A more perfect setting for a Sunday afternoon meal could not have been found anywhere else but at El Coleguita in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The most beautiful view of the Bay had coupled with an amazing, generous seafood plate. The tequila poured, the ocean breeze wafted and we dined. Please, the next time you are searching for seafood on your plate, and your expectations are high, get yourself to the nearest El Coleguito — there are three in the Banderas Bay area — and really dine. Take your time. Enjoy the company of friends, and a plate of wonderful seafood generously and thoughtfully served.
The first thing I want when eating out is a delicious plate of food at a reasonable price. El Coleguita delivered. Every entrée on the menu was 109 pesos, except for the lobster plates, priced at 300 pesos. For 109 pesos, each plate ordered at our table was decreed excellent and portioned very generously.
Three at our table, who had eaten here before, ordered Coconut Shrimp, pictured at the top. Do you see all that crispy coconut, coating tender, large shrimp? It was accompanied by a pineapple dipping sauce, a sweet-tart, fruity counterpoint to the succulent shrimp. Tip: on a subsequent visit, our coconut shrimp was not cooked enough for the coconut to be crispy. To ensure that yours are, ask for your shrimp to be muy dorado, very golden.
One of our party ordered Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, shrimp cooked in garlic. It, too, was declared wonderful. Often, in restaurants, the shrimp are not de-veined. These were.
The Coconut Shrimp looked very enticing, but for the sake of an additional photo, I ordered Lonja Coleguita, described in the menu as filete de pescado dorado bañados de camarón o pulpo — fillets of mahi mahi “bathed” with shrimp or octopus. I opted to have my mahi mahi bathed in shrimp and did not regret it. By the time I finished the shrimp, I was too full to eat but a few bites of the mahi mahi. My table mates helped me, plus there was enough mahi mahi left over for para llevar — to carry out.
To be honest, I have to make a full disclosure here. To take the kitchen photos, I introduced myself to the manager, telling him I would be writing up a review of his restaurant. Perhaps that is why my plate of Lonja Coleguita was so generous in its serving size, but my friends assured me their Coconut Shrimp had been every bit as generous on previous visits. Perhaps I need to start wearing a wig and huge hat for restaurant review visits incognito.
The rice, salad and toasted bread all looked good, but obviously, the attraction here was the huge amounts of seafood. I can’t comment on the side servings as I didn’t have room to eat any.
Have you ever seen a kitchen that was so messy and disorganized, you wanted to walk out and eat somewhere else? Not this one. With a view open to all, it was clean and efficient, a beehive of activity. Alejandro, our waiter, struck a pose amidst the motion.
As if these beautiful, huge plates are not enough, El Coleguita throws in extras with each entrée. As soon as we sat down, we were each served a cup of fish broth with pieces of fish. For such a simple appetizer, it was very, very good. Then, a half bottle of house tequila and five small plastic cups were placed in front of us. What! They are giving away tequila? Sí, and it was followed by several more half bottles as long as we kept drinking. Next, two salsas made their appearance, served with tostadas. Very tasty, but the salsa verde will take the roof of your mouth off. I should have taken a picture of Russ turning very red in the face.
If you order a Tecate, it comes with two shrimp (30 pesos); the other beers don’t (25 pesos). I couldn’t believe how good the shrimp were right off the top of the can, wet with cold beer. I’d go back for this alone, and I’m not even a beer drinker!
Every entrée also includes a complimentary dessert of baked banana with a sweet sauce and a Kahlua after-dinner drink.
El Coleguita is a recent newcomer to La Cruz, with two other sister restaurants in the Puerto Vallarta area, all with the same menu and prices. The La Cruz restaurant seems to be busiest between 2-4:30 pm. Arriving before or after this period will help your chances of getting a front table, the better to view the bay while you savor your meal. Parking is available on the upper level, reached by driving around and up the restaurant’s side closest to the town of La Cruz.
El Coleguita No. 1: Ixtapa; Carretera Ixtapa Las Palmas (the highway to Mascota and San Sebastian); open 12 noon until 8 pm every day but Tuesday; tel. 322-198-9727
El Coleguita No. 2: Puerto Vallarta Marina in front of Los Muelles Condominiums; open 1 until 8 pm every day but Tuesday; tel. 322-108-9726
El Coleguita No. 3: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle; Carretera Punta de Mita (at the north end of town, across from the turn-off to La Manzanilla beach); open every day but Tuesday, 12 noon-8 pm; 322-108-9727