “just” chicken - and when she sells out she shuts down the grill and goes home.
The ultimate street food: hot churros (fried dough)
Libations for a Refreshing Pause
Since we are on the subject of refreshments, there are numerous open air bars along the streets leading to the beach and it makes it easy to pick up drinks along the way. As a side note, adding a 10-USD tip on your first order gets you VIP treatment and a better pour on your margaritas going forward… so they say.
Aloha Beach Bar, steps to the sand
Along the side streets leading to the beach, vendors offer refreshing fruit smoothies as well as fresh fruit cups… simply select the various ingredients and they transform it into a healthy, delicious snack.
A favorite: fruit popsicles for another revitalizing break
Baked Goods from Traditional and Non-Traditional Vendors
Upscale Panino’s Pastry/Coffee Shop
Late-night bakery truck – delicious and still warm
Well sorta… You are eating on the beach, but on dinner plates, using silverware and cloth napkins… OK, so you ordered off Don Pedro’s menu (same prices as if you ordered in the restaurant and it’s delivered to your lounge chair)… but your toes are in the sand as you enjoy the beach’s ambiance.
Delicious chicken salad
Mahi-mahi sandwich and fries
Vendors on the Beach
For the more casual experience there are numerous vendors on the beach offering fresh, cold coconut drinks served in the husk, grilled shrimp on a stick, iced oysters, donuts with a “special spice”, pastries, cookies, and even a pushcart (a tough act in the sand) with dozens of assorted candy treats… you gotta love it!
Just Scratching the Surface
There are so many eating and drinking choices that we only scratched the surface by focusing on street food and the daylight possibilities. As the sun sets and nightfall eases across the town an entirely different Sayulita is released. One with a vibrant and festive pulse that begins to gently beat as the street food gives way to more elaborate cuisine offerings and an energized music scene begins to unfold…
But that is for another article down the road.
Viva Mexico…. Viva Sayulita!
After all, what is the hurry… be inspired…
© 2017 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar
© 2017 Photos: Bob and Janice Kollar