This Is How We Do It
Los Cabos locals know exactly where to
go for the region’s best seafood dishes
By Chris Sands
There is a very old and respected axiom in travel circles: If you want to find the best food, follow the locals. Who knows more about the best places to eat in a given area, after all, than the people who live there? With that in mind, here’s a local’s guide to the top seafood stops in Los Cabos.
Cabo San Lucas Marina
Any overview of the best seafood restaurants in Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo is, in reality, a look at the best restaurants in general; freshly caught local seafood is a staple at virtually every eatery in the region, and it is the defining feature of the local dining scene.
Local Tip No. 1: The closer you are to the water, the better the seafood.
Locals know that the top restaurants are near the Cabo San Lucas Marina, where the fishing fleet is located, feature the freshest of fresh daily catches. Solomon’s Landing (www.solomonslandingcabo.com) has long been a favorite haunt of expats, thanks to the congenial waterfront atmosphere and seafood expertise of New Orleans–trained chef Brian Solomon. You can’t go wrong with anything on the enormous menu, but the real stars are the seafood combo platter and the fresh catch of the day prepared in any of a half-dozen styles, from grilled and blackened to crispy coconut and mojo de ajo.
Local Tip No. 2: Follow the fishermen.
How beloved is Baja Cantina (www.bajacantinamarina.com) for its seafood? So much so that it has been the headquarters for the world’s richest fishing tournament, Bisbee’s Black and Blue, since 1991. And if the guys who are catching all the fish are also customers, you know you’re doing something right. Locals are particularly partial to the ceviche—the fresh catch of the day marinated in tomato, onion, cilantro, serrano pepper, avocado, and lime juice, and served in a coconut shell—as well as grilled fish tacos served with all the traditional fixings.
Local Tip No. 3: When in doubt, order the catch of the day.
Mango Deck (www.mangodeckcabo.com) has a well-earned reputation as the premier party-hearty cantina on Médano Beach, but it also serves excellent seafood a few yards from the source. Baja specialties like chocolate clams (named for the color of their shell rather than their flavor) are always recommended, as are shrimp aguachile (a notable hangover cure), sambal shrimp, sushi options like rainbow rolls, and, of course, the fresh catch of the day.
Speaking of sushi, chefs Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Nikura pioneered fusion cuisine in Los Cabos when they opened their first Nick-San (www.nicksan.com) in 1994. There are now two Los Cabos locations—the original at Plaza de la Danza and at the upscale Shoppes at Palmilla—both of which pair time-honored sushi preparations with regional Mexican ingredients and have proved extremely popular with locals. Signature seafood dishes include a sublime lobster sambal marinated in sake, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and lathered in sweet-and-sour chile sauces.
Daikoku(www.daikoku.com.mx) is a more recent arrival, at least in Los Cabos (Daikoku restaurants have been fixtures of the México City dining scene for decades), but it immediately won over locals with a charming mix of traditional Japanese-style appointments and culinary offerings. Care to relax amid Zen-inducing atmospheric elements like a water wheel and koi pond while working your way through an enormous selection of seafood rolls? This is the place.
Local Tip No. 4: Nearly every area restaurant offers “you hook it, we cook it” specials.
Seafood restaurants run the gamut in Los Cabos, from barefoot beachfront dining spots and nautical-themed waterfront dives to fine dining destinations and romantic seaside aeries. Sunset Mona Lisa (www.sunsetmonalisa.com) falls so thoroughly into the latter category that it is annually ranked as one of the most romantic restaurants on Earth. Try watching the sun set over Land’s End and the Cabo San Lucas Bay from its Taittinger Terrace Oyster & Champagne Bar without proposing to your dinner date. It’s almost impossible.
That Sunset Mona Lisa, like Nick-San, has its own fishing boats is a good indicator of its commitment to freshness and quality. For a meal as memorable as the views, try the octopus with porcini mushrooms and black truffles or the roasted Sea of Cortés tuna with caramelized endive and essence of Campari. Italian-style pastas are also favored by local foodies.
Local Tip No. 5: If a restaurant has its own fishing boats, that’s a good sign.
Mexican cuisine and seafood are not mutually exclusive, and in fact some of the most satisfying local dishes utilize traditional seafood preparations. Grupo Mi Casa (www.micasagroupcabo.com) provides proof aplenty at its signature Mi Casa restaurants in downtown Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo’s historic Distrito del Arte. Both locations offer a wealth of delicious seafood fare, from baby octopus sautéed in garlic butter to Acapulco-style shrimp cocktail and lobster a la Ensenada. And if you tire of fish (perish the thought!), there are always traditional crowd pleasers like mole poblano, chile en nogada, and cochinitapibil.
Local Tip No. 6: If a restaurant has been open for more than 20 years, it’s because locals have supported it.
Neapolitan-themed eatery Pan di Bacco(www.pandibacco.com) is less than a block from the Cabo San Lucas Marina, so it comes as no surprise that its Boot-style seafood is salty fresh. Need proof? Try the fettucinegamberoni with Baja shrimp and lemon sauce, or the black squid focaccia with shrimp, calamari, and cherry tomato. Each exceeds expectations.]
Local Tip No. 7: Don’t be afraid to ask your server…or random locals…for recommendations.