Nine Ninety 9

A friend of mine was staying at the Sheraton just a couple months ago, around the time a new sports bar was getting ready to open in a recently remodeled area, right next to Francisco Medina Ascencio Ave. Not being a sports fan, I can probably count with one hand the number of times I’ve spent any measurable amount of time at any sports bars over the past decade. That said, I can tell you upfront, I will probably go back to this one in the very near future, even when I can’t tell the difference between a lineman and a receiver.

The space is beautifully appointed without feeling ostentatious. There are tall ceilings and windows that let in plenty of natural light in the middle of the day, and plenty of light fixtures that surely create an intimate mood during the evening hours.

For sports fans, the pièce de résistance will be, without a doubt, the ginormous TV screen perched behind the bar. Less than a month ago, Vallarta Opina stated that it is the largest one in Latin America. There are floor-to-ceiling windows opposite to it, and even in broad daylight, the image quality was quite spectacular from every spot at the bar. Regardless, there are additional TV monitors hanging above opposite ends of the venue to make sure that nobody misses an single touchdown, goal or ace. A pool table at the far corner is a nice touch for those who play.

For my theater friends and I, we imagined amazing Tony Award or Academy Award parties at Nine Ninety 9, and we made sure to express our feelings to the very attentive manager in charge.

What made Nine Ninety 9 a must-go-back-to place for me, was the unexpected exposure to edible insects and regional spirits created in Mexico that I didn’t even know existed. Upon arrival we were presented with small bowls of finger food which turned out to be roasted chapulines, or grasshoppers; gusanos de maguey, or mezcal worms; and acociles, a species of crayfish endemic to Mexico. Critter food may not be for the faint hearted, but I was eager to try the gusanos and the acociles, as I had not had them before.

Then, the bartender explained that Nine Ninety 9 expects to make a difference by showcasing not only these unusual edibles from Mexico, but also by featuring a handful of regional spirits produced in other parts of the country. Of course, they have raicilla and mezcal, both of which are familiar to any of us that have spent any amount of time here. But there was also pox, from Chiapas, made with sugar cane and corn and used by the Maya for medicinal purposes; charanda, from Michoacán, a spirit similar to rum; sotol, from Chihuahua, made from a plant commonly known as Desert Spoon; and bacanora, from Sonora. Like raicilla, these spirits have been produced informally at their places of origin, and it’s just recently that they’ve become “officially” produced with an origin denomination bill by the Mexican government.

Nine Ninety 9, the house drink

We did not get to try some of these exotic beverages, but I know I will go back to acquaint myself with them. What we did order was the house cocktail, appropriately called Nine Ninety 9, a refreshing beverage made with mezcal, peppermint macerated in lime juice, sugar, passion fruit and sparkling water.

The menu is available in English and Spanish and it features standard sports bar fare along with a few innovative offerings. I enjoyed the best Philly cheesesteak I’ve had in Puerto Vallarta, to date. My unofficial benchmark whenever I enter a new restaurant/bar is the price of a Pacífico beer. In their case, it’s $57, which may seem pricey to some. However, the quality of service, food preparation and presentation, and overall experience make this new sports bar in Puerto Vallarta a must-try venue, particularly for those intrigued by the aforementioned edibles and spirits.

Nine Ninety 9 is located at Francisco Medina Ascencio 999, Hotel Zone. You can also find them on Facebook by clicking here.

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