My expeditions down to Baja always and forever start out with health on the mind. I tell myself, this is the trip where I get freakishly healthy – where I truly commit to doing yoga every day, or where I really do paddleboard, surf, kayak or snorkel each afternoon. The sky is the limit when it comes to my dreams of absolute and peak fitness levels. Now, of course, none of that ever happens. Instead, my brain goes into overdrive thinking about the freshest of fish tacos and my poor body is seduced by the whisper of a put together condiment bar or a perfectly fried pocket of seafood. My obsession with food takes over eventually and I am lucky if do more than a handful of yoga classes. But, at least that dedication to health hovers somewhere in the back of my mind…so that once I am taco’ed out, I know I have a spot to land. If only to get my digestion flowing and hit the streets again, looking for the ultimate mouthful. Here are a few supreme bites in the East Cape worth the #fitnessfail. At least you can walk to them all. That counts, right?
This sprawling taco house quite possibly churns out the best Baja style tacos in all of Los Barriles and even better, it’s on the crazy cheap eats path. That is not an exaggeration. It all starts with the exceptional salsa and condiment bar. Bowl after bowl of fresh goodness screams your name the moment you walk in the entry way and I dare you not to head there first before even sitting down at your table, colorfully draped with the bright striped tablecloth seen all over the peninsula. Drooling over charred peppers, creamed jalapenos, juicy limes, sliced radishes, slivers of cucumber, pico de gallo, salsas galore and pickled onions was never so much fun. For less that the cost of a latte back home, you can slam a few expertly grilled fish, fried clam, or scallop tacos or my personal addiction, the fried shrimp tacos. It’s quite easy to load them down with what easily equals an entire day’s worth of salad on a platter. Throw in an ice-cold beer and the price might equal a latte with a shot of espresso. It’s actually upsetting that food this good and this cheap is so common in Baja; these kinds of enticements should be tougher to find, and hot yoga classes easier to come across. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, hmmmm…
Just a few doors down from El Viejo is another local cash only institution, the always good for a quick bite, La Fogata. Known more for its jam packed open mic night than its pretty dang good food, let it be known that I have never had a bad experience here, no matter if it is packed or dead empty. Which is usually is – dead empty. I have to believe that is because the mother of all taco houses is a few doors down, doh! But, if you’re chilled to the bone after a big rain and craving a steaming bowl of seafood or tortilla soup with all the requisite toppings or you don’t want to wait in the often long line over at Viejo, this is the perfect spot to plop down and catch up on some emails in relative peace. The just made ceviche is always fresh and when snapper is in season, a whole fried slab of it is a real treat with a bucketful of fresh lime and grilled tortillas. But, my favorite thing about this joint is that it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, the entire menu is a full go. Meaning, if you want a pile of fried fish tacos and a frozen margarita for breakfast, they aim to please and everything is dished up with a big smile on their face. No judgement here that yoga class was a full abandon. There is always tomorrow!
Now this sports bar/known gringo hangout is not normally the kind of establishment I frequent, but one desperate evening, I was on the mad hunt for a little diddy called a chimichanga. I am not sure why, but these gifts from the kitchen gods are oddly harder to find than one would expect. Imagine a full throttle, stuffed to the gills burrito that is deep fried and quickly broiled off with mounds of melted cheese, pico, guacamole and a ton of sour cream on the side. More Tex-Mex than true Mexican, this fat burrito has reached cult status the land over and I am here to tell you, the secret trick is frying this packed slab of flour just so – it cannot come out too mushy or soft and it most definitely cannot come out mega crispy and hard. Either of those alone would be a travesty. No, it has to be the fine line between both, because there is a special art to the crave-worthy chimichanga. Slight char bits, pillows of softness, edges of crisp, even pockets of fried air between the lardy layers of flour tortilla are what keep chimichanga aficionados up at night, myself included. And, the good folks at Tio Pablo have perfected it.
When the going gets tough and it is finally time to chillax on the epic last meals just a wee bit, time to head to the lovely Zen-like haven that is Healing Winds. Owned and operated by a delightful gal named Tehroma, this gorgeous, and very peaceful enclave is the perfect place to super charge the day with early am yoga class (Spanish speaking, but easy to follow) or for me, a private healing back workshop. In my sessions, she managed to tightly wrap my face in gauze (maybe the best new thing I have ever experienced) and have me upside down between two chairs for the ultimate in realignment and neck support all before the end of the hour. Never had that happened before! I have never felt such relief on my lower back in such a short amount of time and I’m pretty sure that hanging out in an inverted pose jacked my metabolism through the roof, so my own personal Taco-gate could continue without alarm. At least that is what I think happened there!