An Ode to the Joe Jack’s Fish Shack Burger


The burger and fry combo at Joe Jack’s Fish Shack is a thing of beauty. It’s massive, it’s affordable, and it’s delicious. In fact, it’s so good that it won Virtual Vallarta’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Burger in PV in 2011 – the last year award was giving out, solidifying its reign as the people’s champ. Even better is that the Joe Jack’s burger/fry combo is currently on 75 pesos every Wednesday – that’s like BK Whopper cheap!.

If I were to guess, I’d say that I’ve averaged at least one Joe Jack’s burger a week for several years now, which surely makes me a connoisseur of the platter. And as an expert, I must say that there is certainly an art to taking down this monolith of meat. In honor of Burger Wednesday, I’ve put together a brief guide to making the most of your experience.

Failing to Prepare, is Preparing to Fail

You’ve got to go into the JJ Burger with a plan or you’ll almost certainly end up with a mess on your hands. My first recommendation is to organize your table space. I find that the cloth napkins at your place setting don’t do such a great job with absorbing the amount of juices and condiment you’re going to be dealing with, so I always make sure I have access to a generous stack of the paper napkins found at the bar.

Also be conscious of your drink location and be sure to create a sufficient ketchup reservoir for your fries as once you set in on your burger, you’re only going to have one hand available – but more on that later.

The Front Nine

Once your burger arrives, you’re most likely going to be caught off guard by the sheer size of the platter, which often leads to the assumption that one must cut the burger in half in order to facilitate consumption. As a former cutter, I strongly advise against it. After years of trial and error, I’ve found that a pre-mature dissection only compromises the structural integrity of the burger thus increasing the odds of a topping topple. Pro-Tip: Chomp down hard on your initial bites as the quicker your teeth cut through the burger, the less chance the pickles, lettuce, and tomato will have of squirming out of position.

Better is to tackle the meal head-on. Decide which hand will be your burger hand, lift, rotate your burger hand towards the backside of the bun and pinch (as shown in the image below). This is the position you want to maintain as it leaves your second hand free for hydration and fry insertion. It also enables constant, lateral bite rotation, which is key because if you don’t vary your angle, you’ll end up slices of lettuce and tomato shooting out the sides of your bun.


Sticky Situations

No matter how good you are, you’re going to need a break at some point during the meal, which means you’re going to need to set your burger down. By this point, you should have a healthy little pool of burger juice and condiment dripping directly under your burger. I call this the Dipping Pond – a natural burger au jus if you will. It’s perfect for bites that could use a little freshening up, but it poses a problem when you decide to park your burger. Here’s my solution.

Before your lower your burger, lays some fries down over the Dipping Pond towards the corner of your plate, creating a nice potato buffer between the pond and your bun. The buffer is crucial as without it, you’re bun (and fingers) will be a complete mess once you pick it up again. And once your break is over, you’ll find that the potato buffer has soaked up a bit of the drippings and has usually absorbed some fallen condiment as well. These fries are always my favorite of the batch. See a perfect example of a first-rate buffer fry below.


The Final Push

If you’re able to maintain a dry bun and a nice bite rotation, you’ll have a good shot at a clean finish. Whether or not you’ll have enough gas in the take to make it to the promise land is another story. In the photo below, you’ll see an ideal final bite scenario should you have what it takes. Notice how I still had lettuce, tomato, and dry bun in equal proportion. This is what you want to shoot for.

Best of luck out there, and please be sure to report back in the comments below as to how you made out. Provecho!


Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

St. Patrick’s Day in Puerto Vallarta

View St. Patrick’s Day in Puerto Vallarta in a larger map

Who doesn’t love a reason to get up early and start chugging beer? If you’ll be in Puerto Vallarta for St. Patrick’s Day, there’s plenty of partying to be done.

There’s no doubt that the St. Patrick’s Day Festival hosted by The Shamrock in Bucerias is the biggest celebration in the Bay. It’s a full on out-door festival with live music, beer tents, and the works. For everyone in Puerto Vallarta, though, the problem is getting all the way up to Bucerias and back. For those looking to stick in town this St. Patty’s, here’s a little road-map:

Los Muertos Brewing – Having just opened in November of 2012, Puerto Vallarta’s first brewpub is coming out swinging this St. Patty’s. They’ll be opening early to serve free breakfast (10am-Noon) to the green-warriors up for some AM drinking. They’ve got their own stout on tap, so Irish Car Bombs will only run you 50 pesos! Jameson is also on special for the day at 35 pesos a shot.

Murphy’s Irish Pub – Located on the Malecon with a killer view of both the ocean and passing bikinis, Murphy’s is an obvious St. Patty’s hotspot. It’s hard to tell for sure from their flyer, but I believe Murphy’s will have live music all day, all you can drink beer, a buffet, and a free tee-shirt for 700 pesos.

Que Pasa – Tucked nicely in the back end of Old Town, Que Pasa is always up for a party. They’ll be serving homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage for 135 pesos (starting at 2pm) and Chris Kenny will perform some live Gaelic Blues. Not sure what Gaelic Blues sound like but after a few car bombs down at Los Muertos Brewpub, I’m sure it will be fantastic.

Casa Isabel – Perched on a cliff above Old Town, the traditionally more formal Casa Isabel is letting her hair down this St. Patrick’s Day and will be serving corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, Guinness stew, and green beer. You go girl!

Nacho Daddy – For those looking to get a little less-than-obliterated on St. Patty’s, Nacho Daddy is hosting a murder mystery dinner show complete with corned beef, cabbage, and the works for 450 pesos.

If you know of more St. Patty’s hotspots that are not included above, please let us know in the comments below! Cheers!

Category : Blog &PV Livin

Mexico Today Updates: August

Mexican Food Cart Makes 101 Best Places to Eat around the World:

A global survey deserves a global panel of judges. So when Newsweek decided to compile the finest, oddest, most memorable dining hotspots from Australia to Monaco, we gathered 53 luminary chefs to help us with the task. They’ve highlighted 101 eateries, from smoky Basque bars to bustling Asian markets. Read More >>

Mexico’s Aerospace Industry Rocketing:

From 2006-2011, Mexico’s aerospace industry more than doubled in size. Exports of aircraft and related parts topped $4.3 billion last year. Read More >>

BMW Delivers Electric Mini Coopers for Mexico City Project:

The German automaker BMW delivered 12 models of the electric Mini Cooper , Mini Es, to high profile individuals, such as government officials and researchers in Mexico City. Read More >>

Pueblos Magicos: The desert town of Cuatro Ciénegas sits near the beautiful oases of Coahuila:

The colonial town of Cuatro Ciénegas, a recent addition to Mexico’s Magical Towns, is located in the Northern Mexican state of Coahuila and sits next to a unique environmental landscape, known by biologists as “a showplace for biodiversity.” Early settlers named the town Cuatro Ciénegas, meaning “four marshes,” for its natural springs, which create an extensive area of wetlands located in the middle of the Mexican desert. Read More >>

Category : Blog &Mexico Today

Mexico Today Updates: July

Pueblos Magicos: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán is Known as the “Door to Heaven”:

The natives from the area use to say that Pátzcuaro was the place where heaven’s doors opened and the gods ascended to the sky. Its original name Tzacapu-ansucutinpatzcuaro actually means “door to heaven”. Read More >>

Monterrey International City of Knowledge (MICK) Program to turn Monterrey, Mexico into a “knowledge based economy”:

The state of Nuevo León, Mexico is taking steps to modernize their technological and informational capabilities. Monterrey, Mexico the capital city of Nuevo León, has launched the Monterrey International City of Knowledge (MICK) Program in order to promote the development of innovative new ways of economic growth. Read More >>

BMW Delivers Electric Mini Coopers for Mexico City Project:

The German automaker BMW delivered 12 models of the electric Mini Cooper , Mini Es, to high profile individuals, such as government officials and researchers in Mexico City. Read More >>

Learning About Life on Mars – the Chihuahuan Desert:

Scientists turn to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico to study Mars due to its comparable inhospitable features. The Chihuahuan Desert shares similar characteristics with the surface of Mars, such as extreme temperatures, high ultraviolet light and dunes are very similar to the area of Mars’ Gale crater, where NASA’s Curiosity rover will land in August. Read More >>

Category : Blog &Mexico Today

Mexico Today Updates: June

Funding for Forest Protection in a New Sustainable Mexico

Mexico has just received almost $400 million from the World Bank in the form of a loan and from the Forest Investment Program (FIP) in order to develop a stronger forest protection plan. Read More >>

The Road to the 2012 London Olympics Runs Through Mazatlan, Mexico for Beach Volleyball’s Continental Cup

The Continental Cup Olympic Qualifying Tournament is happening in Mazatlan, Mexico. Read More >>

Check out two of Mexico’s Gorgeous Magic Cities

Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Cuetzalan, Puebla

Category : Around Town PV

Mexico Today Updates: May

Rare Jaguar Sighting caught on tape in Oaxaca, Mexico

A rare jaguar was spotted outside of Oaxaca City along with a whitetail deer – both extremely rare for the area. Read More >>

Cleantech Challenge Mexico Promotes Green Industry Development and Green Economy in Mexico

Now in its third year in Mexico, the Cleantech Challenge gives eco-entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their business proposals in order to compete for $30 million in funding. Read More >>

Day of the Dead Mexican Holiday Inspires New Pixar Film

The director/producer pair who’ve brought us some of the most beloved Pixar films (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and more) are in talks about creating a new animated film about the Mexican Holiday Day of the Dead. Read More >>

Inspirational Sailor Galia Moss Speaks to about her Sailing Journey Across the Atlantic Ocean

Galia Moss is a talented young Mexican woman who has been sailing the world by herself. Recently, Galia did an interview with Mexico Today to talk about her journeys. Read More >>

Category : Blog &Mexico Today

Catching Dinner

After a raging Friday, I hopped the bus back down to Boca to hair-of-the-dog it with Boca Jack. What I thought would be a leisurely day of drinking on the beach turned into a fishing excursion and I ended up catching what I’m told is a “Bonita” fish. As the sun went down, we pulled right up to Piño’s restaurant where he cooked our catch for us. Pretty awesome.

Category : Blog &PV Livin

Sunday with Boca Jack

Walking the river with beer

Boca Jack on the way to The Ranch

Last Sunday, we cruised down to Boca de Tomatlan to hang out with Boca Jack and his girlfriend’s family. For those of you who don’t know Boca Jack, allow me to introduce you.

Jack first came to Puerto Vallarta almost two years ago while on spring break from Penn State University. My old college roommate, Stanley Shetron, who visits me often grew up with Jack so when Jack and his friends were deciding on where to take their spring break, Stanley suggested everyone meet up here in Vallarta. During their vacation, we spent an awesome day out in Yelapa but it was the quiet little fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan (where you get the water taxi to Yelapa) that stole Jack’s heart.

Jack graduated a few months after their trip and immediately packed his bags and moved to Puerto Vallarta. While he lived in town, Jack was known as Spring Break Jack, but that didn’t last very long. Unable to avoid the call of a small-town fishing-village lifestyle, Jack moved down to Boca de Tomatlan and has since been known as Boca Jack.

Boca’s been good to Jack. He’s out on the water every day, often catching his own dinner and surfing. He even landed a beautiful girlfriend named Margo who’s family has embraced him into their lifestyle. On Sundays, their family walks up the river to their ranch where they cook carne asada, chorizo, fish, and quesadillas. Last Sunday, Graham (of Mattock Photography) and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the ranch.

River beach in Boca de Tomatlan

Margo's family by the river

What an awesome day it was. The ranch has a nice sandy beach on the bank of the river where we sat drinking coronas and taking down tacos and quesadillas. Margo’s family doesn’t speak much English, and I had fun practicing my Spanish (which is always in need of some practice as there’s waaaay too much English spoken in PV). I learned several new words throughout the day, and we were also introduced to some pretty wild local plants and trees.

children waiting for watermelon

Lined up for watermelon

Throughout the afternoon, the younger children would huddle in small groups with one of women of Margo’s family and practice reading to each other. When they finished, many of them ran into the river to splash each other despite its chilly winter temperatures. It wasn’t the cold that brought them out of the water, however. One of the fathers produced a large watermelon from his bag and the children went crazy, rushing to line up for a slice. Graham and I were amazed as we agreed that you’d never see kids so excited for fruit back home in the US or England.

Mexican rope bridge

The bridge to Piña's

As the sun went down, we packed up camp and walked back down the river to a boutique hotel and restaurant that the one father called Piña runs. Piña cleaned up, put on his chef’s outfit, and started cooking away in the kitchen while sat in the restaurant finishing the Corona’s and listening to my iPod, which he let us plug in. After cooking for several travelers that stopped by, Piña made us a special dish of Chile en Nogada, which is usually reserved for Mexico’s Independence Day. I tried several times to tell him that it was really unnecessary and that something simple like fajitas would be fine, but he insisted on the Chile en Nogada, which he also insisted was on the house.

My Chile en Nogada

Unable to thank Margo’s family enough, we crossed the rope bridge over the river back into the village of Boca where we had my girlfriend pick us up (by that time we were pretty hammered). With the window down and my head nestled in the hood of my sweatshirt against the door, we drove the windy sea-side road back into town and I thought: It’s days like today that remind me of why I moved to Mexico.

*All photos courtesy of Mattock Photography

Category : Blog &PV Livin

The Vallartian’s Best of Vallarta 2011

The Best of Puerto Vallarta 2011

As the year winds to an end, social networks are being flooded with “Best of 2011″ lists. Never one to miss out on a party, we’ve decided to join in the fun and let the Simply Vallartian create his own Best Of list: The Simply Vallartian’s Best of Vallarta 2011.


It’s no surprise the Vallartian wanted to start with booze but there are just too many places in town where he likes to get hammered, so there was no way he could pick just one. Here’s how he broke it down:

Best Bar for Music – The Vallartian is all about good tunes and while Bolero has always been his go-to spot for good music, the young buck behind the new La Luna Bar has his finger on the pulse of what’s hot.

Best Bar to get Hammered At – This is a tough one for the Vallartian as he gets hammered pretty much everywhere. That being said, he’ll never turn down the opportunity to saddle up at Red Pub, where they’ve got a pretty legit international beer selection. It’s also worth noting that the Vallartian has recently been seen stumbling out of Red and Black, where a one-armed man reigns undefeated over a vintage foosball table.

Best Football BarQue?Pasa was an easy pick for the Vallartian. Not only do they have the biggest flatscreen in town, they offer drink cards to locals that make every fourth beer free. They also run this game where if a randomly picked play happens during the game on the big screen, everyone in the bar gets a drink on the house.

Best Martinia Bar – The Vallartian doesn’t usually drink martinis but when he does, it’s at Twisted Palms. Especially if it’s a Monday night as they do Martini Madness Mondays with 45 peso ‘tinis.

Best Bar for People Watching – The Vallartian loves to spend the day perving the malecon from the second story balcony at Murphy’s Irish Pub. In addition to beautiful people, you’ll see some crazy stuff from up there – just yesterday he saw a grown man cruising a mini three-wheeler the wrong way through one-way traffic. Police at the corner said nothing. Viva México!

Best Day-Time-Drinking Bar – Although the Vallartian has heard so not so nice things about how Sea Monkey came to obtain their beach-front location, he can’t deny that $12 pesos beers and a steady stream of bikini-clad foot traffic makes for a nice afternoon buzz.


The Vallartian has a passion for good food – especially if it’s not very good for you. Trying to pick the best overall restaurant in Puerto Vallarta would just be silly though. Here’s a breakdown of some culinary treats from this year that still stand out in the Vallartian’s mind:

Tacos – Might as well get this one out of the way. There are a million tacos stands in Vallarta (some awesome, some filthy), but the Vallartian has firmly believed that the best taco actually lives in La Cruz. Fortunately, extended family members have opened a new location in PV called Tacos y Papas on the Street that’s as close as you can get to perfection of the original.

Shrimp BucketJoe Jack’s Fish Shack does a icy cold bucket of fresh “you-peel-um” shrimp that’s simply divine. The cocktail sauce is spot on, which for some weird reason is a rarity in town.

Baked Mac & Cheese – How so many places in town screw up this American classic baffles the Vallartian, but he knows he can always score a solid brick at Alaska’s Diner. Yes, it’s microwaved but it was baked before that. Plus, where the Vallartian comes from, microwaves make you horny. Mmmmm.

Pizza – Unfortunately, there is nothing anywhere close to what the Vallartian considers real pizza in PV. He vows to change this someday soon.

Burger – The Burger at Joe Jack’s is bangin, but the Vallartian was blown away by a burger he had at La Luna. If you go for the La luna burger; however, make sure Miriam cooks it herself as the Vallartian has reported some inconsistency when a different chef was at the helm.

*Ribs – Now here’s a currently saucy topic in town (get it? :)). The Vallartian feels he must premise this by saying that he has not yet had the much acclaimed ribs at El Rio BBQ (the map on that link seems off FYI) and while he does enjoy the 2×1 specials at both El Torito and Blake’s, the All-You-Can-Eat Friday Special at Hacienda Alemana is top of the list.

Steak – The Vallartian was pleasantly surprised when ordered the steak at La Posta as it’s known as an Italian/Pasta joint. The filet came in a mushroom sauce that was dynamo.

Cordon Bleu & Pork Chop – After spending an evening here, the Vallartian is surprised he doesn’t hear more people talking about La Cigale. Maybe a French Bistro isn’t what people are looking for in a Mexican town, but shit, it’s really, really good.

Burrito – Even though what most non-mexicans consider to be a burrito is more of an American invention, the Vallartian is frustrated by the lack of awesome burritos in PV. He did have one amazing chicken burrito from Burrito Revolution this year but sadly, he had to go there about six times before they got his order right. The fact that they’re never freaking open is also shocking.

Well that’s about all that comes to the Vallartian’s mind from 2011. Don’t agree with his picks? Set him straight with your top picks in the comments below!

*The fact that you also get all the beer you can drink with your ribs most likely influenced the this choice.



Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

Some Holiday Cheer in Vallarta

I’ve been living in Puerto Vallarta for three years now, but this is my first Holiday Season here in Mexico. I’m not going to lie; coming from Philadelphia where Christmas means cold and snow, it’s been a bit of a “blue” Christmas.

Weather in the 80s, my girlfriend working on Christmas morning, being away from my family… all these things have been crappy but nothing, however, has been as crappy as when I lost my wallet the other day.

After ransacking our office and my apartment for two days, the only possible scenario I could come up with was that after purchasing a coke around the corner, I went to put my wallet in my pocket but missed and didn’t hear it fall (but I mean, come on. When does that actually happen?). I checked back with the store twice but the guy who was working when I bought the coke had been off and his son was sure that no wallet had been left, so I was left with no choice but to start canceling debit cards… the worst.

On my way to the bank, however, I popped back to the corner store where I got the coke in a last-ditch effort and, lo and behold, a Christmas miracle took place. The original guy who sold me the coke was there and had my wallet (which had indeed fallen behind due to me missing my pocket)! More incredible was that all my money and cards were still in the wallet as well. I couldn’t believe it.

I left the coke man 150 pesos for his good deed and have vowed to purchase all my beer from him for the next two months, but I encourage anyone in the Old town area in need of alcohol, soda, and/or snacks to visit my Holiday Hero and reward his good deed with your patronage (See the map below for his location).

I hope my Christmas miracle brightens up your Holiday Season as it has mine. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

View Coke Man in a larger map

Category : Blog &PV Livin

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