In the coolest city in Baja California, the diverse dining scene flits between ultra high-end seafood spots, hip taquerias and hole-in-the-wall joints serving local specialties.
The cultural heart of the Los Cabos resort area – which fringes the far south of Baja California – San José bristles with high-end hotels. But there’s more to the dining scene than resort seafood restaurants with an ocean view – San José’s hinterland is speckled with rustic ranch houses offering estancia-style barbecues under the stars while the arty urban centre has a choice of lively local eateries popular with Mexicans and expats alike.
The best beachside fine dining? It’s hard to beat Mezcal in the Montage hotel, 15-minutes by car to the west of town, whose glass-fronted modernist raw stone and concrete pavilions sit sentinel over stepped pools that drop to a half-moon cove. Chef Odin Rocha (formerly of the Rosewood, San Miguel) focuses on traditional Mexican market ingredients – Baja seafood, grilled meats, tepache fermented-pineapple, chilate chocolate – showcased through individual dishes and best experienced on the Mercados de Mexico tasting menu.
Housed in the Cape Thompson hotel, the San José branch of Enrique Olvera’s gourmet Mexican food empire sits on a bluff with gorgeous bay and sunset-over-the-ocean views. Olvera, who cooks at multi-award-winning Pujol restaurant in Mexico City, is one of Latin America’s most-celebrated restaurateurs. Manta’s chef de cuisine Abisai Sanchez – cooking under Olvera’s direction – focuses on fresh seafood cooked simply and elegantly, paired with the finest ingredients. Signatures include soft shell crab tacos with chipotle mayo and North Mexican herbs.
Tinkling with fountains and set in a mock-colonial house with an airy courtyard terrace, Mi Cocina in the Casa Natalia boutique hotel in central San José, feels like a family-run restaurant reimagined by a design-conscious chef from Laguna Beach. Food is classic, simple Mexican exquisitely prepared and presented – think shrimp tacos made from tortillas pressed right in front of you, organic chicken with black and green mole and coriander rice. The mezcal-margaritas are divine, too.
Brazilian Picanha steaks, Venezuelan arepa and empanada pastries, Argentinian chorizo buns; tacos, guacamole; Choriarte offers all manner of grilled and fried Latin American dishes, served al fresco on an airy terrace in downtown San José. There’s live music at weekends and great pan-Latin American cocktails, including an excellent Gin Mate, Maracuya (made with Mezcal, passion fruit juice and basil) and big pitchers of sangria.
This lively family-run cantina sits in the heart of the downtown art district and is popular for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Menus and portions are huge. For all-day-fuel, breakfast on the Fried Eggs Motuleños served with corn tortillas, grilled cheese, tomato mole sauce, peas and plantains. There are light lunch salads for the heat of the day as well as grilled meats and Mexican classics such as enchiladas and tacos. At night there’s a live music and dance show in the adjacent street.
Sitting over one of the least-spoiled beaches on Baja’s east cape, the Four Seasons Costa Palmas flagship resort restaurant is as effortlessly plush as you’d expect from the brand. The menu’s strength is the catch of the day – plucked from the Sea of Cortez and grilled or pan-fried Mediterranean-style with either olive oil or lemon juice. Dishes are served in a curvilinear, glass-walled pavilion that looks as if it was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, with 180-degree views of the beach and ocean.
Sitting under a palm-roofed palapa right over Acapulquito Beach, the Seven Seas is so close to the surf you can practically taste the spray. Fresh fish of the day is appropriately the focus, grilled to perfection by chef Alejandro Rodrigues Ponce. Red Snapper, grouper and lobster are always reliable, especially paired with wines or craft beers from the menu. With Pacific Ocean views this good, this is a great spot for a pre-dinner aperitif. Try the house mojito, made with seasonal berries, rum, lime and mint.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in San Jose del Cabo, or opt for a stay in a top resort instead. Inspire your itinerary with the top things to see and do in the city. You’ll be 30 minutes from Cabo San Lucas, so don’t miss the best beaches in this region, or the best restaurants.
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