Archie’s Wok Cyndi Alpenia
Archie’s Wok is beginning its 37th year of service to the Puerto Vallarta community, since 1976 offering up original dishes based on Thai and Filipino cuisines fused with creative Mexican accents. After 8 years as chef for Hollywood film director John Huston in his coastal hideaway a few miles south, Archie and family headed into Puerto Vallarta to open his own Asian eatery. His wife Cyndi, daughter Kiyoki and son Sergio continue the family legacy to this day.
Archie’s Wok has its own organic garden and gardener Sergio. What are the main ingredients grown organically that are used on the menu?
Sergio plants according to the seasons and the weather. Currently he is harvesting Bok Choy and Cijimisai, two Asian favorites; varios heirloom eggplant varieties; lettuce mixes and arugula for salads; Thai basil, lemongrass and kafir lime for the flavor impact. Soon he will have some amazing heirloom tomato varieties for our salads and Asian Gazpacho. It’s sort of a revolving door…as some move on, others come into season.
Is there any restaurant open today that was here when Archie’s opened?
Puerto Vallarta was not yet on the culinary map when we opened in the 80´s. El Dorado and La Palapa were highlights on Playa los Muertos. Daiquiri Dick’s existed in more informal form, and was since transformed twice by 2 eras of new ownership. The budding culinary industry began in the 90´s and after the millennia, with many great restaurants now on the local map, and some which have come and gone.
There are lots of restaurant choices in Vallarta and many first time visitors to PV. What would you say to someone who has never visited to have them choose Archie’s for the first time?
Fresh, original fusion of Eastern and Latin cuisines featuring the flora and fauna native to both of these tropical zones. Locally farmed and sourced when available. Learn the legend of the John Huston era, which put Puerto Vallarta on the international map. Meet the family who continue to serve you since 1986. We welcome you!
How do you keep the menu fresh but still maintain long term, well established favorites?
This has always been challenging, as our menu is fairly large, our kitchen is small, and diners return over the years expecting their favorites. When Archie decided on our location, I questioned him about the size of the kitchen. His reply? “I don’t want to run a kitchen where we have to wear roller skates!” He had worked in some fairly large kitchens in Santa Barbara, California. So here, no roller skates, but daily traffic jams as our kitchen staff maneuver around each other. As for the menu, we experiment with specials in the slower season to see what might get some raves and fit into the flow of the kitchen process, all the time aware that if we add, we also need to subtract, or it won’t fit!
What are the most popular dishes?
Our Hoi Sin Riblets, as well as our Spicy Fried Noodles are two of Archie’s classic inventions and have been our best sellers from day one. Close behind are our Thai Curry dishes, Coco-Poblano soup and Calamari in Beer Batter, which are about as good as they get.
What is the most difficult dish to prepare?
This is a question more of complexity rather than difficulty. Our red and green curry pastes and Chaing Mai pastes, for example, are complex in their use of a wide variety of herbs and spices as well as their preparation techniques. Once prepared, they are used in various dishes, stirred rather quickly in the wok along with some coconut milk and ingredients of substance.
How does the location affect the dining experience?
This question has several answers. When we opened the doors of our Asian experiment in 1986, we slowly attracted local diners, as, well, who had ever heard of a Wok? We were in nowhereland, as the Los Muertos area was pretty much unknown and definitely underdeveloped, and attracted very little tourism. The Pier was so broken that the only way to get to it was to swim out to it and risk a climb up the creaky wood structure. I guess funky would well describe those times here….it was definitely not the Romantic Zone! The gay community was barely tiptoeing in, rather undercover.
In 1994 the streets were repaved and sidewalks widened and resurfaced. After this facelift, the Zona Romantica gained its title and attracted more activity. Then, after a couple of attempts at rebuilding the old wood pier, the construction of the modern structure began around 2010, a grueling 3-year process that discouraged visitors from nearing our street.
Then in 2014 “Pier Street” received a welcomed redesigning by the city, with trees and gardens planted by the Garden Club. We were able to design and install our own front patio area, which has become the “al fresco” area of choice for many of our diners.
What do you think about the culinary scene in PV?
Puerto Vallarta has now gained recognition as a first class dining destination, due to the skills and efforts of the many fine chefs who have been attracted to our city. And not to overlook Vallarta’s homecooking, so full of soul. From tacos on the street to elegant international dining, every moment, every area offers delights for every palate.
The Swedes Bistro Christopher Maluck
Chris, tell us about yourself and how you came to own the popular Swedes Bar and Bistro
I am a Denver, Colorado native and have been working in hospitality since I was a young child. My family has owned and developed a chain of delicatessens, a jazz club, a steakhouse and other efforts. When I left college, I went to work for Marriott and honed my skills on a larger scale but ultimately returned to independent restaurants. I left restaurants for a few years to work in LGBTQ community non profits producing events from grass roots house parties to large scale fundraisers with celebrity talent.
Like countless others, I fell in love with Puerto Vallarta on my very first visit, but unlike many I was just 10 years old. I am thrilled to continue serving the LGBTQIA+ community on a broader scale as Puerto Vallarta continues to grow as a global vacation destination.
I am a long-time friend of the founder of The Swedes Bar & Bistro, Morgan Granander. As a regular visitor to PV over the years, we forged a friendship as brothers in hospitality, serving the LGBTQIA+ community. Having a restaurant in the US, I have been able to source unique and authentic Swedish ingredients for The Swedes and shuttle them here during my travels. On numerous occasions he would ask me to assist or watch over the restaurant in his absence.
One summer day in 2021 I received a text from Morgan asking if I would have any interest in buying The Swedes as he was wanting to grow and explore other interests. He did not put the business on the market and approached me knowing my style and experience had the potential to grow the business. In addition, he did not want someone that would close or rebrand the business but continue to serve the community and support the incredible team that is the heartbeat of the business. I think we all know what my answer was.
What would you would like to say about The Swedes in terms of cuisine and menu.
The Swedes Bar & Bistro exists in a sweet spot between Northern European cuisine and comfort food. There is something for everyone but without having a large and complex offering. The greatest strength is in the consistency of the menu so that travelers can count on their favorite dish year after year. For many of our traveling guests, The Swedes is both the first stop and the last stop on their vacation.
An important part of our experience is the bar. Outside of the delicious cuisine, the bar offers a fun and vibrant atmosphere to enjoy cocktails with friends. One of the largest music video libraries in town and a view over Olas Altas street make for the perfect place to start your evening or have coffee and dessert after a show.
What are the most popular dishes?
Norwegian Salmon, Lobster Bisque and Chicken Deluxe. If you are in town on a Monday, Swedish Meatballs is the special and is very popular.
What is your favorite dish?
Anything with the mushroom risotto, it is the best in town!
How does the location affect the dining experience at The Swedes
The Swedes are nestled at the intersection of condos, beach and nightlife. Our guests are so diverse and interesting. Sometimes we have folks dressed up for a celebration, guests still in swimwear heading home from the beach, or boys dressed up for whatever theme party they are attending later. Everyone is welcome!
What do you think about the culinary scene in PV?
World-class, full stop. The talent and imagination that is developing and thriving here is so exciting! Everyone benefits from this, even in unseen ways. Supply chains get stronger, unique ingredients are more available, the talent pool is growing, opportunities continue to expand.
What is new being planned for The Swedes?
Many new things have already been implemented but they are all in technology and infrastructure, things not visible to the guest yet critical for the staff to continue to grow and have the tools they need as we grow the business. Upgraded textiles and upholstery that reinforce the casual Scandinavian atmosphere.
From the guest perspective we have just launched a new wine list, a curated selection of 24 wines from around the world, half of them available by the glass. We have worked with local importers to source unique selections that offer above average wines at approachable prices. The cocktail and bar experience is expanding. We have always been known for a tasty martini and the drink menu is growing to include more hand-crafted options.