Cheap, Fast and Satisfying: A guide to street food in Los Cabos

Cheap, Fast and Satisfying: A guide to street food in Los Cabos

You’re in Mexico. It’s time to discover the amazing variety of quick, affordable meals that Mexicans eat on the go. 

Street food is not a pejorative term. It’s best described as homemade food that’s very tasty and, by restaurant standards, very inexpensive.  

Every pueblo and town in Mexico, including San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, has people selling food from carts, small stands or baskets attached to their bicycles. There are also taquerías and even front rooms in homes that have been converted to tiny street food restaurants. The options are endless. 

Here’s a sampling of what’s available. 

Tamales. In the early morning hours, watch for three-wheeled bicycles parked on street corners carrying silver containers packed with tamales, a favorite breakfast staple. Tamales are masa (ground corn) stuffed with a variety of fillings and steamed in a corn husk. Insider tip: When you want tamales, get out early. The carts usually disappear by mid-morning.

Tacos. The unofficial national dish of Mexico, tacos are probably the most in-demand street food item in Mexico. These thin, griddle-baked tortillas, flour or corn, are topped with fillings, folded, and eaten without utensils. Baja fish tacos are Cabo’s claim to fame, but shrimp, beef, chicken and pork versions are also very popular. 

Quesadillas. This common dish, a favorite of locals and visitors alike, consists of a large tortilla filled with cheese (ideally Oaxaca cheese) and chicken or beef. Vegetable fillings can include avocado, onion, and fresh chopped tomatoes. This medley is then cooked on a griddle or stove. Traditionally, a corn tortilla is used, but quesadillas can also be made with a flour tortilla.

Tortas. Torta can refer to any kind of sandwich on a fluffy bun. They’re typically filled with beef or carnitas (braised pork), cheese, avocado, onion, spicy peppers, refritos, and butter or mayonnaise. One to watch for is torta suiza, which has three kinds of melted cheese. Have it with chipotle salsa.

Tostadas. The base of this dish is a flat tortilla, usually corn, deep-fried or toasted. Just like stale bread can be made palatable as toast, a stale tortilla can be repurposed as a tostada by frying it in boiling oil until it becomes golden and crunchy. Toppings for tostadas start with a base layer of beans, cheese, sour cream, chopped lettuce, sliced onions and salsa. Diced and fried meat, usually chicken or pork, is then added. In Cabo, seafood options can include shrimp, tuna, crab, octopus or smoked marlin, a local specialty. 

Finding the best street food purveyors is easy if you know where to look. Your best bet is a location popular with locals, squeaky-clean and not on a dirt street. 

A few caveats before venturing forth to sample Cabo’s justly famous street food. Take into account your dietary limitations. Proceed with caution appropriate to your specific health situation. Not everyone can afford to take the same risks.

  • Trust your nose. If anything smells spoiled or makes you feel uneasy, trust your instincts and do not taste it. Simply find another place to eat.
  • Antibacterial gel. Take note if it’s readily available for employees and customers alike. Pandemic or not, basic hygiene is the first line of defense against foodborne illness. 

Hot foods should be hot. Foods intended to be served hot should be cooked through the center. Keeping in mind that E. coli and salmonella die at temperatures of 160 F (70 C), avoid meats served rare. The same in reverse holds true for foods meant to be served cold--make sure they’re as cold as they’re supposed to be. Seafood in particular needs to be refrigerated--period.