Rants & Raves

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

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

The Best Tacos in the Bay Have Come to PV

The new Tacos in the street in Puerto Vallarta

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta are not actually in Puerto Vallarta but are found at a place called Tacos en la Calle, located in La Cruz at the top of the Bay of Banderas. Three days ago, however, I saw a tweet from @pvfood which read: “Tacos on the street abrio una sucursal en Vallarta, frente a Plaza Caracol,” which translates as: “Tacos en la Calle have opened a new branch in Vallarta, in front of Plaza Caracol.”

At first I was skeptical, so I tweeted back asking for confirmation. @pvfood reaffirmed that, yes, the very same tacos that many of consider to be the best in the bay have come to PV.

Needless to say, I had to put the claim to the test so last night, my girlfriend and I walked over to Plaza Caracol in search of an answered prayer. I am ecstatic to report that the claim is true… pretty much. Allow me to elaborate.

Across the street from the backside of Plaza Caracol now sits Tacos con Papas en la Calle, where they do serve the very same tacos we’ve been driving all the way to La Cruz to scarf on. Unlike Tacos en la Calle, however, this new location also serves stuffed baked-potatoes, which are delicious. True Taco en la Calle fans might be wondering where the potato came from, so please allow me to pass on what I’ve learned.

There are actually two Tacos en la Calle – the Tacos en la Calle in La Cruz and another in Punta Mita, which has a slightly different name. The Punta Mita location is owned by a family so close to the Tacos en la Calle family that one family’s elders are godparents of the other family’s children. It is the owners of the Punta Mita location who have opened Tacos con Papas en la Calle in Puerto Vallarta. Rest assured, however, that the salsas, the meat, the presentation, and even that famous flan are all identical to the original Tacos en la Calle.

Tacos con Papas en la Calle is open from 2pm-10:30pm, Tues-Sun, but I forgot to ask if it’s BYOB like Tacos en la calle. I would guess that it is as I don’t recall being offered beer when ordering. See below for a map, and don’t forget to bring some bug spray! Like the original tacos en la calle, mosquitos abound. Provecho!

View Tacos con Papas en la Calle in a larger map

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

Mexico: The Royal Tour

If you live in the US and have a TiVo, set that baby now for PBS as Peter Greenberg’s The Royal Tour: Mexico airs tomorrow (September 22nd) at 8 pm ET and will, no doubt, be awesome. Unfortunately, those of us living here in Mexico have to wait until Friday the 23rd for a cable viewing (on Vme at 9pm ET).

If you’ve never heard of Peter Greenberg, let me save you some Googling – he’s a big, big-timer in the travel industry who has a series of “Royal Tours” in which he is guided on a private tour of a country by the country’s president or head of state. Greenberg spent 14 days traveling Mexico with president Felipe Calderón, making The Royal Tour: Mexico the grandest Royal Tour to date. Check out the trailer below for a preview of the cool stuff they did (anyone remember when they were here in Vallarta?).

A good friend and fellow MexicoToday member Craig Zabransky (aka @stayadventurous) was invited to The Royal Tour: Mexico premier last night in New York. Here’s what he posted on his Facebook about the program: “I went to the Guggenheim to see a sneak preview to The Royal Tour – Mexico (premiere is Thursday on PBS) and listened to Calderon tell an audience why he loves Mexico. He was both comical and passionate, just like he was in the show. He is a star. Be proud if you are Mexican (or want to be).”

After the endless stream of negative media in regards to Mexico, I’m pumped for The Royal Tour: Mexico to air. I think it will open a lot of eyes as to the beauty, the size, the safety, and the possibilities of Mexico. Be sure to spread the word!

Category : Blog &Mexico Today &Rants & Raves

American Becomes First Mexican Drug Lord

I wrote the piece below for Banderas News, but readers are not currently able to post comments on Banderas News articles. I wanted to re-post the piece here to see what people had to say. Looking forward to your comments!

Puerto Vallarta – For those of us who live in Mexico or who visit frequently enough to understand the country’s true state of affairs, it’s been frustrating (and often excruciating) to see the American media drag Mexico’s reputation through the mud.

It’s common knowledge that Mexico has a drug-related-violence problem in a handful of regions within its massive geography, yet the US media has spent years convincing its citizens that the vast majority of Mexico is too dangerous for travel.

Recently, however, a Rolling Stone article has revealed that it’s a pale-skinned American who is responsible for many of the most gruesome acts of violence depicted in countless of the condemning articles written about Mexico.

Edgar Valdez, a drug lord who goes by the nickname “La Barbie,” is from a middle-class family in Texas. He is also the only American to every work his way to the top of a Mexican drug cartel, which came to be known as the Independent Acapulco Cartel. It’s reported that at the height of his illicit career, Valdez was responsible for the smuggling of 2 tons of cocaine into America – every month.

The story of Valdez’s rise to the top would make Tony Montana proud but what’s most interesting about the gruesome escapades La Barbie had to commit in order to steal his throne is that they were accredited in news reports to “Mexican drug lords” and were associated as being part of “Mexico’s drug problem.”

Remember when a video surfaced online of a cartel member executing captives tied up on a tarp of black trash bags? It was Valdez who pulled the trigger. His decision to mail the video to the media sparked the narco-movement of publicizing vicious acts of torture and murder in order to intimidate other cartels.

Remember when decapitated bodies were found hanging from a bridge in Cuernavaca? The bodies were put on display as a warning to any Beltran Leyva cartel members who were thinking about joining up with Valdez.

Remember when 20 Mexican tourists were found dead in a mass grave outside Acapulco? It was Valdez’s father-in-law (and partner) who mistakenly took the tourists for members of the Beltran Leyva cartel and ordered them killed.

It’s interesting that in virtually all of the articles you read about these atrocities, Edgar Valdez, La Barbie, is never described as being an American. But now, thanks to Rolling Stone, the secret is out.

The question now is: will it change anything? Will Americans start to realize that maybe they’re not always being given the full picture? Or will this be viewed as just another chapter in the saga of “Mexico’s Drug Problem”?

Author’s Note – After I wrote this and before I sent it for publication, a good friend and I had a heated discussion about the worth of both the original Rolling Stone story and my own commentary. My friend (who is a Mexican-American), feels very strongly that despite the fact that Edgar Valdez was born and raised in Texas, he is more Mexican than he is American; therefore, it is irresponsible reporting to insinuate that the US is responsible for or should be associated with his actions.

While I agree that his US citizenship does not place the blame for his actions solely on the US, I do think that the American media’s failure to (virtually) ever report the fact that Valdez is American is a perfect reflection of the US’s affinity to take no responsibility for the drug-related violence in Mexico.

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

Los Muertos Beach is Exhausting

Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta

Each red arrow points to a beach vendor

My girlfriend loves lounging at Los Muertos Beach down in Old Town, Puerto Vallarta, but I find it to be an exhausting experience mainly due to the amount of beach vendors walking around selling things like jewelry, food, blankets, baskets, pipes, etc. I don’t have anything against the vendors themselves – for the most part they’re very nice and respectful. It’s just that having to say “No thank you” in between each bite of your meal get’s old fast.

On Saturday, we went for lunch at La Palapa, which was great. It would have been fantastic (the lunch menu is spectacular) had we not been constantly bombarded with passing vendors. I was surprised that the vendors are permitted to approach people dining at a restaurant as I thought they were only allowed to solicit people in lounge chairs further out on the beach. I respect the fact that these people are trying to earn an honest living, but I mean come on – it’s just rude to interrupt people while they’re eating.

After we finished lunch, we moved further out onto the beach to catch some rays on La Palapa’s lounge chairs but because of the constant pestering, we could only stand to hang out for a beer. I was so blown away by the amount of people encroaching on our space that I decided to set a five minute timer on my phone and count the number of vendors who propositioned us. By the time the buzzer went off, 11 people had asked us to purchase something from them. That’s one person every 27 seconds!

Los Muertos beach is beautiful and the scene has a great vibe but to me, it’s just become intolerable. I’m curious to know if there is even a limit to the amount of permits that are available for beach vendors. How high can the demand for fake tattoos and hammocks be?

The next time we dine on the beach at Olas Altas, we’ll definitely be sitting up inside the restaurant, which is sad as it’s fun to eat with your toes in the sand.

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

The Best Tacos in Puerto Vallarta

If you live here and have hosted visitors, you’ve undoubtedly been asked this question: “So where are the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta?” A few of my friends would say Carboncito has (well had – anyone know if they plan on re-opening?) the best tacos in town but most people will answer with something like: “There are just so many great street carts in town, it’s too hard to choose just one as the best.”

I’m hear to tell you that those people are wrong. There is one clear, unquestionable taco champion – but they’re not technically located in Puerto Vallarta. The ultimate taco can be found at a little joint called Tacos en la Calle (Tacos in the Street), which is  located in La Cruz, about 30 minutes north of PV.

tacos in the street La Cruz

Behold, Mexican Gold

I’ve heard many stories/rumors about Tacos en la Calle, which I feel obliged to share. The word on the street is that they use Rib Eye steak that has been imported from Sinaloa, but what really makes their tacos stand out is their flour tortillas. Something about them is just… better. Adding to the taco awesomeness is their flan, which, legend has it, is hand made every morning by the grandmother of the family who owns Tacos en la Calle. I don’t even consider myself a fan of flan, but the stuff this grandma makes is out of this world. Do not make the mistake of not saving some room for a slice of this flan.

I could sit here all day dropping tasty adjectives in an effort to illustrate just how good Tacos en la Calle is, but it would do no justice. Make the trip to La Cruz and enlighten thyself.

To get there, turn left into La Cruz and make your first right. Drive two (or is it three?) blocks and make a left. Odds are you will see a line of people down the block, all waiting for a taste of the magic. Be aware, however, that Tacos en la Calle is only open four days a week: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There’s no disappointment so severe as the crushing sight of la calle sin los tacos.

View Tacos en la Calle in a larger map (or use zoom buttons)

I need to give a little shout out here to my friend Paul Mayer, owner of Magnetic Attractions on the malecon, for introducing me to Tacos en la Calle. Changed my life for the better. You can also find a nice guide of the better tacos stands downtown at here at PV Info.

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

Surfers Fenced Out of La Lancha

the fence at la lancha surf spot

When I started writing this article over the weekend, it began as a uninformed rant filled with disdain towards the landowners who recently fenced off La Lancha, one of Punta Mita’s most accessible, “good-vibey” surf spots. I had heard that the owners had fenced off the abandoned road where people usually park to hike down to the beach, but I figured there was no way they could fence off all the more remote jungle trails. I was dumbfounded when I arrived to find a new fence topped with barbed-wire running the ENTIRE length of the jungle, blocking all entrances to La Lancha.

My first reaction was “What a bunch of dicks the owners of that land must be. They must be planning on building some dumb resort or condo complex and this is the first step.” But then I got to thinking that maybe I was being to quick to judge and that maybe the owners fenced off the land because of the litter that is often found on the main trail leading to the beach.

This idea made sense and seemed understandable. If I owned the land between the road and the beach and had to pay to have the garbage left by surfers removed, I’d be pretty pissed too. So my contempt shifted to the douch-bag litterers who can’t carry their own trash back to their cars with them. But then I read PV Pulse’s first article on the matter, in which Alfredo Bonnin, an administrative manager for Punta Mita, reported that a development company called DINE closed La Lancha due to security reasons but that the access would soon be re-opened.

Well, again, this seemed understandable as it’s hard to surf La Lancha without parking near some freshly shattered glass from some recent petty robbery. My car has been broken into twice in the area and I do agree that something definitely needs to be done about the asshole “bandits” of Punta Mita. Blocking off all access to a surf spot because of robberies seems a bit “Allow-us-to-save-you-from-yourselves-ish,” however, which always rubs me the wrong way.

So where does this leave us? Well first of all, I doubt the DINE development group really has surfers’ interests at heart. They did open a little door in the fence on Saturday, but I’m curious to see whether or not and for how long it will stay open. I think we as a collective community need to dig a little deeper into the intentions of DINE and the project they are undoubtedly working on. Hopefully PV Pulse will keep up the good work on that front.

But DINE aside, we as a collective community of surfers need to address the issues of scummy litterers amongst us as well as the douchers who continually break into our cars. I’m not pretending I have all the answers but I will say I would gladly pay to be a member of an organization that employed day-light security/trash removal. Put a little toll both at the entrance of that abandoned road and give paying members some sort of parking pass. Do some fund raising to keep the annual fee reasonable and charge visitors wanting to park some small fee (like really small). Just thinking aloud here.

La Lancha is definitely a special beach as it offers both an ideal place for beginners to learn to surf as well as fun waves for people who can already shred. The vibe on the beach is always laid back and peaceful, attracting local surfers, visitors, and local families just looking to picnic on the beach. It’d be a real shame to lose it to corporate development, but it’d even worse to lose it to our own stupidity.


Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

The Backside of Paradise

photo via mattock photography

This isn’t a story I wanted to tell, but it’s a story I do think everyone should hear.

When I first moved to Puerto Vallarta, I lived in Old Town and I’m glad I did because (besides being awesome) it taught me a lot of important lessons about how this vacation town (and I would imagine most other tourist destinations) operate. The most important lesson I learned down there was that everyone’s got a story – the challenge is figuring out if what they’re selling is fact or fiction.

About six months after I moved to PV, a guy named Duane showed up with a really sad story that went something like this: “I was in a car crash in which my wife and children were killed. I don’t know how to live without them, so I sold all my possessions and moved to Vallarta to drink all my money away then die.” Needless to say, many of the kind-hearted people of PV felt sympathy for Duane and often tried to coax him out of his planned self destruction. Some of us, on the other hand, smelled bullshit from the moment we met him.

As he said he would, Duane did drink all his money away but when the money ran out, he didn’t die. Instead, he began asking people for money and favors. Realizing people were losing sympathy for him, Duane swindled a local programmer into building him an internet scam where he and his team would call elderly people who own vacation homes in PV and notify them they owed thousands of dollars in “back taxes” that these people never knew they owed. Sadly, many of them fell for the scam allowing Duane to slither on.

Soon after, something interesting happened. A friend forwarded me a webpage from a Colorado newspaper showing that Duane was wanted in Boulder County for fleeing from a court hearing during which he was to be tried for sexually abusing a minor. Although it was pleasing to know my instincts were correct, I decided it was best to stay out of the situation. Someone else in town, however, felt otherwise and called an FBI tip-line with the news that Duane was hiding out in Puerto Vallarta. A few months later, the feds showed up, arrested Duane, and took him back to the US where he is currently in jail on $1 million dollars bail awaiting trial in December.

Here’s where the story gets even crazier. It turns out Duane did have children (one at least) because last friday, Duane had his son attempt to sneak a bobby pin into a courtroom to be used as a tool for a plot to escape. Duane’s son was caught, arrested, and is also now in jail awaiting trial.

The moral of this story is that Mexican paradise attracts both the good and the bad. If you’re a sucker for a good story, PV’s got some great authors – just be careful how much you spend to buy the book.

photo via Mattock Photography

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

Fantasy Football in Puerto Vallarta

Fantasy Football in Puerto Vallarta

After all the NFL lockout hoopla and all the recent moves my birds have made in the past week, I find myself more excited for football than I can remember. In fact I’m so pumped for pigskin, I’ve decided to try my hand (for the first time ever) at fantasy football.

Gerry from PV Podcast has done all the heavy lifting of setting up a fantasy league called PV Livin on ESPN.com. I think we currently have about six teams signed up, which leaves us with six open slots for anyone in PV interested in joining. From what I understand about fantasy football, the ESPN site makes it pretty easy once you’ve drafted your team.

If you’re interested in joining our league, shoot me an email at chase (at) simplyvallarta.com and I’ll send you the details – there is a minor fiscal requirement in order to make things interesting. We’re trying to fill the remaining slots within the next two weeks.

Category : Blog &Rants & Raves

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