Do as the Locals Do – LCM 44 Summer 2016


The story behind
Alcaravea Gourmet’s enduring appeal
By Chris Sands

Alcaravea_Abril2015_FE_54Los Cabos’ love affair with Alcaravea Gourmet started some 10 years ago, when chef and owner Enrique Díaz debuted his cozy spot in downtown Cabo San Lucas. What catapulted Alcaravea Gourmet from a locals’ spot to a must-visit restaurant for tourists? “Díaz says it was his loyal local customers who first started introducing tourists to the place. The regulars recognized the intimate Mediterranean-themed eatery was offering something special, that the dining experience was unlike any other in Los Cabos, and they spread the word far and wide.”

This is a restaurant with distinctive charm: from its unique entrance–with vines and flowers trained around wrought iron bars to create a colorful floral facade–to its eclectic artwork, vintage music, and European-style bistro chic. But the enduring appeal of the restaurant is based not only on its bohemian boutique atmosphere but also on its simple formula for success: When you combine great food with great service and budget-friendly prices, the end result is a very loyal, very vocal clientele.

When Díaz moved from Toronto, Canada, to Cabo San Lucas a decade ago, he says he was surprised by the expensive prices often attached to what he considered rather ordinary fare. And, so, his philosophy at Alcaravea Gourmet has been—since the very beginning—to offer fine dining at reasonable prices. Alcaravea Gourmet’s remarkable lunch special is evidence enough: The multicourse meal includes soup or salad, an entrée with pasta or veggies, as well as dessert, and a drink—all for less than $10 U.S. Add a glass of red or white wine for an additional $4 U.S. Throw in an air-conditioned oasis of a dining room, and warm detail-oriented service, and it is no wonder that Alcaravea Gourmet is one of the area’s best afternoon attractions.

Díaz was also ahead of the curve in terms of his culinary concept. There were no other Italian restaurants in the neighborhood when Alcaravea Gourmet opened. Nowadays, Italian-themed eateries and pizzerias are almost as common in Los Cabos as beachfront bars and taquerías. But to pigeonhole Alcaravea Gourmet as simply an Italian restaurant is as inaccurate as the suggestion that the restaurant’s cuisine was a response to market demand. Alcaravea Gourmet was an organic outgrowth of its chef’s travels through Europe–from France and Spain to Italy, Greece, and Turkey–and reflects his genuine passion and fascination with European culture and cuisine.

In the beginning, Díaz was as likely to offer a French or Spanish dish as an Italian one. His customers have driven the evolution of the menu through a continual expression of their preferences. But although pastas and Italian seafood specialties now make up a large part of the restaurant’s popular lunch and dinner menus, there are still many Mediterranean-style dishes and influences from outside “the boot”— from a Greek salad featuring feta cheese and homemade Greek dressing to Germany-style Black Forest ham, and an order of Provençale mushrooms with béchamel sauce that would have made Escoffier proud. The meat courses, meanwhile, cross all national boundaries: a 14-ounce rib eye grilled with a hint of garlic, grilled beef medallions with Roquefort, filet mignon in marsala sauce.

Mexican influences also abound, as one would expect from a México City-born chef and his Mexican kitchen and wait staff. Wines from Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe—the region that produces close to 90 percent of the country’s table wines—are prominently displayed on the wine list, and the walls are lined with evocative Mexican artwork from Arte de Origen, a local company that specializes in Mexican cultural representations in a variety of mediums.

Alcaravea_26feb14_MV_107Warm service is a particular Mexican specialty, however, and Alcaravea Gourmet honors that tradition. The restaurant boasts one of the finest wait staffs in Los Cabos; staffers are knowledgeable and offer detail-oriented service. Chef Díaz exercises a consistent diligence regarding the quality of the food and service, seeking out the finest locally sourced organic ingredients to ensure the former and holding frequent training sessions to maintain the latter.

Dinner at Alcaravea Gourmet has become a symphony for the senses: the snow-white linens and napkins of a traditional Italian bistro offset by paintings showcasing the vibrant color palette of regional artists; the piquant aroma of olive oil, herbs, and spices; the texture of thickly shaved Parmesan; the taste of creamy carbonara or alfredo sauce; the soulful sound of Édith Piaf, affirming that she regrets nothing. The experience itself is like a work of art, right down to the choreographed movements of the experienced staff, serving up course after delicious course at exquisitely timed intervals.

The wine list spans the globe, with premium selections by the glass or bottle from Italy, France, the United States, México, Chile, and Argentina.


Ultimately, Mediterranean may be too limiting a term to encapsulate Alcaravea Gourmet’s cosmopolitan charms. The important thing is not the inclusion of so many disparate elements, but rather that they all work, and do so in such a pleasing, harmonious fashion. Alcaravea Gourmet offers an intimate, romantic atmosphere, and a rich array of generously apportioned dishes. And at some point during your hearty repast, Díaz will appear in his trademark toque and starched white jacket to greet you personally, and ensure you’re completely satisfied with your dining experience. Because that’s the standard at the best restaurants.

The difference at Alcaravea Gourmet is that it’s also a bargain. That’s why the locals keep coming back. And it’s why they keep telling tourists that they should try it, too.