At Baja Cantina Group’s trio of restaurants, there’s always room for regulars
By Chris Sands
How does the popular Baja Cantina Group measure the success of its restaurants?
“When you come back,” says owner Jorge González. “That’s when we know we’ve done our job. That you got your money’s worth … and then some.”
Let’s take a look at the Cabo San Lucas-based restaurant group’s popular trio of restaurants, as well as its brand-new catering adventure.
We begin with Baja Cantina Marina (www.bajacantina marina.com), a perennially popular, palapa-shaded dockside bar and grill that has been dishing up Mexican specialties and American comfort food—and earning return visits—for nearly a quarter century.
Beloved by the region’s loyal contingent of big game anglers, the restaurant has been—since its inception—the headquarters for Bisbee’s Black & Blue, the world’s richest fishing tournament. You could say Baja Cantina Marina’s recipe for success has been pretty simple over the years: Serve up something that will appeal to everyone.
Every day, that philosophy is on display from dawn until dusk and well beyond, beginning with an array of delicious and filling breakfast items: from omelets and crepes to Belgian waffles and traditional Mexican hangover cures like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. Watching your vacation calories or worried about options for the little ones? No problem. Healthy focaccia sandwiches and smoothies are also available, as are kids- style combo platters and chocolate chip pancakes.
And the flavorful favorites just keep coming. Stop in for lunchtime specialties like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos; American standards like salads, chicken wings, hearty cheeseburgers, and gourmet pizzas; veggie options or a heart-healthy spinach wrap with roasted chicken. You can also sample fresh local seafood-based dishes like ceviches, shrimp cocktails, and sushi rolls.Once the sun is down, malecón (“boardwalk”) strollers can drop in for dinner delights like lobster, filet mignon, barbecued ribs, or the catch of the day prepared in one of several signature styles, including blackened; beer battered; and spiced with garlic, lemon, and pepper; or chipotle sauce. There are also enough shrimp choices to satisfy Forrest Gump’s friend Bubba. And if you’re not hungry, just belly up to the bar. The marina location offers all-day happy hour specials like two-for-the-price-of-one margaritas and daiquiris; a prime perch for all the latest sporting events shown on high-def, flat-screen TVs; nightly live music performers; and a popular ladies night every Friday, with free drinks for women 9:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m.; and good-time dance music courtesy of a rotating cast of eclectic turntable maestros.
Prefer something a bit more romantic? Visit Cabo San Lucas’s premier stop for barefoot fine dining and Land’s End views: the Baja Cantina Beach Club (www.bajacantinabeachclub.com). You can listen to the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shoreline as you pair exquisite entrées with palate-pleasing wines at a candlelit table while the moonlight dances over the sparkling waters of the Sea of Cortés. The specialty of the house is the canoa (“canoe”) buffet featuring the freshest of fresh seafood—local fishermen sometimes pull their boats up onto the sand to deliver the day’s catch—but the eatery offers everything from braised octopus and barbecued ribs to steaks and seafood combos. But, before you order, why not sip a Corona with a slice of lime while you swing side by side at the beachfront bar? You can also sample sushi rolls and sake in the shaded dining area by Cabo Villas Beach Resort. And, for the ultimate romantic seaside experience, make reservations for the Fiesta Mexicana on Wednesday night, when dazzling fireworks and traditional folkloric dances take the special menus to a whole other level.
Speaking of tradition, no one prepares authentic Mexican cuisine quite like María Corona (www.mariacorona restaurant.com). The charming downtown restaurant’s menu consists of regional specialties made from the recipes passed down by González’s grandmother—María Corona was born in Mexico City in 1917, during the revolutionary heyday of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata—and prepared using only the most traditional and time-tested methods. Some of María Corona’s best offerings—including Tlalpeño soup and Mayan-style pork pibil—may seem a bit exotic to the average gringo, but the restaurant serves up enough familiar favorites to satisfy any north-of-the-border vacationer. There are delicious yet hardly typical versions of tacos and enchiladas that rank particularly high. Novelty is the spice of life, however, so no visit to María Corona should be complete without trying something new. For the best mix of foreign and familiar, stop by for Sunday brunch (10 a.m.–2 p.m.), when the restaurant showcases a sumptuous buffet with up to 20 signature dishes.
The restaurant’s air-conditioned dining area is a boon during the sweltering summer months, but once the sun has set, the place to be is in the airy courtyard dining area, surrounded by trees festooned with colorfully lit paper lanterns, and serenaded with ballads from the lively band Los Principes. It’s a unique setting and experience, but guests can take more than photos and wonderful memories home with them: They can also take a little bit of the spirit of México and María Corona by means of chef-led cooking classes that offer a tasty introduction to the Mexican culinary tradition. The “graduation ceremony” is a delicious lunch prepared by the students and served by the restaurant’s highly trained staff.
One of the many things that sets the Baja Cantina Group apart, by the way, is that all of its managers are ServSafe certified in the areas of safety and food handling. It’s just one more example of the lengths to which the company will go to outpace its competition—and one more reason the company continues to grow and expand into new locations, new operations, and new areas of expertise. The Baja Cantina Group’s latest venture is Manuel’s by Baja Cantina (624-143-1111), a full-service catering company that has already proved itself capable of handling the style and scope of any request, from intimate beachfront weddings to large-scale corporate retreats, romantic outings for two to multicourse dinners for 2,000.
Even the largest and most detailed-oriented to-dos don’t daunt Manuel’s namesake—Baja Cantina Group corporate chef Manuel Arredondo—who over the course of a long career as an acclaimed banquets chef has helmed the food and beverage side of high-profile events like the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, the 2000 World Series, the 2000 Republican National Convention, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII, and the 75th and 80th birthday galas of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
Arredondo’s experience allows him and his crack staff to adapt to any locale, accommodate custom menus incorporating specific dietary restrictions, and provide the sort of accents and amenities—Flowers? Wine? Music? Horses?— that transform any fête into the experience of a lifetime.
The company works with clients to create custom menus for each event, with the flexibility to blend any ethnic cuisine with more localized specialties like Baja Med-style fusions, dishes featuring fresh local seafood, and fresh produce from organic farmers in nearby communities like Miraflores and Santiago. Generally speaking, the only ingredients that aren’t locally sourced are the choice cuts of USDA certified beef flown in from the United States. And, best of all, at least as far as cabeños (residents of Los Cabos) are concerned, Manuel’s by Baja Cantina also offers special discounted menus—priced in pesos—for locals.
For more compressive information about Baja Cantina Restaurants please visit Los Cabos Guide click here.