The owners of Luna Park, AJ Gilbert and Martha Madison sold the restaurant in 2013. Last summer, the duo took it back and reinvented the restaurant into Pata Salada Cocina y Bar, a regional Mexican concept.
The name Pata Salada is an endearing term commonly used along Mexico’s Pacific coast to describe Puerto Vallartans who spend time on the beach gaining a “salty foot.”
The executive chef at Pata Salada is Joe Jack, owner of Joe Jack’s Fish Shack in Puerto Vallarta. His experience in Mexico has influenced the Pata Salada menu that features fresh seafood dishes utilizing citrus and fragrant spices with an authentic Mexican flair.
The restaurant has a traditional Mexican tile floor, vases with large Mexican tissue paper flowers, tall Mexican candles on dark wood tables and deep red leather banquets. There is a wall of windows looking to an outdoor patio facing La Brea. Under a black exposed ceiling are three semi-private booths and an exposed kitchen with white subway tiles. The main focal spot is an 18-foot bar with a counter-to-ceiling collection of at least 85 illuminated mezcal and tequila bottles. Besides spirits, the bar offers a variety of wines from Spain, Argentina, Portugal and California.
We were led to a table in the middle of the restaurant and welcomed by our server Ramsey as he pushed a tequila cart to our table. With shot glasses displayed, Ramsey offered us a tequila flight with three tastes and an explanation of the area, climate and distillation process. We noticed a bottle of Blanco, Reposado and Patron Gran Burdeos Anejo. Ramsey told us the 100 percent blue agave is made in and around the town of Santiago de Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. We declined the offer and instead ordered a Tommy’s Margarita made with two pours of Blanco tequila, agave and one squeeze of lime and a Modelo Especial.
The top section of the menu features shrimp and coconut agua chiles with serrano chile and ceviche made with fresh bass, tomato, onion and lime. We ordered the smooth guacamole that was textured with pepitas and cotija cheese. It was served with salty blue tortilla chips that paired well with the margarita and cerveza.
We also ordered the Baja style fish taco with cabbage, corn salsa, watercress and a braised short rib taco with tomatillo.
The chef makes a variety of unique blue corn pizzas that include a shrimp and avocado pizza with fragrant queso Oaxaca. The chorizo pizza has Fresno chili and caramelized onions. We ordered the vegetable pizza with cremini and oyster mushrooms, crispy Brussels sprouts, tomato, corn Oaxaca cheese and a tomato garlic relish. Another vegetarian option is the vegetale de comal. It’s similar to a bean cassoulet with mushrooms and pearl onions.
We declined selecting a dessert of either cinnamon churros or coconut flan, once I noticed each guest received a large blue swirled cotton candy on a stick with their check at the end of their meal. What a fun, sweet ending to a delicious Puerto Vallartan culinary experience.
Open Monday through Friday from noon and weekends at 5 p.m. Happy Hour is offered everyday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Specials include a shot of El Jimador Blanco with any beer for $4. Well cocktails and wine by the glass are $6. $$ 672 S. La Brea Ave. (323)988-3744.
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