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Todos Santos and La Paz Trip Report (long)

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Hi, here in La Paz and thought I would write this up before I get home and forget.

Todos Santos is impressive in it's restaurants and here is where we visited:

Cafe Santa Fe: Our fave restaurant hands down - ate there three times and ordered numerous pizzas for the kids. The food isn't especially creative, but they do a fantastic job. I can't recommend one thing as EVERYTHING is good, really and truly. Go and be happy.

Hotel Guaycura: I know locals aren't going to believe this but we had an amazing tasting menu on New Year's Day. The poblano risotto was done perfectly and you know a good restaurant when the risotto is done perfectly. The place has a bad rep in town and locals were shocked when we told them what a great meal we had. In fact, we returned for lunch (to see if we had been just lucky) and had a very tasty and tender "cured" beef sandwich and tomato and olive salad. Service was impeccable and the house-made breads were simply delicious. (no, I don't work for them). We found prices a bit high and servings maybe a bit small, but food quality was excellent. There was a young manager who was very concerned about how we found the food, so maybe they did get a new management team in. Very romantic central courtyard for dining.

El Zaguan: The fish tacos were superb and my husband loved the Dorado. Simple entrees emphasizing seafood. I only wish we could have gone back again.

Tre Galline: Service was rather poor and the kitchen very slow, but we had a fantastic baked eggplant with mozzarella and our pastas were superb. We were advised to just go there for the pastas and that's what we did. Husband and kids had the rigatoni with meat ragu (highly recommended) and I had the shrimp and zucchini pasta. Very fresh flavours and perfectly made pasta. Plus the complimentary almond cookies at the end were a nice treat.

Hotel California: We ended up here our first night - long story that involves arriving late in town with hungry kids. DO NOT eat here unless you are desperate for food. Burgers are passable. I had a "recommended" Beef and Pappardelle Pasta. Was probably the worst pasta I had ever had in my life. The "pappardelle" could have used a few more runs through the pasta machine and were very heavy and gummy - almost inedible. Service was very good, however. Only go for a drink, as the hotel is quite atmospheric.

Taco stands: Tacos Georges - not bad, felt the fried shrimp could have been fried a bit more crispy, but very friendly service. Carnitas Barajas - rather unfriendly service but the shrimp tacos were better than Georges'. The carnitas was a bit dry. I thought overall, El Zaguan had the best tacos.

La Paz:

Buffalo BBQ - overall, service was good and quite knowledgeable. Husband on the waiter's recommendation had the smoked Kobe beef short rib. The thing was enormous, worthy of Fred Flintstone. Excellent and a fantastic thing to order. Kids and I shared the Kurobuta pork baby back ribs and though they were tender, did not seemed "smoked" and were rather flavorless, even with the sauce on it. I would not order them again.

Las Tres Virgenes - Someone in Todos told us it wasn't up to par with Cafe Santa Fe (so we wouldn't be let down) and unfortunately they were right. The only way to describe service was a comedy of errors (too long to go into) When we finally ordered, the tuna tataki was beautiful, and probably the best dish that we ordered. I had the Bone-In Tenderloin which would have been fantastic if it was done to medium rare as I asked. Was well-done on the edges, medium, and medium rare right next to the bone - and slightly dry. Mesquite flavour was excellent. The potato tacos would have been better left off the plate or done very small, as they overwhelmed. Husband had the poblano risotto, which was a bit better than Hotel Guaycura with the tenderloin medallions. Though done medium rare as specificed, they were cut rather crooked and haphazardly. We found the flavours creative, but the service was a bit of a bring down. Overall, we would return.

Overall, great eating in Baja and I hope this trip report helps!

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  1. Interesting to read your impressions as a ten-year resident of Todos Santos. Yes, Santa Fe is consistently good but much too pricey for those of us living on the now too familiar "fixed income." You are entirely correct, "we" will not frequent Guaycura - I was treated to dinner there once by a friend and found it horribly over priced and not very good. No one - I mean no one who lives anywhere nearby goes there. Oh I do wish you could have gone to Michael's at the Gallery - really good - and Suki's as well - oh and Hotelito. Yes, Hotel CA is truly mediocre - so sad. And Zaguan has been consistently good for many years. Tre Galline has good nights and bad. And I am also sad to hear about Tres Virgenes going down hill - this is the third such report I have heard. There are other very good restaurants in La Paz if anyone wants recommendations.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Mariana in Baja

      Because of the time we were there, The Hotelito was not having their usual sushi/curry night over the New Year's weekend. We could not get reservations to Michael's.

      We found Cafe Santa Fe quite reasonable, but we come from a city where it's quite expensive to dine out.

      I understand that perhaps no one goes to Guaycura, but we had to as there were very little options for New Year's. The food was truly good, the quality and taste worthy of high-end restaurants in NYC that we have gone to. We were either very lucky or they maybe brought in a new chef for the holiday period? LIke I said, the manager spoke to us at length about our experience so I think they are eager to try to turn things around.

      The experience we had at Tres Virgenes can only be described as strange. Our waiter was basically on another planet. We constantly had to flag him down for our food, drinks, etc., and we are NOT high-maintenance people. We ended up dealing with another waiter at another table next to us who seemed so much more on the ball. Our original waiter was then very intense when we asked for the bill, repeatedly asking: "You like my service? You like my service?" We mumbled a few things and at that point just wanted to get the heck out of there. We maybe hit them on a bad night and are totally willing to give them another chance; I do like what was on the menu.

      We fell in love with Todos Santos and area and hope to return quite soon!

      1. re: Mariana in Baja

        Mariana -
        My mom, for her 70th birthday, is bringing the entire family to a huge villa on the beach in Todos Santos (Baja) in July. There are tons of kids (my two brothers’), and she is wanting to hire a good cook to work for 5 days at the house, cooking meals & taking care of the kitchen (meals will be both ad hoc and/or dinners together).

        Do you have any suggestions for how to find a person like that? We all love Mexican food, so someone native would be awesome.

        Thanks!
        Dafna

        1. re: dzilafro

          I honestly don't know anyone but you could post a request on our local on-line newsletter and surely someone will know. Go to www.bajawesternonion.com If the "huge villa" is by any chance Serendipity I know they could easily arrange that for you.

      2. Great report sweeterpea!
        Love Todos Santos and found Cafe Santa Fe so gorgeous in its old Spanish Carriage house with the lovely patio..glad to hear the food has improved.
        Fell in love with the design that I incorporated a lot of design when I built my home.
        It's wild to make the drive from Cabo in the arid desert up to the Tropic of Cancer and to see the lushness of TS.
        Where did you stay?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Beach Chick

          I would not say the food has improved at Santa Fe - I think it has been the same for 14 years - always reliable but not innovative.This may get removed by the powerful ones but Hotelito is lovely and within a walk of town - and does a lovely sushi Thurs-Fri-Sat plus curry dishes Fri-Sat. The owner once lived in India. The Todos Santos Inn is also lovely and in the heart of town. Do try to get reservations at Michaels the next time you come. The setting is lovely and the food very good and somewhat more interesting than the older places in town.

        2. Been watching the KPBS special on Baja with Rick Bayless and he was in La Paz and the island right off the coast...what a great series and reminds me of how much I love and miss Baja..
          The food he was cooking up was pure and simple Baja/Med..
          I gotta get back..thinking of La Paz and the island this September.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick

            BC, also check out the little (locally produced for us) show Crossing South. KBPS usually airs it on Thursday evenings at 8:30 pm. The host loves to eat so each show usually features food and a quasi cooking class. The rest of the show is devoted to off-beat, funky things to do. So far he's done 2 shows from Tijuana (with plenty of street eats), Rosarito, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe. This is definitely not a slickly produced show, and it's a little cheesy, but it's also rather charming.

            http://crossingsouth.com/

            As for Mexico: One Plate at a Time...I saw that island off of La Paz episode too. Wow :-). Since I couldn't go, I did make the cheese w/fruit salsa dish and took it to a party where it was scarfed down with none left. I spent a week with Rick in Veracruz this past September and he's really smitten with Baja right now which I find rather amusing since 10 years ago he wouldn't give it a second look ;-). Times change...

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Hola Mamacita!
              You were with Rick Bayless in Veracruz in September...WOW..did you do a trip report?

              I really like Crossing South...the host is a pudgy, sweet guy.
              They were at a restaurant in Ensenada and the chef/owner was making some great stuff.
              When we fly to Cabo and see the islands off La Paz, I've always said that I want to go there and when they showed the isla and they have campgrounds...thinking I'm so there!
              Nothing like freshly caught yellowtail and that mango, avocado salsa was a thing of beauty.
              That Mexican papaya was a so gorgeous with all those limes...best limes in the world.
              Just figured out what I'm making for Super Bowl...that will kick some serious a$$.

              Amazing that Rick has changed his tune in 10 years but watching these shows on Baja, I realize how fantastic the food is and we are so lucky to be so close and makes me miss so much how wonderful the Mexican people and their food is!
              Viva Mexico!