Elite Eats: The 10 Best Restaurants in Los Cabos

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hart Shelby
By Chris Sands, Cabo San Lucas Local Expert

Visitors to Los Cabos will find a sophisticated dining scene, one that offers much more than tacos and traditional Mexican fare. Cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo each showcase an increasingly diverse sampling of world cuisines, with great food available at a variety of price points.

Two major culinary trends have come to the forefront in Los Cabos during the past decade: an interest in fusion cuisines that first flourished with the Baja Med movement, but has increasingly become more Pan-Pacific in orientation, as regional chefs have linked Los Cabos’ Pacific influence to cultures as diverse as Peru and Japan; and a more pronounced focus on fresh and local ingredients – from fresh local seafood to organically farmed produce – that has produced a trio of superb farm-based restaurants, and influenced many chefs to source all their ingredients from regional fishermen, ranches, and farming communities like Miraflores.

Chefs Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Niikura invented Baja-Japanese fusion cuisine when they opened Nick-San in Cabo San Lucas in 1994. The mix of sushi and Mexican ingredients has proven so popular since that additional restaurants have sprung up in San José del Cabo (at The Shoppes at Palmilla), México City and Nuevo Vallarta. Chef Volker Romeike’s Pitahayas followed soon afterward, pioneering the Pan-Pacific approach that has since been taken up by Enrique Olvera at Manta, as well as a host of others.

The small rural community of Ánimas Bajas just outside San José del Cabo is home to the area’s famed farm-to-table restaurants: Flora’s Field Kitchen at Flora Farms, Restaurante Los Tamarindos at Huerta Los Tamarindos, and Acre Restaurant on a 25-acre property that now boasts the region’s first treehouse accommodations. All three restaurants offer amazing food and belong on this list, although to fully represent the area’s dining diversity, only Flora’s Field Kitchen has been included. For those lucky enough to visit in July, the three farm-to-table powerhouses join forces for a Mango Festival at Don Sanchez (whose chef Tadd Chapman now operates his own organic farm outside the city) in downtown San José del Cabo.

Los Tres Gallos, meanwhile, remains the top stop for traditional Mexican cuisine in Cabo San Lucas. Named for three movie stars from México's golden age of cinema, the downtown dining establishment offers superb regional specialty dishes in a charming courtyard dining area. No restaurant in Los Cabos offers the same quality of food and service for such affordable prices.

10. Pitahayas Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Olvera

In recent years the culinary fashion in Los Cabos has shifted from Baja Med to Pan-Pacific fusions that draw heavily on Mexican, Peruvian and Japanese influences. Such fusions may be fashionable now, but they're old hat to Pitahayas Chef Volker Romeike, who for over two decades has been creating unique dishes from an eclectic mix of Pacific influences that range from México and Hawaii to Japan, China, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Romeike's Pitahayas is the signature restaurant at Sheraton's colonial style Hacienda del Mar, a Tourist Corridor based resort known for its elegant seaside dining options. The dining area is gorgeous, particularly at dusk, with tables arrange in concentric circles that fan out from an enormous palapa, and colorful tree-wrapped lights and ornament foregrounding the glittering blue waters of the Sea of Cortés. In addition to the stellar food and views, the wine cellar at Pitahayas, La Cava de Santiago, is one of the best in Baja California Sur, with over 400 labels from premier domestic and international producers.

9. Edith's Restaurante
Photo courtesy of Edith's Restaurante

Owner Edith Jiménez is originally from the state of Guerrero, and her restaurant serves up a mixture of Baja and Guerreran cuisines, as well as generous helpings of fresh local seafood. The restaurant is located just a block from Médano Beach, where it has been a fine dining fixture for over two decades. The mesquite grill and upscale Mexican ambiance are prime attractions, with the air-conditioned wine cellar drawing considerable interest during the hot summer months. Popular offerings include the Coqueta salad; the "Wally Special" with grilled lobster, garlic shrimp, and mesquite grilled catch of the day; and the Pancho Villa with grilled chicken breast, stuffed poblano pepper and chicken enchilada.

8. Don Sanchez
Photo courtesy of Vic Vertigo

"Contemporary Baja fusion" is the focus at Chef and restaurateur Tadd Chapman's acclaimed downtown dining fixture, Don Sanchez. Daily tasting menus showcase the freshest local and seasonal ingredients. Chapman sources organic produce from his own local farm, Sánchez Orgánico, and grass and grain-fed beef that are wet-aged and seasoned with natural un-iodized sea salt from Guerrero Negro. The wine program here is the best in Los Cabos, with a sommelier on hand for advice on pairing options from the list of 300 plus wines, or sales from the carry-out wine shop. Wine themed events are hosted on a monthly basis, and live entertainment is also a big draw, with the outdoor courtyard hosting a stage and spacious dance floor. The old upstairs location is now known as Retro, and is a sports bar featuring gourmet burgers.

7. El Farallon
Photo courtesy of The Resort at Pedregal

El Farallón's wow-factor asset is a spectacular cliffside setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the exclusive Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas. The restaurant pairs fresh local seafood with its romantic atmosphere, adding decorative touches like lanterns and beautifully crafted wicker chairs, fine linen and polished silver. The fish is fresh daily, and diners pick their dinner market style, choosing from a selection of sea bass, red snapper, striped bass, shrimp, tuna, dorado, clams and lobster. The fish is then weighed and taken to the chef to be grilled with an array of fresh chilies. Soups and salads are included with all entrées, and rib-eye steaks are available for those who want the views without the seafood. This ranks with Sunset Da Mona Lisa as one of the most romantic dining experiences in all of Los Cabos, and the addition of a new Champagne terrace only enhances the romance factor.

6. Agua by Larbi
Photo courtesy of One&Only Palmilla

Even after receiving a redesign as part of the ultra-luxury One&Only Palmilla resort's renovation post Hurricane Odile, Agua by Larbi remains one of the finest restaurants in Los Cabos, distinguished by its superb food, impeccable service, and romantic candle and moonlit views of the Sea of Cortés. Chef Larbi Dahrouch's focus continues to be on Mexican cuisine with Mediterranean influences, with menus changing seasonally - some dishes are changed daily - to reflect the finest available ingredients. Many specialties are made tableside, including handmade tortillas, guacamoles, ceviches and moles. Start at the bar for sunset cocktails, framed between an infinity pool and a dramatic meeting of sea and sky.

5. Nick-San
Photo courtesy of Nick-San

Nick-San has been one of the most popular local restaurants since its inception in 1994, when Chefs Angel Carbajal and Masayuki Niikura began crafting a creative and innovative fusion of Japanese cuisine with traditional Mexican ingredients. This sort of fusion has now become quite common among area restaurants, but Nick-San was the first, and remains the best. Sample their extensive menu of rolls, as well as house specialties like tempura oysters curry yaki, blue fin tuna sashimi, and beef filet serranito. Lobster lovers may choose from an embarrassment of riches that includes clear lobster rolls, lobster angel sautéed in mustard sauce, fried lobster curry, and lobster sambal marinated in saki, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, and bathed in sweet and sour chile sauces. In addition to the Cabo San Lucas location, there is also a restaurant at Las Tiendas de Palmilla (The Shoppes at Palmilla).

4. Manta
Photo courtesy of Thomas Hart Shelby

Set at retro chic The Cape: A Thompson Hotel, Manta is helmed by acclaimed chef Enrique Olvera, whose Mexico City based Pujol and New York City restaurant Cosme are currently ranked among the 100 best in the world. The hotel enjoys a superb location on legendary surf beach Playa Monumentos, and Manta showcases spectacular views - particularly at sunset - of the granite rock formations at Land's End in Cabo San Lucas. Olvera's rotating menu focuses on Pacific Rim cuisine and fresh local seafood, with 15 - 18 dishes available on a nightly basis. Multi-course tasting menus are the preferred dinner option, with excellent pairing advice provided courtesy of the onsite sommelier, whose generous wine list includes numerous options from Baja's wine country, Valle de Guadalupe.

3. Flora's Field Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Flora Farm

Flora's pioneered the farm-to-table dining scene in San José del Cabo, and remains a mandatory stop for visiting foodies. The restaurant looks out over a 10-acre organic field at Flora Farm, so close diners can almost reach out and touch the food they'll soon be eating. Well, actually the meat is sourced from a nearby ranch, but you get the picture. This is fine dining at its most intimate. And it is fine dining. The food is superb, and ranges from gourmet pizzas to heartier fare like farm-raised pork or homemade pastas. Sunday brunch is especially popular, although reservations are recommended for any visit to the restaurant. The adjacent Farm Bar serves up fresh fruit juices, wine, craft beer and cocktails. In addition to the onsite bar, bakery and organic grocery, the property also includes boutique shops and some quaint culinary cottages.

2. COMAL
Photo courtesy of Chileo Bay Resort & Residences

The signature restaurant at the newly opened Chileno Bay Resort & Residences is certainly a feast for the eyes, with stylish décor from a high-profile Los Angeles-based designer, and a picturesque perch overlooking the Sea of Cortés. The sense most likely to be gratified, however, is taste, thanks to its two top talents: Chef Yvan Mucharraz, formerly Director of Food and Beverage at The Resort at Pedregal; and Beverage Manager Osvaldo Vazquez, fresh off a notable stint creating the innovative cocktail menu at The Cape. Although broadly billed as a celebration of Latin American cuisine, what Comal does best is to offer contemporary twists on traditional Mexican favorites, from ceviches and chilpachole broth to duck carnitas and chicharrón. A generous wine list offers plenty of pairing options - including many from Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe - and Vazquez unveils freshly minted cocktail recipes on a regular basis.

1. Los Tres Gallos
Photo courtesy of Los Tres Gallos

Named for three legendary actors from the golden age of Mexican cinema - Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Javier Solís were collectively known as Los Tres Gallos (The Three Roosters) - this charming and unpretentious downtown dining spot is the best restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. All the entrée options are delicious, but the mole dishes, in particular, are spectacular. Tables are set in a romantic courtyard dining area shaded by tangerine, mango, and other fruit trees, and the service, like the food and atmosphere, is absolutely first-class. Best of all, Tres Gallos is very affordable, with everything on the menu save a few American style steaks priced at less than $25.