Sophisticated Pleasures: The 10 Best Restaurants in San Jose del Cabo
By Chris Sands
Cabo San Lucas Local Expert
San Jose del Cabo's dining scene is in many ways more impressive than that of cape sister Cabo San Lucas. The city boasts over a dozen first-class restaurants, and is home to some of the region's most accomplished and innovative chefs. Baja Mediterranean cuisine and fresh local seafood are the focus of most menus, but there are a number of eclectic eateries that boast original and provocative concepts.
Farm-to-table dining, for instance, has been taken to an entirely new level at Flora's Field Kitchen The restaurant is set in the midst of a 10-acre organic field - meat is sourced from a neighboring ranch - and diners can actually reach out and touch the fruits and vegetables they're about to eat. Tadd Chapman is another innovator. The chef has built an indoor wine cave at his new look Don Sanchez Cantina, and has helped lead the charge to promote top producers from Baja's Valle de Guadalupe.
For more traditional fare, downtown favorites like Tropicana and Cata Wine rarely disappoint. Located at a lovely hacienda-style inn in the heart of downtown San Jose del Cabo, Tropicana is the city's top stop for traditional Mexican cuisine and live entertainment, and has been for more than 20 years. Cata Wine, meanwhile, offers one of the area's most interesting settings, and a menu that features both Italian and Mexican specialty dishes.
10 7 Seas Seafood Grille
Located at the hip Cabo Surf Hotel on Acapulquito Beach, just outside of San Jose del Cabo, 7 Seas enjoys a gorgeous palapa-shaded setting that offers beautiful views of the incoming surf from the Sea of Cortez. As you might expect of a seaside restaurant, fresh seafood is the focus, although 7 Seas showcases some traditional Mexican dishes, and a large selection of delicious desserts. Highlights include the blue crab tostadas, shrimp ravioli and baked lobster tail. The restaurant also features an excellent internationally representative wine list, and serves gourmet Mexican coffees from Chiapas and Oaxaca. All produce is organic. (624-142-2666)
9 Habanero's Gastro Grill and Tequila Bar
With Don Sanchez and Habanero's, restaurateur Tadd Chapman is responsible for two of the best fine dining experiences in San Jose del Cabo. Habanero's Gastro Grill offers excellent cuisine and exceptional beverages, including one of the largest collections of premium tequila in Los Cabos. It's an great spot for lunch or dinner, and the menu offers delicious steaks, pastas, and seafood. The tuna sushizza is spectacular, but you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, particularly meat lover favorites like the roasted pork loin and Cajun filet mignon. Chef Chapman is a wine lover, and there are always several terrific wines available. ((624) 142-2626)
8 Voila Bistro and Catering
Set in the heart of San José del Cabo's historic Art District - the restaurant occupies the remains of hacienda built in 1860s - Voila Bistro serves up contemporary Mexican cuisine that also showcases Asian and French influences. Chef Roberto Valle trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and Francophiles will enjoy lunchtime offerings like croque monsieur and quiche lorraine. The lobster burritos are probably the most popular menu item, but other highlights include pistachio and macadamia crusted sea bass, and braised Cornish hen in a pomegranate demi-glace. Beers, signature cocktails, and fine wines are available, and live jazz is offered every Friday night. (624-130-7569)
7 Cata Wine
Cata Wine specializes in Italian and Mexican cuisines, a dual focus that succeeds largely due to the talents of Chef Karina Alarcon. Although born in Mexico, Alarcon studied in Reggio Calabria, and apprenticed with Gianfranco Zappala of Capo San Giovanni, which has long been considered the top stop for authentic southern Italian cooking in Cabo San Lucas. Cata Wine, in contrast, is located at Plaza Mision in San Jose del Cabo, near the city's beachfront stretch of luxury hotels. Banquette-style seating, soothing fountains, and paintings from local artists give the place a romantic, upscale bohemian ambiance, while generous portions of Italian favorites like lasagna and eggplant parmigiana are sure to satisfy the heartiest of appetites. Excellent martinis are available from the bar, and the flaming coffee service is a memorable meal capper. ((624) 142-0868)
6 La Panga Antigua
The atmosphere is casually elegant with colonial accents, the wine selections are excellent, and the food is superb. Mi Casa Group chef Edgar Román Chávez has crafted a menu rich in contemporary Mexican cuisine, liberally spiced with dishes featuring the great local seafood. Enjoy wines by the glass from stellar producers like Alois Lageder or Casa Madero (producer of wines in Mexico's Valle de Parras for over 400 years), or a split of Brut Imperial Champagne from Moet and Chandon. By the bottle selection include standout efforts from Ruinart, Robert Sinsky, Vega Sicilia, Torbreck, Antinori, Michel Roland, Casa Lapostolle, Almaviva and others. ((624) 142-4041)
5 French Riviera Restaurant & Bakery
It isn't hard to find Mexican and American breakfast favorites in Los Cabos. For lovers of French-style pastries, chocolates, and crepes, however, French Riviera is the mecca. It's worth a visit solely for the aromas of freshly baked bread, which envelop the entire block on which this San Jose del Cabo treasure sits. The food is terrific, and Master Chef Jacques Chretien's breakfast offerings include delicious crepes croissants, as well as fresh fruit and granola. French Riviera also serves wonderfully strong and aromatic coffees. They source all their beans from the highlands of Chiapas, one of Mexico's signature growing regions. (624-142-3350)
4 Don Sanchez
Chef and restaurateur Tadd Chapman has recently renovated his signature downtown supper club, Don Sanchez, adding a wine bar, a tapas lounge, an outdoor grill, and an enormous palapa-shaded courtyard dining area that can seat as many as 350 guests. The menu continues to feature "contemporary Baja fusion," with plenty of steaks and fresh local seafood, as well as regional Mexican ingredients and accents. Live entertainment is a still a big draw, and the outdoor courtyard features a large stage and spacious dance floor. The old upstairs location is now known as Retro, and is a sports bar featuring gourmet burgers. ((624) 142 2444)
3 Tropicana Restaurant
The onsite restaurant at the Hacienda-style Tropicana Inn, also known as the Tropicana, has been considered one of the best in Los Cabos for over 20 years. It's certainly hard to beat the location, which offers al fresco dining in the heart of downtown San Jose del Cabo. Tropicana is located less than a block from City Hall, and two blocks from the old church, Misión de San José del Cabo Anuiti. The food is excellent, and Chef Antonio Aviles' menu focuses on traditional Mexican cuisine and fresh local seafood. In addition to the tables out front, there is a lovely colonial-style indoor dining area with colorful murals. (624-142-1580)
2 Agua by Larbi
Considering One & Only Palmilla is often rated as the best resort in all of México, it should come as no surprise that the resort's signature restaurant, Agua by Larbi, is a local standard bearer for superb food and impeccable service. Set amid an atmosphere of colorful elegance, with glass mosaics, patterned tiles and a dining area anchored by a beautiful colonial-style fountain, Agua by Larbi also boasts spectacular moonlit views of the Sea of Cortez. Executive Chef Larbi Dahrouch's menu focuses on Mediterranean cuisine with traditional Mexican accents, but also offers traditional steak and seafood options. Highlights include the prime aged New York steak, and the roasted pork chop with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, and beef and foie gras reduction. ((624) 146-7000)
1 Flora's Field Kitchen
Flora's Field Kitchen takes farm to table dining to another level. The restaurant is set next to a 10-acre organic field, and you can almost reach out and touch the food you'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 handcrafted pastas. Sunday brunch is particularly 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 shops and some newly constructed culinary cottages. ((624) 355-4564)
About Chris Sands
Chris Sands is the author of Bohemia by the Bay, and writes about wine, golf and travel for publications such as Baja.com, Fodor's Travel, Los Cabos Magazine, 10 Best, U-T San Diego and USA Today. He is a full-time resident of Cabo San Lucas.
Read more about Chris Sands here.