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Baja Sur Taco Tour: Dollar tacos south of the border 

Editor's note: There is a long tradition of Bendites sneaking south to Baja California to escape the long Central Oregon winters. With that in mind, we asked one of our dining correspondents to give us her impressions of the beach side culinary scene during a recent trip.

click to enlarge On the Baja taco tour.
  • On the Baja taco tour.
On the Baja taco tour.Fish tacos and Baja California are synonymous. Right? I found out on a recent trip to Baja that ordering a little turf with your surf is a good idea too. Sure, the fish is fresh and lovely. Coming from Bend in the wintertime, I thought I would eat fish tacos every day of my vacation. But my quest for fish tacos turned into a delectably edible educational experience involving both tacos del mar y de la tierra.

On our first night in San Jose del Cabo, my fiancée and I were greeted by friends who spend considerable time in the southern Baja town. They took us out to Las Guacamayas, their favorite taco place. "You like tacos al pastor?" they asked. As they well knew, if they weren't already, al pastor would become my new favorite.

Tacos al pastor are essentially shaved, spit-roasted pork tacos with onion, cilantro and pineapple in your choice of a corn or flour tortilla. From my seat on a dining patio perched above the restaurant's main open-air seating area, I could peer down through grapefruit tree branches to see the al pastor chef at work. In front of a large, vertical rotisserie clad with an enormous piece of juicy pork, the chef sliced thin pieces so quickly that if you blinked you'd miss the end of his machete-like knife nicking the ever-so-smallest shaving of pineapple from its perch atop the rotisserie.

On our next visit to Las Guacamayas, my fiancée ordered a plate of each kind of meat taco. After the mariachi band serenaded us with their version of "Cielito Lindo," the tacos arrived in all their understated glory. Sharing the plate there were tacos de pollo (chicken), al pastor, costilla (rib steak), chuleta (pork shoulder), arrachera (flank steak), and chorizo (spicy pork sausage). Condiments were bountiful - salsa rojo (red sauce), salsa verde (green sauce), salsa Mexicana (chunky tomato sauce), and a smooth guacamole.

Considering that the tacos were roughly $1 apiece, I was impressed with the adornments, all freshly made, which accompanied the tacos. There was also a platter of grilled onions and jalapeno peppers and fresh, sliced cucumbers. After tasting all the tacos - each in its own right a delight for the carnivorous senses - we agreed the al pastor were simply a cut above the rest.

What I had considered to be the ubiquitous fish taco was surprisingly not so easy to find. After eating at two or three other local restaurants and not finding them offered on the menu, we decided to make our own. The enormous supermercado within walking distance from our condo sold freshly made tortillas, fresh fish, fresh salsa, avocados, and queso cotija (salty farmer's cheese). So, armed with the proper essentials, we grilled seasoned fresh dorado (mahi-mahi) on one side of our patio grill while warming corn tortillas on the other side. Slapped together and garnished with the cotija, guacamole and salsa, they were grande estupendo.

We encountered another popular type of taco while on a two-day jaunt to La Paz, the state's capital, situated up the peninsula on the Sea of Cortez side. In a sand-floored restaurant called Moyeyo's next to our kayaking outfitter's office, we ordered shrimp tacos. This tent-like restaurant had whalebones suspended from the ceiling and the tables and chairs were the white plastic kind. Our experience at Moyeyo's was much more what my fiancée, who was visiting Mexico for the first time, had expected.

The shrimp tacos, which had deep-fried battered shrimp in them, were served very simply in corn tortillas with shredded cabbage. We waited what seemed like an eternity to get the tacos and then another one for the bill, true to the Mexican tradition of relaxing over a meal, but a bit more difficult for gringos who have just spent the day swimming and kayaking in the sun and ocean air. We were famished! But two tacos each, again at around $1 apiece, after an appetizer of fresh fish ceviche was more than enough to ward off hunger on our bus trip back to San Jose del Cabo.

Leaving Bend for Baja this winter? Take your taste buds on an authentic taco tour.

Las Guacamayas; left at the Pescador sign off Hwy 1 in San Jose del Cabo, B.C.S.
Mariscos Moyeyo's; corner of Obregón and Calle Héroes in La Paz, B.C.S.


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