It’s hard to miss Tacos Y Mariscos Vallarta as you’re driving down Capital Boulevard. The building is painted neon orange and covered with brightly colored signs advertising menu offerings. Owner Gabriella Gomez has been serving up an extensive menu of traditional Mexican favorites in this locale for over 10 years. Once indoors, the interior is even brighter and louder, with vibrantly painted walls and decorations covering the restaurant that borders on the line of being cluttered. The dining area includes four different sections of seating with a variety of sizes of booths and tables.
I should have been forewarned of the meal to come when the essential chips and salsa arrived at the table. The chips were your standard hot and crispy corn tortilla chips. On the other hand, the salsa was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It tasted like tomato sauce out of a can with onions and cilantro mixed in with a dash of black pepper. It was unappealing and just plain bad.
Per the recommendation of the server, the meal started off with ceviche de camarón (shrimp ceviche, $4.99). The shrimp was extremely tough; it was evident it had been sitting in the acidic marinade for way too long. It was also served on top of two stale, fried corn tortillas. Definitely not a great start to the meal.
The combination plate of three items, rice, beans, guacamole salad and sour cream ($10.99) was more like a small feast on a large platter. The sheer amount of food was overwhelming, but the taste to follow was bland. I was also disappointed as all the items were warm, at best.
The chorizo soft taco was served on a flour tortilla, although I was expecting a homemade corn tortilla, given they were advertised heavily on the signs throughout the restaurant. The chorizo must have had a heavy dousing of red 40, as the meat was completely red, similar to the “red hot” hot dogs so popular here in the south. Aside from the garish color, the meat itself was just salty with no depth of flavor that’s typically characteristic of chorizo.
The chile relleño was also a mess. It was apparent that the chile had been fried earlier and kept warm under a heating lamp, as the batter coating the chile was soggy. Upon cutting into the pepper, the cheese oozed out along with the excess moisture from the pepper.
Of the three main items, the shredded beef enchilada with red sauce was the best tasting, only to be offset by the lukewarm temperature. The enchilada was filled to the brim with seasoned shreds of beef simmered with onions and carrots. Honestly the best thing out of this whole meal was the refried beans. They were seasoned well and creamy with just enough texture to not taste gummy.
Tacos Y Mariscos Vallarta was a letdown for many reasons, including the two dishes that are the restaurant’s namesake. As they’re open 24/7 on the weekends, I can see the appeal to audiences wanting some grub after hours. However, chances are this crowd will be less than discerning when it comes to the food at Tacos Y Mariscos Vallarta.
Address: 3177 Capital Boulevard, Raleigh, NC 27604
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @