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Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating
LOS CABOS GROCERY SHOPPING GUIDE
by Judy Chaikin
So you've made the great escape to Los Cabos. You've rented a beautiful seaside villa for a week or more, docked your super sleek launch in the harbor of Cabo San Lucas, or are camping in the region and are ready to spend the next few glorious days and nights living La Vida Loca. Maybe after three or four days of eating every meal out, you decide to head out into the world of grocery shopping. Whoa! Let me help you find your way through the maze.
GROCERY STORE UPDATE
Cabo has really come of age! Here are the latest grocery shopping updates
The most exciting local news for shoppers is the opening of a COSTCO store in Los Cabos, plus two other large Supermarkets, CCC and SORIANA. These stores bring a much need dimension to grocery and general merchandise shopping in our burgeoning area.There are markets of all sizes and varieties in Los Cabos and you can probably find anything you want...if you know where to go. There are large Supermarkets (Supermercados), which are tailored to Northern tastes and often have the prices to match. Tourism has also brought an increase in specialty shops where you can find "exotic" items like bagels and lox, Italian prosciutto, and imported cheeses and wines. There are also many little stores along the highway where you can pick up necessities like bread, milk and beer.
So how do the locals do their shopping? They do it piecemeal, like they do in Europe or Asia or most countries where they don't have one-stop shopping malls. There are many small markets, known as bodegas or mercados including a chain of local markets, FRUTAS Y VERDURAS, easily recognized by their bright purple facades. And there are many local produce markets, bakeries and meat markets where prices are much more in line with you expect in Mexico.
There are only two markets that would qualify as what gringos know as Supermarkets. They are both part of the same Supermercado chain - ARAMBURO. There is one Aramburo in the middle of Cabo San Lucas (at the corner where Marina Blvd makes a sharp left turn). The other is in Santa Rosa, just outside of San Jose del Cabo on the way to the airport.
You can find many of the brands you're familiar with, like Kellogg's, General Mills, and Armour. If you're only comfortable with what you already know, then the Aramburo is for you, but you will be paying Northern prices and sometimes more. If you try the local brands you're in for a treat. Many are packaged by the same companies we know and love, but under Mexican brand names and lower prices. Breakfast cereals such as Frosted Flakes will appear under the name Zucaritas, but you'll still see Tony the Tiger on the box. Same stuff, different name, once you get the hang of it you'll save big bucks. There are other local brands that you might want to try, especially for Mexican specialties like beans, red sauces or canned chilies, which out-do their Northern counterparts.
With refrigeration at a premium, produce at the Aramburo may look unacceptable to the Western eye. Sometimes the produce is downright rotten, but if you check items over carefully and they look okay, once you've washed them and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge, you'll be surprised how they come back to life. Most are locally grown and the taste is usually delicious. You'll find better looking produce if you get into the piecemeal shopping mode (see the FRUITS and VEGETABLES section below).
One thing you'll find in the main aisle of the Aramburos is a price scanner which reads bar codes and shows you prices in both pesos and U.S. dollars. (And we call it a backward country!). The cash registers also calculate everything in both dollars and pesos, so if you have to pay in dollars, you'll get a fair exchange rate, and they never have a problem calculating your change (although it will be in pesos). Your groceries will be taken to your car by a young boy or girl, probably under the age of 12. You are expected to tip these youngsters a few pesos, but DO NOT tip with American change (coins). While American dollars are accepted widely in Mexico, American coins are not and they will probably just toss it on the ground. It's not an insult it's just a fact of life. Yankee dollars Si! Change No!
The Aramburos are not only the biggest markets around, they are also a combination of hardware store, gift shop, toy store, delicatessen and bakery. But remember, they're there for convenience and in order to get the best out of grocery shopping in Los Cabos you will want to know about alternatives.
FRUITS and VEGETABLES
There are many fruit and vegetable stands along the highway and it's worth a stop just to see what they are offering. On one stretch outside of San Jose heading toward the airport, you'll see a variety of fruit vendors selling their wares off the back of their trucks. For about $2.50 you'll get a giant sack of juice oranges that will last weeks. Others sell locally grown watermelon, cantaloupe or tangerines. Usually their produce is exceptional, but it is seasonal. The vendors are happy to give you a taste before you buy.
Our favorite fruits and vegetable place is LIZZARAGA. They are on the beach side of the highway outside of San Jose just past Rigo's Restaurant. They supply many of the Cabo restaurants and have regular shipments from local farms. They also have refrigeration for their delicate produce and an amazing selection of fresh and dried chilies and herbs. The local chain, FRUTAS Y VERDURAS (which translates as 'Fruits and Vegetables') also has a good selection of produce, but again, very little refrigeration. Or, you might want to check out the organic produce at FLORA'S in San Jose. (See the Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating for details.)
MEAT AND POULTRY
Mexican beef and pork are very flavorful but may not be as tender as you are used to unless you can find Sonoran Beef. The cuts are also different and you may not recognize the steaks and roasts you usually buy, just start with what looks familiar. The beef in the ARAMBUROS is fine, but we've had better success at the FRUTAS Y VERDURAS meat counter. The best steaks we've found are in a small butcher shop behind the MERCADO MUNICIPAL, the old central market in San Jose. Walk out the back door of the market and turn left. There you'll find a great little butcher shop that sells Sonoran beef. Ask specifically for Sonoran and they will cut you whatever kind of steak or roast you desire. They also have both cut and whole chickens and eggs and their prices are good.
The chickens in Mexico are very tasty. They are grain fed and, while not as plump as those in U.S. markets, they cook up well. Sometimes all you can find are frozen birds, they're still very good, especially for the barbecue. The parts are sold in the following ways:
Pechuga de Pollo - the breast, (pronounced Pechoogah day Poyo)
Sin Hueso - without bone, (pronounced Wayso)
Con Hueso - with bone
Pierna - Leg and thigh, always sold together (pronounced Peeairnah)
Entero - The whole bird
Don't be afraid of the milk, it's all pasteurized and you can usually find U.S. brands. You may not always find low- or non-fat, but wait a couple of days and try again. It'll show up. They also sell non-refrigerated milk in sealed cartons. It's perfectly good and very tasty.
Eggs are sold loose. You just put as many as you want in a plastic bag and take them home -- very carefully. Sometimes you'll find the dozen size egg cartons, but check for broken eggs, they're usually not in the best condition. The big surprise is how brightly yellow the yolks are and how high they stand up in the pan. One of my neighbors was so shocked by this she thought there must be something wrong with the eggs and threw them out. But, in case you've forgotten, that's what real, home grown eggs, without hormones, look like.
A very popular dairy product in Mexico is Crema Eugenia, which is the equivalent of sour cream and comes in small bottles. Be sure to try the Mexican cheeses like Manchega, a good soft grating cheese similar to Jack which is also excellent for cooking; or Ranchera, which is like a thicker and tastier version of hoop cheese. You can also find Swiss, chedder and most of the other cheeses you're used to.
It's everywhere, just look for the signs that say PESCEDERIA (Fish Market.) There are small fish markets all around San Jose and if you go down to the wharf where the fishing boats come in, both in Cabo San Lucas and in San Jose, you can ask the men cleaning the fish if there's any for sale. Sometimes they are paid in fish and will sell you some of theirs. They'll tell you a price and whatever it is, take it. It's always cheap and well worth it. Bring it home and cook it, you'll never get it any fresher. Or take it to one of the many restaurants that will cook your fish for you. Just ask, most of them will do it.
You can buy your tortillas in the market in the small packages or you can go to one of the many tortillerias where they are manufactured and buy a kilo (that's 2.2 pounds) for about $1.25. They're usually found on side streets, so keep your eyes open for the sign that says: TORTILLERIA.
BREADS, CAKES, DESSERTS
Both of the ARAMBURO markets have excellent bakeries. The Mexican bolillo is a like a soft French roll, with a hint of sweetness. It's great for sandwiches and also comes in a larger form which can be sliced like French bread. You'll also find French-style batards, which should be eaten the day they are bought. They go stale very quickly.
Mexican pastries are not very sweet. They use a more coffee-cake style batter and don't go for heavy creams or icings. They do make one very special cake called Tres Leches (Three Milks) which will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth. You'll see many Mexican bakeries around town and they all have a similar selection of cookies and breads. Look for the signs that say: PANADERIA If you need a real sugar fix, try the SWISS BAKERY in Cabo San Lucas across from the Plaza, one block before Mi Casa Restaurant (See the Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating for directions.)
In the heart of San Jose del Cabo, is the MERCADO MUNICIPAL. The mercado is located between Mauricio Castro and Coronado streets a couple of blocks below the highway, but since neither of these one-way streets goes through to the highway, it can be a little tricky to find. This traditional open air marketplace sells fresh fish, produce and meat. They also have a great selection of leather goods, clothing, blankets and other local items. Even if you don't do any grocery shopping, it's worth stopping by to check out some of the local flavor, or to eat at one of the half-dozen loncherias (lunch counters) where you'll find huge plates of food and fresh squeezed juice served at great prices. You might have some trouble ordering if you don't speak much Spanish, but no matter what you get, you'll probably enjoy it.
Cabo San Lucas has a Costco-style warehouse store, PROSAN, where most restaurant owners do their shopping. It's open to the public and you can buy in bulk at very good prices, especially good for stocking up on canned and paper goods. It sits off a side road that seems to be constantly under construction on the backside of Cabo San Lucas. Follow the signs that say: "To the Bungalows" (which is a very nice small hotel). You'll eventually see a couple of street signs that say "ProSan" with an arrow. Maybe you'll find it, maybe you won't. It's always an adventure in Los Cabos!
Lox and bagels can be found at TRADER DICKS, in the Corridor area near the Coral Baja condos and at LENNY'S DELI in Cabo San Lucas, where they have a New York style deli counter plus an incredible selection of bottled salsas. EUROPEA, a gourmet Wine and Deli shop recently opened on the highway just outside of Cabo San Lucas. Here you'll find wines and liquors from around the world as well as specialties like prosciutto and parmesano reggiano.
Well that ought to get you started. Now go back to your villa, yacht or campsite, have a good shot of Tequila or una Chela (a brewski) and see who you can get to fix you that great dinner you just bought.
See the rest of the Los Cabos Shopping Guide:
Empty egg carton - water - coffee - coffee filters - cups - sugar - salt - pepper
Eggs - milk - bread - butter - bagels - jelly - juice - ice cream - fruit
coffee cream - paper products
spaghetti and sauce
mustard - ketchup - mayo
cookies - brownies
oil - soda - wine
bacon - sausage - steaks - chicken - pork chops - hamburger
waffles - french toast -
Aramburo Super Plaza(Grocery store in downtown Cabo) Long time mainstay grocery store for downtown Cabo. Classic smaller Safeway sized store with in-house Bakery. Location: Lazaro Cardenas y Zaragoza S/N , Col.Centro, Cabo San Lucas (Just off Cabo's main drag on the next block heading south past Squid Roe). Tel. 143-0939.
CaboleyThe stores and companies of the highest quality and service in a privileged area, easy access, big parking, in the zone of greater touristic and residential growth. Paseo de las Misiones 152, Col. Club Campo de Golf. San Jose del Cabo, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Phone: (624) 142-4459. Open daily 10:00 am - 10:00 pm.
CCC Centro Comercial CalifornianoWe offer you the best quality, freshness and the widest variety of imported and domestic goods. Calle San Antonio y Chamizal, Col. Arcos del Sol C.P. 23410, Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. Phone: (624) 146-7200
City Club- A large warehouse store with groceries, produce, and bakery items. Located on Paseo del Pescador and Lazaro Cardenas, City Club requires a $1 fee to shop.
La Europea: (Wine/Deli) Wine and liquor store, deli, salads and deli plates. Puerto Paraíso Plaza, Loc. #39B, on the marina. Phone: 105-1818 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Open Mon- Sat 5am-10pm; Sun 11am- 7pm. - AX, MC, VS, $
Soriana:(Grocery super-store) Groceries, Dry Goods, Appliances, Wine & Liquour Dept., Stereos, TV’s, Sporting Goods, Toys, Bikes, Pharmacy, Food Court, Bakery, Furnishings, Motor Scooters, Tires, Stationary, Hardware, Paint, Cameras, Watches, ATM, Gardening etc. Location: Carretera Todos Santos and Cruajitos Colonia Brisa del Pacifico. Cabo San Lucas. Tel. 105-1290.
Tutto BeneClassy gourmet and organic food and wine shop in downtown Cabo San Lucas with more that 400 brand name wines lining the racks. Tutto Bene has wines from around the world for any occasion. Blvd. Marina and Camino del Cerro (near the Glorieta, next to the Romeo and Julieta restaurant). Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Ph: (624) 144-3300 | Fax: 624-144-3301. Open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. MasterCard and Visa cards accepted.