I mean, yeah, there’s the Zika virus. And sure, the water isn’t super clean and the cops are dirty and drug lords are waging war on one another to snap up all the territory that the last one forfeited when his Looney Toons escape plan went tits up. But all that being said, when the food looks like this,
It kinda makes sense that everything else is in the shitter. How do you have time for anything else?
We went wheels down in Mexico on a thursday to the tune of douchy techno music blaring through a battery operated speaker that was being dragged through a customs line by a dude who looked like he might have been distantly related to all of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The groupies bobbing their heads around him with their burnt, woven straw hats and their diced shorts filled me with a sense of hope. I hoped they were from a different country besides America. Otherwise, I was out. Good game evolution of culture, we gave it our best shot, but bring on the asteroid. No such luck.
Do you have anything to declare?
Sorry about that guy with the speaker.
Nah, its not.
Si, pero we live with it.
When that’s all said and done we collect our bags and we venture out into the grease fire heat of the Mexican sun, overdressed and overjoyed. Link up with my father in law just beyond a pack of colorfully attired timeshare salesmen, with slaver on their jowls and a hunger in their eyes. One taxi ride and some paperwork later, We’re ripping ass across a very Mad Max highway in an extremely not Mad Max Chevy Astrovan. Color: Maroon. Year: 1989. Ass: Whooped.Halfway through our trip, some of the wiring starts to go cockeyed on us. We have to punch the left headlight to get it to turn on. The low fuel light likes to come on while we’re in the middle of fucking nowhere and gives everybody a heart attack only to turn suddenly off and stay off for 30 more miles. There at the rental agency, I check our hobbled chariot super hard for bindles of cocaine that might be strapped beneath the bumper. Again, No such luck.
If you’re looking to buy a bunch of cheap shit, take a picture with a guy in a sombrero and have a hamburger with american cheese and no ketchup (because that’s too spicy), keep your ass in Cabo San Lucas. Its not only that shit, but it’s there. Lots of resorts, lots of Cabo Wabo, bunch of bros and brosephinas pounding mezcal and buying leather bracelets. If you’re feeling something a little less spring break ‘16 and a little more Rick Steves, mosey a bit north to Todos Santos.
According to a plaque on the Nuestra Senora del Pilar de la Paz, ( the mission that the city essentially sprang up around in 1723),
Todos Santos, was a small agricultural village that made most of its income from sugar cane farms, which were extremely profitable until WW1, when sugar prices dropped and an earthquake sucker-punched the aquaphor that supplied the town with water. Things were bleak for the better part of 30 years until the aquaphor finally reopened and the town had water again. Mexico paved a highway out to it (the 19) and started thumping the tourism drum real hard. Then came the artists and the surfers and much later the developers and the developers and the developers. And hunkered down in there amongst the ever changing tide of artisans, ethereals and moguls, good honest people, cooking their asses off.
Which brings us back to my wife, her father and me screaming through the desert in an Astrovan that saw two Bushes, a Clinton and an Obama, scrub brush slipping past us in the heat shimmer. My father in law, Steve, is on sabbatical from his very complicated finance related job at a well-known software company. A string of words like that all in a row might cause you to imagine that this vacation would read like a technical manual.
In the first 48 hours, Steve plucks a pufferfish off a coral reef one handed, I get my shit-rocked so hard surfing that I should probably get checked for STDs and as a group, we capture a spider that’s gotta be partially responsible for controlling the local dog population out here. But this isn’t about that. This is about the food…
Breakfast has been pretty consistently the same place. A garden oasis within a red brick compound, planted at the edge of a slash of palm trees through a valley. La Esquina is painted on a big barn door at the entrance and there are artfully made tables scattered through a courtyard dotted with cacti and birds of paradise. A rogue chicken prowls the grounds.
The coffee here is chocolatey and smooth and hot as balls (solid dating profile ABOUT ME: description) and despite the heat I drink it every morning because it just tastes too good to stop and because, as I said, there wasn’t any cocaine under the Astrovan. I found my niche on the first day with a plate of eggs and chorizo next to a pile of refried beans and avocado. Wrap that up in some fresh, warm tortillas and you’ve got yourself a makeshift breakfast taco that’ll hit the spot so hard that the spot starts bruising. I get it every. Single. Morning. My companions are more adventurous and help themselves to a variety of smoothies, egg dishes and pancakes. Steve feeds some of his pancakes to the prowling chicken, much to Melissa’s chagrin.
Dinner and lunch have been more up in the air, depending on where we are and what’s around, and sure, there have definitely been some groaners. Couple of so-so burritos. One or two half-assed taco plates. For the most part though, if you stay away from the tourist fly-paper (big hotels, tour bus drop off points, and chain restaurants) it’s hard to find bad food. Some of the standouts for me:
Posada La Posa is the hotel just down the road from the Air BnB we had rented for the week. We had to ring a doorbell to be let into the property through a pedestrian gate fronting a dirt road. An extremely courteous waiter led us past a Dr. Seuss garden to hotels restaurant. Pink. Everything is pink. Splashed with lots of other festive colors and adorned with area paintings, but mostly pink. Not complaining about it, just observing. I ordered the Plata Arracher, which consisted of grilled steak on a bed of dijon and onions with polenta and grilled vegatables on the side.
the steak was tender and flavorful and complimented perfectly by the dijon and onions, the veggies had some snap to them but not enough to turn your head around and the polenta was perfect. Just perfect.
We drove down a bone dislocating, bowel loosening dirt road to reach the downtown portion of Todos Santos from our rental house. There, we found ourselves wandering down mostly dark streets, nipping at each other over directions and the speed at which the others were walking like a ravenous pack of street dogs. Then Los Adobes waved us in and kenneled us real good. The inside of the place is all about historical authenticity. Slap a Spanish-American war soldier into a time machine and dump him into that place and he’s just going to sit down and order some food. I have the Especial de Dona Chuy, which according to the menu, is a nod to the chef’s mother and a dish she used to make. It was steak atop puff pastry, slathered with red sauce and a melted white cheese. As they say, you had me at puff pastry. I truly believe that I would wander into a blast furnace in short shorts if someone hinted that there might be puff pastry in there. I was licking the plate when it was all said and done. An added bonus came after in the form of flan, which was a new experience for me. I’ll let the photo below do the explaining on that one…
Didn’t even think to take a picture until we’d already eaten it.
La Fonda is a cafe by day, and restaurant by night. Just up the street and around the corner from Los Adobes, tucked between a couple of brick buildings. The place is essentially an outdoor bar in a courtyard with tables around it. Branches and palms for walls and ceilings, stars up above and mariachi on the speakers. Their breaded shrimp call to me and so I answer and when it’s out and on my plate, Ay dios mio I’m glad I did. It’s a pretty simple set up. In fact it looks fairly underwhelming until I’ve popped one of those suckers in my mouth and the harp music starts playing in my head. It all looks simple because that’s all you need. The breading is tangy but not overpoweringly so. The shrimp is fresh and meaty. No dips, no garnishes no problem. It carries itself. Side of spring salad and some mashed potatoes and you wash all that down with some negro modelo straight out of the bottle. “Can I get some ranch dressing?” You can get the fuck out.
There was more. There was a rooftop patio that overlooked the ocean with a saltwater infinity pool.
There were boats screaming up on a beach between two rocky cliffs, sunburnt men jumping out and dragging hammerhead sharks down onto the sand, cutting their heads off with hooked knives that were just plain not fucking around. There were dogs in the streets and Reggaeton in the bars. Some of the friendliest people you’ve ever met. But this wasn’t about that. This was about the food…