In addition to offering a broad variety of extraordinary culinary experiences, many restaurants in Banderas Bay clearly have realized they must provide tangible, memorable experiences to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. Being distinctive encourages patrons not only to return but also to spread the word about the eatery’s specifics among friends and visitors. Some restaurants have chosen to focus on a specific type of cuisine or even a particular dish, hoping to be renowned as the source of “the best” in town.
For example, many locals argue that the only place in town to enjoy traditional tortilla soup is Ernesto’s Good Grub in Versalles. Another enduring favorite, Archie’s Wok in Emiliano Zapata has created such an intangible yet palpable ambiance, you can’t help but feel surrounded by an aura of tranquility the moment you step into the restaurant, anticipating one of Puerto Vallarta’s finest Asian cuisine experiences.
Several local businesses have opted to maximize their permanence in the minds, hearts and taste buds of their patrons by developing specific product lines to purchase and take home or perhaps bring back to loved ones after a vacation in our destination. Here are three such success stories:
Highly regarded as one of Mexico’s finest tequila brands, Don Julio Tequila is named after its founder, Julio González-Fausto, who began distilling tequila in 1942. He was only 17 at the time. The actual Don Julio-labeled tequila didn’t exist until 1985, when his family commemorated his 60th birthday with the creation of this specific tequila. Considered to be the world’s first luxury tequila, it became a standard among connoisseurs.
When the brand was sold to Casa Cuervo in 2003, the González family reached out to a group of 100 connoisseurs—known as the Grupo de los Cien—to partner with the family in creating a private tequila label, custom-produced to the highest levels of excellence and craftsmanship, according to the family’s time-honored personal supervision. Local chef-restaurateur Thierry Blouet was among this group. Today, guests dining at Blouet’s successful Café des Artistes can savor Thierry’s private label as the tequila de la casa, in three varieties: blanco, reposado, and añejo (white, rested and aged, respectively). And they can purchase the liquor by the bottle, as well. In an effort to expand on this successful idea, Blouet recently partnered with a spring-water producer in San Sebastián del Oeste, a popular and peaceful getaway for locals and visitors, and now offers his own bottled water at the restaurant.
Designed to complement just about every item on this successful Mexican specialty restaurant’s menu, El Arrayan’s flavorful salsa negra is cleverly placed at your table the moment your dinner order is placed. “It blends beautifully with our plantain empanadas,” commented El Arrayan owner Carmen Porras, who developed the recipe from a traditional, chipotle-based recipe from the state of Veracruz. Porras realized the formula was a keeper and began canning the salsa and selling it to her dinner guests. Similar to mole paste in consistency, the smoky salsa is great at home when lightly spread on tortillas prior to making quesadillas, over sunny-side-up eggs or even added to a tomato-based pasta sauce for an extra kick.
When Peter Van der Voort launched his popular, food-related mini-conglomerate Los Mercados in Emiliano Zapata, the idea of producing his own line of products was deeply entrenched in his master plan. “We wanted to produce our own line of chutneys because we use them in our take-out sandwiches, and our jams go hand in hand with our baked products,” he commented. Thanks to successful partnerships with local producers, including María Inés Hidalgo, who became his pastry chef in 2010, Los Mercados cans and sells savory jams and chutneys under her label and that of their own deli, Mikey’s. Their jams have a higher-than-standard percentage of fruit content, and the chutneys—from traditional cranberry or mango to exotic apple with white wine—can be best savored over pork chops and other grilled meats at home.