There are two different dining scenes in Cabo San Lucas. There is the tourist scene, in which first-class food is served at striking seaside locales like beachfront luxury resorts looking out towards rock formations at Land’s End, say, or on the Marina near the upscale boutiques of Luxury Avenue. And then there is the local scene, where the only important qualifiers are food quality and affordability.
Baja María falls squarely in the latter category. The budget-friendly bar and grill is located just off the beaten tourist track, but it's been steadily drawing locals since it opened five years ago. For a few years, its chief appeal was barbacoa, or pit-roasted lamb. Diners would crowd the restaurant’s U-shaped bar and dozen or so tables each Sunday to feast on lamb tacos and sip from cold bottles of Pacifico or Corona.
Baja Maria's walls are lined with vivid paintings of golden age Mexican movie stars like María Félix and Pedro Infante — Photo courtesy of Vic Vertigo
After a recent change in ownership, however, Baja María’s claim to local fame rests with it superbly made versions of traditional Mexican menu specialties; specifically, Mexico City-style specialties like quesadillas chilangas (fried quesadillas) and tacos Villamelón (tacos campechanos made using the recipe from Taquería El Villamelón, a landmark eatery located near the bullfighting ring in Mexico City).
Ordering is even done Mexico City-style, with diners checking what they’d like with a pencil on small menus handed out by the waiter or bartender.
Baja María also excels at notable Mexican hangover cures like menudo (also called pancita), or beef stomach soup, and sopa de médula, a delicious soup made from the spinal cords of cattle. Such specialties may be a bit too exotic for most gringos, but the fried quesadillas will appeal to almost every palate. Adventurous diners can up the ante by slathering their quesadillas chilangas in a hot salsa made from habanero and árbol chiles.
Quesadillas chilangas are among the many Mexico City-style specialty dishes on the menu at Baja Maria — Photo courtesy of Vic Vertigo
There aren’t any seaside views at Baja María. The interior is quite charming, however, with comfortable furnishings and walls hung with vibrantly colored paintings of golden age Mexican movie stars like María Félix and Pedro Infante.
Sundays are still a great time to drop by (even without barbacoa), as the televisions are generally tuned to NFL football games or the Mexican equivalent, which is soccer. But for the maximum amount of local color, visitors should stop by for a bite to eat on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, when locals engage in highly competitive dominoes games.