For many travelers, San José del Cabo has become a culinary destination, and Centro Histórico hosts some of the best restaurants you’ll find. If you choose to venture into the touristy areas on Boulevard Mijares, near the plaza, or near the zona hotelera, you’ll encounter much higher prices, and not as authentic an experience.
The charming and intimate El Matador (Paseo los Marinos, tel. 624/142-2741, 5pm-10pm daily, US$20-33) is a family-owned operation with owner Pablo often present. Pablo began bullfighting at the age of 14 and did this professionally until moving to Los Cabos in 1988. There’s plenty of bullfighting memorabilia in the restaurant, and the waitstaff dress as matadors. The service is impeccable, going above and beyond to attend to the needs of customers. The quality of the meats—veal, rack of lamb, filet—is unparalleled. There’s an appealing outdoor patio and often live entertainment.
For tacos and mescal, local hipsters and chic travelers flock to La Lupita (Calle José Maria Morelos, tel. 624/688-3926, 2pm-midnight Tues., 2pm-2am Wed.-Sat., noon-midnight Sun., tacos US$2-4). The exposed brick, whitewashed walls, wood pallet furniture, and minimal decor create a Zen-like atmosphere. The wide variety of tacos includes rib eye, lamb, octopus, and nopal. There’s an extensive mescal menu as well as a decent selection of craft beers. Everything is reasonably priced for being in a tourist area, plus there’s a lovely outdoor patio and bar.
Situated on the popular Boulevard Mijares, Don Sanchez Restaurante (Blvd. Mijares, tel. 624/142-2444, 5-10:30pm daily, US$15-37) serves contemporary Mexican cuisine. This is fine dining complete with artful plating and higher pricing. The service is attentive, and the wine list is extensive. There are a variety of vegetarian options (like chile portobello) in addition to seafood dishes (lobster in white mole) and meats (lamb shank mixiote).
Also on Mijares and operated by the same owner as Don Sanchez is Habanero’s Gastro Grill and Tequila Bar (Blvd. Mijares, tel. 624/142-2626, 8am-10:30pm daily, US$13-25). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be enjoyed on the outdoor sidewalk seating or in the dining room. There’s an impressive selection of tequila at the bar and an extensive menu featuring steaks, seafood, pastas, and traditional Mexican dishes.
Traditional Mexican restaurant Jazmin’s (Jose Maria Morelos 133, tel. 624/142-1760, 8am-midnight daily, US$11-24) is in the art district downtown, a few blocks away from the plaza. This large restaurant is formed from a collection of different rooms and outdoor spaces with colorful walls, Mexican decor, and strung lights outdoor. It serves typical Mexican dishes.
Housed under a giant palapa, El Herradero Mexican Grill and Bar (Miguel Hidalgo, tel. 624/142-6350, 7:30am-10pm daily, US$11-16) serves traditional Mexican dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The casual and comfortable setting complements the flavorful food, live music, and friendly service.
Las Guacamayas (Paseo de los Marinos, tel. 624/109-5473, 11:30am-10:30pm daily, US$3-8) has authentic and affordable Mexican food. The large venue has a fun and lively atmosphere the whole family will enjoy. Another location is in Cabo San Lucas.
An easy walk from downtown San José, Mariscos El Toro Guero (Calle Ildefonso Green, tel. 624/130-7818, noon-6pm daily, US$8-10) is where locals and tourists alike go for fresh seafood, large portions, and affordable prices. Enjoy fresh ceviche and seafood cocktails as well as items like bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese.
Another authentic locals’ seafood restaurant is Mariscos La Pesca (Blvd. Mijares at Benito Juárez, tel. 624/130-7438, 11am-10pm daily, US$8-11) with a large outdoor patio and good food and service. Don’t miss the tuna tartare.
La Vaca Tinta (Manuel Doblado, tel. 624/142-1241, 5-11pm Tues.-Sat., 2-9pm Sun., US$8-15) has a great selection of Mexican wines on the menu. It grills steaks to perfection and also serves salads, soups, empanadas, and cheese appetizers.
For a meal set in a lovely garden courtyard, head to Dvur at Casa Don Rodrigo (Blvd. Mijares 29, tel. 624/142-0418, 11am-11pm Mon.-Sat., US$11-17). It serves seafood, meats, salads, and cheeses that comes from the family’s local ranch. The dvur (meaning courtyard in Czech) is located in an old house that provides a beautiful and romantic setting.
Serving Argentinian barbecue, Barrio de Tango (Morelos, tel. 624/125-3023, 6pm-11pm Tues.-Sun., US$12-15) is a great place to go for steak. Dining is casual and outdoors here, and the place gets busy, so it’s best to make a reservation.
If you want farm-to-table dining without wandering out of town, the sister restaurant to Huerta los Tamarindos, Tequila Restaurant (Manuel Doblado 1011, tel. 624/142-1155, 6-11pm daily, US$11-14) uses the same fresh ingredients in dishes served right in downtown San José. There’s a lush garden dining patio, a walk-in humidor, and a nice wine list. Tequila shrimp, rack of lamb, lobster bomb (a giant lobster wonton), and beef tenderloin in guajillo sauce are some of the restaurant’s specialties.
For a more local’s experience, head to Las Cazuelas del Don (Malvarrose at Guijarro, tel. 624/130-7286, 1pm-10pm Mon.-Sat., US$4-6) where diners enjoy grilled steak, fresh fish, and local vegetables cooked in a traditional cazuela cooking pot. This family-run restaurant serves delicious and authentic food at affordable prices.
Located in the art district, Lolita Café (Manuel Doblado, tel. 624/130-7786, 9am-9pm Wed.-Sun., US$9-12) has plenty of options for healthy eats, like a signature egg sandwich with marinated vegetable slices, sun-dried tomato, almond pesto, and chickpea dressing. This is artisan food with a Mexican touch served in a hip and unpretentious setting (don’t miss the garden patio in the back). Lolita Café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee.
For a good cup of java, Coffee Lab (Benito Juárez 1717, tel. 624/105-2835, 7am-7pm Mon.-Sat., US$3-6) is a sleek and stylish coffee shop located in downtown. In addition to great coffee, it serves breakfast, sandwiches, and paninis.
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Los Cabos.