Loreto’s restaurants are mostly casual places that serve a variety of Mexican specialties. Seafood and steak find their way onto just about every menu. A number of local eateries have formed an association that maintains a useful website at www.loretorestaurants.com.
Domingo’s Place (Salvatierra 154 at Ebanista, tel. 613/104-4016, 1–10 P.M. daily) serves tasty grilled steaks as well as lobster, shrimp, and fish specialties. The back patio is a highlight of dining here, and the margaritas are among the best in town.
La Terraza (tel. 613/135-0496, 1–10 P.M. daily), above Café Olé, overlooks Plaza Salvatierra. Order the house special if you go: grilled steaks of fresh Sonoran beef (US$15).
Under the same ownership as Domingo’s Place, casual La Palapa (Hidalgo btw López Mateos/Callejón Pipila, tel. 613/135-1101, 1–11 P.M. daily, mains US$7–15) has locals hooked on tasty seafood and great service. Try the whole red snapper (huachinango) or the chocolate clams (almejas chocoladas), which are baked and topped with melted cheese.
Mediterraneo (López Mateos at Hidalgo, tel. 613/135-2577, www.mediterraneo loreto.com, 12:30–4 P.M. and 6–10 P.M. Tues.–Sun., mains US$15–20) is a second-story restaurant on the malecón, just north of Avenida Salvatierra. It serves mainly Italian cuisine as well as steaks and paellas. Texas BBQ is a recent addition to the menu.
Owners Carol and Lee Boyd have opened a second eatery on the plaza, next to Mita Gourmet: Papagayo Cantando (tel. 613/135-2216, 3 P.M. till close Fri.–Wed., mains US$10–20) serves a great tapas menu in an enchanting garden setting. Seafood paella, smoked salmon, and crab cakes are some of the small plates. Entrées include rib eye, baby back ribs, and fajitas.
La Cascada (Salvatierra, 8 A.M.–9:30 P.M. Thurs.–Tues., mains US$7–20) is a simple affair with bright blue tables and chairs arranged in an open-air dining room just a few steps from the mission. For breakfast, try a large glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice with eggs made to order. For dinner, try the shrimp or scallops in mango sauce and garnished with peanuts, or just a burger topped with tomato, lettuce, onion, bacon, and mozzarella cheese. Los Mandiles de Santa Lucía, on the south end of the malecón, is another good choice for traditional Mexican dishes.
North of town on the beach, La Picazón (tel. 613/109-5078, lapicazon [at] hotmail [dot] com, noon–6 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) is a local find. Seafood wraps—a flour tortilla stuffed with fish or shellfish, lettuce, tomato, and melted mozzarella cheese—are a house specialty. The owners also stock a full bar.
On the plaza, Kieran and Norma Raftery prepare Mexican cuisine with an Italian twist at 1697 (Davis 13, tel. 613/135-2538, 12:30–2:30 P.M. and 6–10 P.M. Tues.–Sun., mains US$10–20). For example, the chile relleno comes wrapped in a puff pastry and garnished with a poblano cream sauce. Start with a nopal salad or queso fundido chorizo and order a Baja Blond from the tap, or choose from a good selection of wines by the glass. Friday night salsa classes are a popular event.
Mita Gourmet (Davis 13, tel. 613/135-2035, www.mitagourmet.com, mains US$7–15), across from the city hall building on the plaza, specializes in seafood dishes (fish with garlic is a favorite) and hosts live guitar music most nights. Fish tacos are fried and come with lettuce instead of the traditional cabbage.
Antojitos, Tacos, and Fast Food
When it comes to fish tacos, the efficient husband-and-wife team who run
El Rey del Taco (no tel., mains US$3–7) have won the hearts of many a Loreto regular—some of whom place their orders before they fly into town, in case the place is closed when they arrive. Located on the south side of Juárez near the Pemex, El Rey gets high marks for tacos de cabeza as well as pescado. Those in the know say the fastest way to get your tacos is to sit down at a table, rather than waiting at the window. El Rey is open from 9 A.M. until whenever the food runs out, usually by 2 P.M.
Another longtime favorite for quick, inexpensive snacks, McLulu’s (Salvatierra, west of Colegio, no tel., 10 A.M.–6 P.M. daily) prepares tacos de carne asada, tacos de guisado, homemade chorizo, and picadillo (spicy meat-and-chili salad). The once-legendary fish tacos were on the soggy side last time we tried them. Three tacos and a soda cost US$5.
Just off the plaza, Orlando’s (Madero 25, tel. 613/135-0549) snack bar is open for breakfast and lunch, with favorites like pancakes, hamburgers, and cupcakes, 7 A.M.–3 P.M. In the evening, the owners serve ice cream and paletas at the adjoining La Michoacana (Madero at Juárez, tel. 613/135-0549).
Best Chicken (Salvatierra, near the Pescador store, no tel., US$5) does one thing well: flame-broiled chicken. Follow the parade of locals to the register and order a medio half) or entero (whole) and say if it’s para aqui (for here) or para llevar (to go). Choose fries or a salad on the side. Grab a cold drink from the fridge, and dig in.
Asadero el Super Burro (Fernandez at Colocio, tel. 613/135-1243) does antojitos right, with a menu of papas rellenas, molcajetes, tacos, and the namesake burritos. Homemade flour tortillas are a plus.
On the plaza, Café Olé (Madero 14, tel. 613/135-0495, 8 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat., mains US$3–6) is a Loreto institution, where expats and visitors gather to dine on reasonably priced breakfast and lunch fare while watching the world go by. Seafood omelets and freshly squeezed orange juice highlight the morning menu; lunch fare includes tacos, burgers, ice cream, and the like. Check the community bulletin board for rentals, sales, and other local information.
A relatively new option for café culture is air-conditioned Sea Coffee, near Augie’s on the malecón (tel. 613/135-2096, 7 A.M.–2 P.M. and 4–7 P.M. daily).
El Mejicano (on Misioneros, north of Juárez, no tel.) has the best cold treats in town, including paletas, agua frescas, and nieve.
El Pescador (Salvatierra btw Independencia/Ayuntamiento, www.elpescador.com.mx), is Loreto’s largest grocery store. Locals prefer to shop at the smaller but less expensive and cleaner Chuco’s (Madero, tel. 613/135-0065), which is across the street from the owner’s husband’s hardware store. A government-subsidized Tienda ISSSTE (no tel., 8 A.M.–8 P.M., Sun. 8 A.M.–2 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) is located on Madero, north of the plaza.
Stock up on fresh tortillas and Mexican pastries at Tortillería Loreto (Juárez btw Ayuntamiento/Independencia). On Sunday mornings, there is a farmers market on Zaragossa.
Del Borracho Saloon and Grill (Camino a San Javier, no tel., 8 A.M.–6 P.M. Wed.–Sun., closed June–Sept., mains US$7–15) is an order-at-the-counter kind of place. It’s run by two hard-working Americans whose support for the local community is widely known and respected. The restaurant is located about 800 meters from the highway on the road to San Javier. Eggs, pancakes, and waffles make up the breakfast menu; burgers, fries, and corndogs are for lunch.
At Playa Juncalito, stop at Vista al Mar (mains US$5–15) for Baja dining at its best: fresh clams, shrimp, and fish of the day, at a plastic table on the sand under a palapa roof by the seashore. This place also has a cute toy boat structure for kids. Look for a sign on the highway.
There are two dining options at Puerto Escondido: Restaurante & Bar Tripui (Lote 1, Manzana 1, Puerto Escondido, 8 A.M.–9:30 P.M. daily) serves traditional Mexican food, including chicken mole, fish filets, and lobster in season. Contemporary Porto Bello (Lote 1, Manzana 15, San Carlos, Bahía de las Palmas, Puerto Escondido, tel. 613/133-0189) is located in a second-story space inside the marina complex. (Porto Bello also has a second location inside the airport.)
In Nopoló, the Loreto Bay Restaurant (tel. 613/133-0010 or 800/507-6979, www.innatloretobay.com) was going through a change in ownership at press time and may or may not be open.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition