Baja California Restaurants
Bahia Hotel & Beach Club
Avenue El Pescador
Cabo San Lucas
Tel: 52 624 143 1889
A hot spot for surfers, supermodels, and the generally hip, Bar La Esquina, a Mexican–Mediterranean restaurant inside the Bahia Hotel, is more than just a pretty face. Juicy mesquite-grilled hanger steak is artfully presented with a side of broccoli and Lincoln Log–stacked potato frites; on the (somewhat) lighter side, a sweet and salty salad of arugula, walnuts, cranberries, sheep's cheese, and prosciutto could tempt even the strictest of dieting supermodels. One of the most extensive wine lists in Cabo San Lucas and desserts such as toffee pudding with dulce de leche ice cream and berry-topped crème brûlée round out the indulgent menu. The decor is a cross between a modern Mexican pavilion and a Middle Eastern nightclub, with white stucco walls, wood floors, and Moroccan-style lanterns—all of which helps make this the post-dinner party spot. For a decent table, get there before the bar crowd struts in around eight o'clock.Isabel Sterne
Open daily 8 am to 1 am.
Bahía de Palmas
Loc. 2, 4, and 6, Col. Fonatur
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 142 5928
Like the clientele, dishes come in pairs at Casianos, a hot date spot in San José del Cabo. Chef Casiano Reyes's one-night-only, multicourse menus could include scallops with lentils, tomatoes, and cauliflower purée sharing a plate with seared duck, mango chutney, and turnip purée (a play on surf-n-turf), or a small plate of beet, goat cheese, and pumpkin seed salad alongside pan-grilled sea bass with pineapple purée and annatto seeds. If raspberries are in season, the chef might tuck them into mascarpone cheese and finish the dish with vanilla and caramel sauce. Meals are long but well paced, orchestrated by a small crowd of waiters who deliver a steady succession of dishes to the rustic wooden tables in the candlelit dining room. Sommelier Alejandro Mariscal pairs wines with every course, or if vino isn't your thing, he'll mix up a creative cocktail, such as agave nectar, hibiscus, and mint in a chilled glass rimmed with chile powder and salt. Between tasting menus and libations, dinner for two can cost upward of $100, so be sure you like your date.Isabel Sterne
Open daily 6 to 11:30 pm.
8 Boulevard Mijares
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 142 0499
Damiana is named after a Baja desert herb that is used as an aphrodisiac, and dinner on its romantic outdoor patio might indeed put you in the mood. The restaurant is housed in a 150-year-old colonial hacienda, and a century-old bougainvillea with lights glimmering in its boughs dominates the patio. Inside, the decor is traditional Baja, with folk art on the walls and a high, wood-beamed ceiling. The cuisine is Mexican with a European inflection, and with an emphasis on protein. Of the many meat and fish dishes, the Imperial Shrimp Steak, mentioned in Bon Appétit magazine, is a must: a fillet of succulent shrimp knit together and grilled. Reservations are recommended on weekends—Damiana has a devoted following.
Open daily 10:30 am to 10:30 pm.
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 172 6269
This location used to house Havana's, a semisecret, oft-packed Latin club, and replacing it was no easy feat. But chef Drew Deckman has claimed the palapa on a slight hill just south of San José's coastline and made it a foodie and music magnet. Every item on the menu has a stated pedigree, from the organic chicken with local zucchini blossoms to the Magdalena bay shrimp and the Ensenada mussels. If dorado is in the day's catch, the smooth white meat becomes that night's carpaccio. Pray you're there when the ahi are running so you can try the sashimi, tartare, and tataki trio. Dancers waiting for the salsa beat to kick in fuel up on a rib eye with organic veggies from nearby Miraflores, where specialty produce has become big business. Rock, jazz, and salsa bands kick into gear as the night progresses, and nearly everyone, including kitchen crew, is on the dance floor by midnight.—Maribeth Mellin
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 5 pm to midnight.
Blvd. Mijares 27
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 142 0266
At Don Emiliano's, elegant women with slicked-back chignons and courtly gentlemen in tailored guayaberas gossip in rapid Spanish as they judge haute Mexican cuisine à la Chef Margarita Carrillo de Salinas. Sophisticated diners who've tasted the latest from Mexico City's reinas de las cocinas (queens of the kitchens) sample tamales with seasonal baby spinach or huitlacoche wrapped in light masa, flaky empanadas stuffed with flor de calabaza, and an aromatic catch of the day glazed with achiote. Such regional ingredients do appear on other Mexican menus in Los Cabos, but Salinas uses them creatively, blending them into the popular shrimp chile rellenos with goat cheese sauce and crisp fried cilantro. Slatted wood awnings filter the dry Baja air into dining gardens and terraces where skillful mariachis display their mastery without blasting diners' eardrums. The menu always includes crowd-pleasures like jalapeño martinis, fresh artisan cheese with salsa verde, cinnamon ice cream, and chile–chocolate desserts.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 6 to 11 pm.
1490 Calle Juarez
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 142 2544
The Virgin of Guadalupe murals San José's not-so secret Mexican standout teeter on kitschy, but the excellent cooking and wine and tequila selection more than make up for them. Chef Armando Montaña uses chillies from throughout Mexico to enhance the flavor (without burning the taste buds) of traditional and continental dishes, coating rack of lamb with chili ancho and sugar-cane honey and boosting the flavor of gazpacho with habanero. The menu changes frequently, inspiring Montaña's fans to pack the narrow dining room and sample multiple courses while lingering over boutique wines and tequilas.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 4 to 10 pm. Credit cards not accepted.
Tel: 52 624 355 4564
Success has been kind to Flora's, a busy farm just north of San José that supplies local chefs with organic fruits and veggies. The Field Kitchen, once a casual affair, has become a full-blown brick and glass restaurant serving all things hand-crafted, from crunchy breads and pizzas straight from the wood oven to herb-fried farm-raised organic chicken and roasted pork. Sausages and hams are smoked on site, seasonal fruits become marmalades, fresh veggies are pickled, and tuna is filleted and canned. In essence, Flora's specializes in serving and preserving everything you can grow, raise, catch, or create in Los Cabos. During the winter season, the restaurant overflows with diners here for Sunday brunch served family-style. Flora Farms Grocery sells organic meats, sausages and bacon, artisanal breads, and seasonal produce along with sandwiches, soups, and salads.—Maribeth Mellin
Field Kitchen open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9:30 pm and for brunch on Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm.
Grocery open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 am to 3 pm.
Manuel Doblado at Miquel Hidalgo
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 142 3350
Chef/owner Jacques Chretien has opened (and closed) other locations around Los Cabos, including a much-loved candlelight, crystal, and linen restaurant in the Corridor. He's now concentrating on this artsy bakery and bistro in San José's historic district. The sweet smells of crusty baguettes and buttery croissants fresh from the oven draw a prework crowd savoring frothy cappuccinos and more leisurely types lingering over egg and chorizo crêpes or huevos rancheros. The menu and pastry displays change during the day, with lobster soup, ricotta ravioli with foie gras foam, burgers, and escargot on the Bistro lunch and dinner menu. Red and white linens cover tables in a casual café setting that encourages lingering, though space can be tight at lunch. Stop in anytime for coffee with handcrafted ice creams, chocolates, and devilishly tempting tarts and tortes.—Maribeth Mellin
Open daily 1 to 4 and 6 to 11 pm.
You'll be sorely tempted to lick every drop of cilantro sauce off your plate after savoring the rosy tuna sashimi at these high-style Japanese restaurants. The owners' fishing fleet supplies Nick-San's two restaurants with sea bass, dorado, tuna, and wahoo for impeccably fresh sushi with a Mexican flair. Owner/chefs Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Niikura frown upon diners who insist on soy sauce and wasabi. Their creations are tastily spiced with jalapeños, habaneros, and serranos, or blended with mango and avocado. Chopstick battles are common over fresh Pacific oysters with ponzu, spicy fried fish, and tuna tostadas—dine with friends who enjoy sharing. The second location in the Corridor is far larger than the original crammed restaurant/sushi bar, but it can still be hard to get a seat near the masterful sushi chefs. Nick-San has proven so popular that the owners opened locations in Mexico City and Nuevo Vallarta and launched a Wasabi clothing line bearing their artful logo.—Maribeth Mellin
Original location open daily 11:30 am to 10:30 pm; second location open daily 12:30 to 10:30 pm.
Carretera Transpeninsular, Km. 10
Hacienda del Mar
Tel: 52 624 145 8010
Precious few Cabo restaurants have tables close enough to the sea to feel a salty spray. This Pacific Rim winner is right on the sand, tucked in the Cabo Real development behind a hotel and golf course. It's definitely not a secret, however. Chef Volker Romeike has developed a loyal following since 1995, when he first presented his lobster hash (now lobster risotto) and coconut shrimp with chipotle sauce to diners eager for something different. His competition has grown like gangbusters in recent years, but you'll still find the multi-tiered circular dining room filled with happy eaters delighting in lobster martinis, spicy shrimp napoleon, and ginger crème brûlée. In keeping with Cabo's culinary ambitions, the wine cellar contains more than 500 international wines.
Open daily 5 to 10:30 pm.
Calle Pescadores at Marinos
San José del Cabo
Tel: 52 624 172 2093
Peso pinchers and starving night owls converge upon The Hangman for tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas stuffed with carnitas (marinated pork), flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), rajas (poblano chilies), and lots of melted cheese. Others opt for bowls of fragrant, soupy charros-style beans with hot corn tortillas. The backstreet dive is close to San José's art district and has a few wobbly tables and chairs. They lack a liquor license but don't mind if you bring your own cervezas. It officially closes at midnight but you'll often see the post-club crowd filling up as late as 2 or 3 am.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 6:30 pm to midnight.