Having a reliable set of wheels in Baja is a must; especially if you’re like me and each day can twist on a dime as quickly as the wind changes direction. One day you’re kicking it on the beach in Los Barriles watching the kiteboarders perform impossible flips and the next, you’re hauling north to go kayaking in Mulege. If you’re all the way at the bottom on the peninsula, here is a string of best bites to fuel your trip north. Or, even better, if you are just making your way across the border for the upcoming winter high season, start at the bottom and work your way up. Every pit stop is a taste revelation worth the check in alone.
Taller 17 – Todos Santos
Drifting in an out of the village of Todos Santos over the years has brought along many divine discoveries. Farm to table restaurants pop up by famous chefs. Mezcal bars are packed to the gills every night. Thumping farmers markets bring folks up from Cabo. Private beach clubs blossom overnight. New hotels spring up bringing a different sort of clientele to this artist enclave. However, nothing has excited me as much as the miniscule bakery that opened this spring, Taller 17 Todos Santos. I first spied this oasis one morning while cruising around at the crack of dawn looking for anything open that might know how to make a cortado (a killer coffee concoction just made of espresso, with a hit of steamed milk). Usually that early, I have to suffice with a standard roadside coffee, but from old times spent in Spain, when I laid eyes on the sign with the word taller in it, I hit the brakes. Taller means workshop in Spanish and what would a workshop be doing in downtown Todos Santos? Turns out, it was a charm-filled bakeshop/coffee house that had the wonderful sense to open early for the dawn risers. I wandered in to fresh scones popping out of the oven, chewy brownies displayed on the counter, espresso being slung out to other folks perched at the counter and the friendliest proprietor you could ever hope to see at 7 am. I claimed a stool and watched in wonder as she baked, chatted, made coffee, flipped through cookbooks, posted on Instagram, answered the phone, and ran the whole operation as a one-woman-machine. Needless to say, the baked goods were the best I’ve had in so many moons, it was easy to harvest myself a daily brownie addiction. She told me the secret to these cocoa bombs, but you will have to stop in yourself to find out what it is. Trust me, you will not regret all the time you will want to spend there!
Ignacio Spring B & B – San Ignacio
Once you hit the mid-way point in Baja, all one really wants is a cozy place to tuck down and for the road trip to somehow end so, the rapture one experiences when timing your trip upon landing at a riverside B & B before sundown in truly epic. The dogs immediately fly out of the truck to play with the two resident dogs, Junior and Domingo (Junior being a stunning beast who is the epitome of friendly, Domingo being a bit more reserved but still a good hound). The goodies keep stacking up at this wonderland. If you want a beer, the cooler is stocked (just add it to the bill). The kayaks are primed to be shoved into the water for a chill float around the river. And the best part is, the owners daughter who used to operate her restaurant just off the town square changed things up and now they have taken over her spot, Tootsie’s, and magically, it’s all happening right outside the front door of your spacious, air-conditioned yurt. You just need to let them know if you are eating dinner and your place at the table will be set. Prepare for the juiciest, thickest steak masterfully cooked, piles of yummy vegetables, potatoes charred perfectly and a massive salad to go along with your cocktails. Sometimes, the thrill of finding such a remote spot, full of such personality, make the trip up the peninsula totally worth it. You just remember what it is to be human again and not a participant in a Mad Max movie. Oh yes, and breakfast is just as scrumptious – every bit of it homemade and can be prepped for take away. Mad Max awaits your cameo.
Poco Cielo –KM 59, Rosarito
Sometimes, you just cannot make it to the border in a day from San Ignacio. Slow moving trucks, random breaks for the dogs, pull-off beach romps, etc…make for a late night border crossing and it can be too much to deal with after the long, winding drive. KM 59 is literally the primo spot to land when this is the case and I have just the place to rest your weary head and taste what might be the best dish in all of Baja. I know that’s a mighty theory to state, and when the waiter told me about the shrimp omelet over a killer dinner of crispy chicken tacos and perfect margaritas overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I was a bit on the fence. Nothing about eggs, cream and shrimp sounds appealing at 8 am, but that just shows what a fool I have been all these many years. After spending the night in an adorable marine themed room with a private balcony, we woke up early to let the dogs scamper on the beach and I ran into the same waiter while grabbing coffee. He mentioned the shrimp concoction again and I was like, why not? What’s the harm in trying a new spin on breakfast? After gazing up at massive cliff-side dilapidated homes on the beautiful beach down private stairs from the restaurant (seemingly supported my nymphs of the sea), we made our way back to the dog-friendly patio to try what turned out to be the best thing I ate the entire trip. The mix of garlic, heavy cream, wine, and cheese smothering a beautifully prepared omelet stuffed with just caught shrimp was like nothing my stomach was prepared to absorb. It was like dinner mixed with breakfast, topped off with brunch and made my desire to get home one notch less just so I could have another serving. Which, of course, we promptly ordered!