A visit to Los Cabos, Mexico, is not complete without sampling the cuisine of the area. While some might head to the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas for margaritas and a wild time, I discovered the quiet side of Los Cabos dining in San Jose del Cabo, a town just an hour away.
San Jose del Cabo does have high-rise hotels lining the beach, but take a short cab ride to El Centro, the historic downtown and gallery district. It’s there you’ll find elegant boutique hotels and cultural events like the Thursday evening Art Walks. And, of course, authentic local cuisine.
Mi Cocina at Casa Natalia
I had the pleasure of staying at Casa Natalia Boutique Hotel just off the municipal plaza. As you enter through the weathered wooden door you’ll first encounter the Baja Oyster Bar and then the intimate bar overlooking the outdoor dining area. It’s an upscale oasis with palm trees and magenta bougainvillea blowing in the breeze.
My first day there, I met Chef Loic Tenoux, co-owner of Casa Natalia and the mastermind behind their restaurant, Mi Cocina. I noticed that both he and his wife Nathalie are European, not Mexican.
Mi Cocina and the new Baja Oyster Bar reflect the chef’s unique culinary perspective: Euro-Mexican. But what will make you want to return is Chef Tenoux’s skilled use of spices, artful plating, and local sourcing.
The restaurant is known for fresh Baja seafood and organic oysters from Sol Azul Seafarms. Chef Tenoux is an innovator and the Oyster Bar is a new and popular addition. And, during a sunny breakfast one morning, I watched a worker lay tile around their traditional Patsari stove. Chef explained they would be using this amazing piece of culinary equipment to make tortillas and quesadillas in view of diners.
There’s an interesting backstory to this new stove. Patsari means the one who takes care of in the Patzcuaro Lake regions indigenous people’s language where there was an unusually high incidence of lung cancer. Local residents were cooking inside without ventilation. To take better care of the people, the stove was designed to meet traditional cooking needs yet vent to the outside. Chef Tenoux was intrigued and ordered one for his restaurant.
Chef Tenoux offered me samples of Mi Cocina’s menu. I was surprised by the meatball and quinoa couscous dish. With Turkish-spiced pork and beef meatballs in the light Mediterranean quinoa couscous, the dish was neither French nor Mexican and the smell of the spices easily took my mind to the Mediterranean.
My overall favorite was the Chef’s Shrimp Tacos… large, fresh local shrimp, on blue corn tortillas with guacamole, green tomato salsa topped with grilled parmesan cheese adding a bit of crunch. The dish was rich and creamy (the European influence), but very Mexican (the tortilla and local shrimp). You can make a meal from the tacos or have a small plate as an appetizer. And a house Margarita makes for an excellent pairing!
In the evenings the courtyard restaurant takes on a magical glow. The water feature flowed alongside the dining area and the ceramic fire pits were ablaze. The palm trees are lighted from below. Couple that with the warm Baja air and you have a romantic, relaxing setting for your meal.
Mi Casa Traditional Mexican
One evening I enjoyed the Art Walk with open galleries and music in the cobblestone streets. I walked along and peeked into courtyard restaurants. There was a wood-fired pizza restaurant and the bustling Baja Brewing Company. But the one that looked the most enchanting was Mi Casa with strings of star-shaped punched tin lanterns and musicians serenading the diners.
I returned to Mi Casa the next evening for dinner. Founded in Cabo San Lucas and housed in one of the historic district’s lovely buildings, restaurant retains the old hacienda look and feel.
I entered through a door off the street and stepped into a garden setting. Colorful tables dotted the patio. The twinkling lights and star-shaped lanterns lighted the dining area as the evening sky darkened. Mi Casa offered everything I love about Mexican décor.
The chefs at Mi Casa feature dishes that represent traditional Mexican cuisine, from Chile en Nogada (poblano chilis filled with picadillo, a mixture of shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices, topped with a walnut-based cream sauce), to deep, rich moles and a wide variety of seafood, beef, chicken and pork dishes. Hungry after a busy day walking and sight-seeing, I started with La Sopa de Mi Tia (my aunt’s soup), a light chicken broth with corn, baby zucchini, fresh local cheese, shredded tender chicken, and strips of poblano peppers. Along with a small margarita, it proved the perfect start to my dinner.
I selected El Filete de Res al Chipotle, a grilled Sonoran filet of beef smothered in Monterrey cheese in a light chile-chipotle sauce. The dish was accompanied by beans and cilantro mashed potatoes in a corn husk. I paired the entrée with a glass of Baja California red blend wine.
The beef was fork tender and, even though it was covered with a slightly spicy chile-cheese sauce, it wasn’t overly filling. I loved the green mashed potatoes. It the first time I’d seen cilantro added to mashed potatoes and a great idea I plan to try at home.
The musicians played, the service was excellent and the experience was ideal for a traditional Mexican evening outing. And, perhaps best of all, it wasn’t expensive at all.
More Ideas and Dining Tips
My short visit to San Jose del Cabo left me with more recommendations to consider for a return trip. Locals say the French Riviera Bakery & Café (Calle Manuel Doblado Miguel Hidalgo 24)is great for morning coffee and croissants or for lunch.
Just outside San Jose del Cabo in the countryside are two interesting restaurants. The elegant Acre Restaurant and Bar takes advantage of the environment and the surrounding farmlands to create a modern oasis that some day will include tree houses!
Also close-by is Flora Farms, an organic farm located in the hillsides of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. They have been farming without the use of pesticides or GMO’s for more than 10 years. I recommend that you try lunch in their indoor-outdoor restaurant or enjoy a drink made with natural, local ingredients in the open bar. They have elegant Culinary Cottages on the property, each with a staff-tended vegetable and herb garden. — By Elizabeth R. Rose, RFT Contributor