Epic battles have been raged on the roads that crisscross the Baja; at least in my dusty truck they have. And every single battle revolves around food. Should we eat here at this tasty looking fish taco stand? Or do we keep cruising to see if something else has popped up “just down the way?” Our simple daily desire to fill our bellies with good food can turn from excitement at the unknown to, “Guess this whole relationship is over” in less than a nano-second when things don’t pan out for our tastebuds.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to find a few out-of-the-way spots that have a solid sense of humor. With a little vino and some killer food, these two super dog friendly restaurants know how to craft a good laugh...something my gang definitely needs when good eats are the priority come every single sunrise.
El Triunfo is a gorgeous old mining village in the mountains between Todos Santos and Los Barriles, steeped in history and intrigue of outlaws past. The usual pit stop in town is a wonderful Italian eatery tucked just off the main drag – blink and you will miss the sign for Cafe El Triunfo. We’ve always made it a point to have a pizza and a glass of wine while passing through town but this past adventure, things changed rapidly.
We were slowly doing a drive by of the cafe to find a sliver of parking and literally right around the corner we found what is to become a bit of a foodie mecca in Baja for many moons to come: El Minero. A few reasons. Numero uno – it’s not Mexican food, it’s Spanish food – and that’s a big difference. And, I think we all know what that distinction means – paella and sangria! Oh the joy in finding this bright yellow beacon one fine afternoon (with no breakfast on the belly) on the way to Todos Santos.
Spirited music greeted us the moment I poked my head in El Minero ro ask if they allowed dogs (yes) and it was as if a mirage had materialized that was custom fit for me. Live edge tables, fantastic art, local Baja brews on tap, made-to-order Sangria with the freshest of chopped fruit. That was just to start. Out came a bottle of mezcal with chili dusted lemons and a bowl of salty peanuts. The menu was a masterpiece with a cluster of words to salivate over. Behemoth grilled sausages (sage & rosemary were a fave) took the limelight on a mixed plate of homemade goodies (local cheeses and marmalades, just made mustard, warm sesame bread) that was a sight for sore eyes. Bring on the potato salad and please add more mixed greens to everything, we begged!
We literally ordered the entire menu, including a massive portion of Sunday paella cooked over a huge fire on the back veranda, and gaily watched as throngs of folks jumped up on Juan Matute’s bronzed mule, Sofia, to have their picture taken while donning a huge sombrero. The good times didn’t end there. We sipped on sangria while chatting it up with local farmers coming to check in on their herb garden they were growing for the chef, we threw toys for our dogs into Sofia’s watering vessel so they could dunk their snouts into the cool liquid to retrieve them. We voted the staff the friendliest in all of Baja and asked a billion questions – who had the brilliant idea to turn this speck of history into a bona fide tourist attraction and watering hole in the middle of nowhere? AND, serve up piles of drool worthy food to boot? Tenaja Holdings was the answer we got, a forward thinking community development enterprise out of La Paz who spent four years restoring the property, garden, and grounds. With plans to turn an adjacent crumbling building into a museum, it was all we could do to not stay the night and keep eating, drinking and socializing with our new friends. Enough about them, let’s get on the bronzed mule we shared with the dogs! The pups tried to sit still while my guy donned the sombrero and gazed stoically off into the distance as we laughed in the sun.
Just down the road a spell is another wee village called Los Barriles – known for wind surfing, loads of taco joints and perfect sandy beaches. This is all fine and dandy, til the day you can stomach Mexican food no more and would give a right arm for some good ole Americana loving. Enter La Trinidad. This way-way-way out of the way RV Park and restaurant is the best-kept secret in town. Just make sure you know where you are going or BAM! Another hunger rager will nearly blind you. It’s dirt roads all the way to La Ribera (it’s about 15 miles south of Los Barriles) but once you get there – the Friday night all-you-can-eat buffet is just what the doctor ordered.
Start with an enormous goblet of red wine, followed by a crock of smoky ham and bean soup. The slow cooked ribs, buttery corn-on-the-cob, twice baked potatoes and simple green salad is exactly what a troupe like ours needs after hours spent on the water with barely a crumb for lunch. But...but...but...dessert takes it all over the edge. Think creamy New York City style cheesecake, perfectly spoonable, delightfully cold and instantly devoured by the entire table en masse. Oh, and let’s not forget about the laughs...it’s the funny quotes on the wall that really make the joint special. Just go, you will see what I mean. Clearly these folks were looking for some humor out there in the nueva frontier and they finally found it on the edge of the earth.
Visit the El Minero website
Visit the Tenaja Holdings website
Visit the La Trinidad website