When you are in Baja for long spurts of time such as much as I am, it’s rather easy to become obsessed. Not only with the next great village you’re headed to, but with the simple home-style meals that the folks up and down the peninsula have perfected over time. From hand-slapped gorditas to smoky bowls of pozole to grilled whole chickens gathered up roadside, my latest trip had me on a big time carne binge every single day. Here are two spots that will satisfy every craving a carnivore might have.
Carnitas Uruapan, Todos Santos
The taste sensation of slow roasted pork done well is a pleasure that every human being should experience many times in their life - if they are lucky. And, it’s especially memorable if that pork is sandwiched between a steaming hot, equally perfect, gordita or huarache or tortilla. That said, I spent well over two weeks recently in the lower Baja area hunting for all things pork - everything from heaping bowls of pozole riddled with pork bits, to late afternoon carnitas taco binges, to my ongoing gordita infatuation, I simply could not get this delicate meat off my mind.
All of this madness led me on a wild goose chase one fine afternoon to find yet another batch of gorditas, and I ended up at Carnitas Uruapan in Todos Santos. This colorful family owned operation is tucked down a side street a few blocks from the town square and is easy to miss if you don’t go wandering off the touristy avenues. However, it is well worth your time to mosey on over and order half the menu because the food here feels so clean and your tummy will be able to handle it. It’s a different kind of pork these folks (all named Raul) are serving up. It’s as if the old-school grandpa chef developed a crush on health food and applied it to traditional Mexican cooking. It takes a hot second for food to arrive, but that is because everything is made to order…and from scratch. They keep the prices very low, so you can really enjoy a plethora of offerings, but it’s the crispy (yet soft) gorditas stuffed with chunks of marinated (not fried) pork and doused in creama that really shines. The heavy-duty huarache quickly becomes a mess in an effort to shove it down so fast; it’s just that good, especially when you load it up with chunky guacamole, tangy pickled onions and squirts of salsa. I could eat the hominy laced pozole at every meal because it’s so light and refreshing (not dripping in fat like most).
The local’s friendly place is sprayed down with quirky murals by the artist Juan Manuel Su, so the tableside viewing is almost worth the visit alone. A lot of thought went into these works of art. My boyfriend still talks about what a great server we had – yes, Raul – and we got a chance to practice our Spanish the entire meal. His patience with our billions of questions about Spanish tenses must be because he eats his families special Michoacán influenced pork every day!
Carnitas Uruapan is located at Colegio Militar Esq. Alvaro Obregon, Todos Santos - Phone: +(52)612 156 05 22
Pollos Asados Chiqui, Pescadero
I’ve driven past this food truck set-up on the outskirts of Pescadero hundreds of times over the years on the way to various beaches and finally, when I could pork out no more, it was time to switch it up to some tasty chicken. You usually cannot go wrong with pollo rigs such as these in all of Mexico. The vendor has taken years to perfect his strategy with his bird and how she’s going to taste, and it turns out, this pit stop is no different.
What a gem the fella running this one-man operation is! He’s uber friendly, delighted to pass a moment in time chatting with his constantly popping in customers while he chars up whole marinated chickens in the moment. While the bird is crisping up, her expertly packs you up a nice to go container full of tortillas, smoky salsas, and creamy macaroni salad. It’s really all you need to take to the beach in Cerritos to snack on between epic surf breaks – one chicken can feed a family of 4 (all of about $10). And, if you break bad with a to go margarita from the Cerritos Beach restaurant, you are solid gold. Just make sure you pack in a 90-minute massage from one of the gals on the beach afterward. The crashing waves and 90’s rock in the background will lullaby you right to sleep.