Weekend in Cabo San Lucas

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Our first time in Cabo San Lucas, situated on the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, we knew it would be more margaritas and less Mayan ruins. This is a sun-and-fun getaway for Americans: you can use dollars interchangeably with pesos, you’ll find both Costco and a luxury shopping mall, and it seems almost every visitor we spoke to owned a time share. And if you don’t own a time share, there is someone with a clipboard who would like to speak with you.

The only issue with having such an American-dominated tourist destination (besides the MTV “Spring Break” deejay marathon on the main beach) is that prices rise accordingly—airfare and hotel prices pack a punch, and even a typical meal at a locally-owned eatery was more expensive than in San Diego. For the same cost of doing business, it had me yearning for the quieter Mexican coastline of Tulum.

On the bright side, the beaches were beautiful, the people were friendly, and the food was excellent (tip: TripAdvisor is the best resource for restaurant reviews, though luckily we had many friends who pointed us in the right direction). And yes, I’m still dreaming about the cochinita pibil at Los Tres Gallos and the perfect margarita at Hacienda Cocina y Cantina.

Beachfront at Casa Dorada Resort & Spa: excellent location, gigantic rooms with kitchens, nice bathrooms, helpful staff, but watch out for the time share saleswomen posing as “activity directors.”

We had a great time at Edith’s open-air restaurant, just around the corner from our hotel and a definite local hot spot. It was an unusually blustery day in Cabo when we arrived, so we wrapped ourselves in the blankets draped on the back of our chairs (as did just about everyone else). Service was a well-oiled machine, with several people taking care of us at once, and we thoroughly enjoyed burning our faces off with the habanero salsa in the foreground.

My Pilates teacher, Liv, had recommended Edith’s and, in particular, the Caesar salad, which I’m surprised to say was even better than the original invention I had at Caesar’s in Tijuana a couple weeks back. Edith’s is also known for its grilled meats and fish, and the small tenderloin wrapped in bacon was so good we ordered seconds.

We wanted to try a locally owned restaurant on the side streets of Cabo, and Los Tres Gallos was recommended by my old Travel + Leisure buddy, Hannah. The cochinita pibil is the dish to order here: pork, citrus, and achiote are wrapped in a banana leaf and simmered overnight. Good god, I could eat this every day for the next week.

We also ordered the highly recommended chile relleno (fried poblano stuffed with cheese and smothered in tomato sauce), though it paled in comparison to the pork. Always the salsa devourers, we enjoyed their salsa borracha, or drunk salsa (foreground), made with—depending on who you ask—pulque (fermented plant sap), beer, or tequila. Right: cochinita pibil taco.

Don’t miss Hacienda Cocina y Cantina, both for its view (photo at top of page) and the best margarita we had (though every margarita we tried in Cabo was freshly made with lime and agave—no mix here—and delicious). Top left: an absolutely stunning tuna ceviche. Ceviche is a popular item in Cabo, and unlike the typically chopped-up version, this was sliced like delicate sashimi with julienned jicama and cucumber, and a light cream vinaigrette with basil and parsley. Bottom right: arrachera, or marinated flank steak.

In Cabo to celebrate Andrew’s birthday, I stumbled upon El Farallon as one of the most booked restaurants on Open Table. No mystery why: the setting is breathtaking. The restaurant—part of the glitzy Capella hotel group with properties all over the world—is built into a cliff on the Pacific side of Cabo (you reach the hotel by driving through a man-made tunnel punched into the mountain). Thirty-foot waves were crashing against the rocks as they led us to our table, where they explained we would be served a prix fixe soup and appetizers, and then we choose our seafood entrées from their daily selection, sourced from Baja and the Sea of Cortez. Appetizers (bottom) were an excellent sea bass ceviche with corn and tomato, tempura-fried calamari in a light mayonnaise, and a rather ho-hum pasta with cooked spinach and black sesame seeds. The guava margarita Andrew ordered to start was divine (second from top), and we enjoyed a fantastic white wine from the Valle de Guadalupe yet again.

Shrimp bisque to start; our order of spiny local lobster, amberjack, parrotfish (very nice taste!), grilled mushrooms, polenta, roasted tomato, and cilantro rice. Tip: order light. We were quite full by this point and had to struggle to finish. But “being sickeningly full” is Rule One of being on vacation, right?

Of course, there was a nice sunset and a 1942 Don Julio tequila to end the evening. Another wonderful time in Mexico!

Other restaurants recommended by friends and locals: Mariscos Las Tres Islas, Mariscos Mazatlan, Tacos Gardenias, Bar Esquina, El Corazón de Alcachofa

Other “Weekend” posts:
Day trip: Tijuana
Napa Valley
Portland, Oregon

San Diego
Los Angeles
Palm Springs and Joshua Tree
Milwaukee (Yes, Milwaukee!)
Madison, Wisconsin

May. 06 2012 |
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