Story and photos by Christine Rhoades
Los Cabos is one of the most popular Mexican vacation destinations nowadays. Located at the tip of western Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, there are two main towns, San Jose del Cabo on the north end, and Cabo San Lucas, 30 minutes south from San Jose, on the very tip of the penisula. If you’re game to experience authentic cuisine and the true Mexican culture that I came to adore while living in San Jose, I will let you in on a few hidden local culinary spots.
Hidden Treasure #1: In the town square of San Jose, in front of the church, there are stands where you can get fresh churros (cinnamon deep fried pastries). I recommend getting them with “Lechera”- sweetened condensed milk for a gooey mess of a dessert that will have you licking your fingers to get every last taste. On the savory side, an incredible tamale stand is permanently located on the north east side of the main square. Get any variety of the tamales, chicken, beef (carne) or veggie, and make sure not to forget the salsa. It’s not too spicy (okay, a little), but the flavor of the fresh peppers is something that still finds its way into my dreams. The town square is also a cultural center. Right before sundown, it is an entrancing place to see families strolling around the plaza, children playing, and sometimes live music echoes from the centerpiece of the park- the town stage.
Hidden Treasure #2: Another hidden gem on the outskirts of San Jose is Flora Farms—fast becoming a local favorite, but not for their Mexican fare. This organic farm grows the majority of the food served in its restaurant. To get there, you’ll have to take an adventurous trek through the new marina area, but believe me, it will be worth the drive. They often have live music, art shows, as well as a Sunday brunch that is worth waking up early for. Events and menus are posted daily on their Facebook page.
Hidden Treasure # 3: The Baja Cantina is a charming, often overlooked beach restaurant located in Cabo San Lucas. While many visitors will be drawn to tourist traps like The Office or Mango Deck, I prefer the quiet(er) local vibe of Baja Cantina. The food is more authentic, the music is less abrasive, and they respect your view of the water over their forced entertainment. There are two locations, one on the marina and one at Medano beach. For the lovers of spicy food, I recommend the Agua Chiles; Sliced shrimp cooked with the acid of lime juice and marinated with habanero peppers. It’s a delicious adventure, miles apart from the mundane beans and cheese commonly associated with Americanized Mexican food.
Hidden Treasure # 4: Finally, my favorite fast food restaurant is Burritos Chostomos. The logo, a grinning cartoon donkey, an all-Spanish menu and Spanish speaking staff, might be enough to deter most tourist traffic, but this place is not to be missed. I highly recommend that you overcome your fears and make Burritos Chostomos your go-to lunch spot. As a chain, they offer low prices and consistent fare. They can be found in many locations around town, including in the Mega shopping center, and the food is usually ready within 10 minutes of ordering. There are two favorites which I often crave now that I’m back state side. One is the “carne deschabrada” (shredded beef) that comes with or without beans and cheese. The other is the “carne en su jugo”. Directly translated, it means meat in its own juice, but it is actually a lovely marinated beef burrito. The first time I tried this delicious dish was at the recommendation of a kind old Mexican man who was standing behind me in line on my first visit to Chostomos. If I ever see that man again, I will kiss him.
While it is tempting to fall into the snares of the Americanized Mexican restaurants, I urge you to explore on your own the thousands of unique dining experiences that the true Los Cabos has to offer.
Author and photographer Christine Rhoades lived and worked in Cabo for three years where members of her extended family own and operate Las Mananitas and Tortuga Bay resorts.
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