What makes a bar cool, not just bars in Cabo San Lucas, but anywhere?
Some might argue it’s the places that are the most popular, but at CaboVivo we think that’s almost exactly the opposite of cool…although let’s be honest, empty bars aren’t any fun either.
What we prize is originality, different concepts, bars which have built loyal clientele without attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator. If you’re wondering what that is all you have to do is look at 90% of the bars in Los Cabos, which attempt to be all things to all people.
The common bars show live sports, but also feature live music…sometimes simultaneously. The common bars offer a wide variety of beer and cocktails, but also menus with an enormous array of food options, from tacos and other Mexican comfort foods to burgers and American favorites. At a certain point it becomes difficult to tell whether they’re actually bars or restaurants.
We like bars that don’t do that, that actually clearly define themselves. Maybe the path they’ve charted is narrowly focused, but what they do, they do very well. Maybe they’re all over the place, but chaotic in a way you’ve never quite seen before. The only thing they have in common is that they aren’t, they’re one-of-a-kinds, unlike any other drinking establishment in the area.
With those standards in mind, here are our top 5 cool bars in Cabo San Lucas.
Latitude 22+, The Roadhouse
This place lives and breathes Los Cabos history. It’s plastered on the very walls, from life preservers taken off long-gone ships and vintage photos of local luminaries to legendary stuffed catches and memorabilia evoking fishing tournaments past. And if inanimate objects, however interesting, aren’t enough to bring the story of Los Cabos to life, you can talk to the owner, Mike Grzanich, who made his first trip to Cabo San Lucas on a tuna boat in 1959, and can tell you just about everything interesting that has happened since.
The varnished wooden tables and leather upholstered booth seating actually feel as if they could have been taken from some old seagoing cruisers, while the license plates and like minded souvenirs left by thirsty travelers passing through, plus the seasonal stylings of piano player Peter Bacon, serve as a reminder that The Roadhouse title too is quite apt.
Latitude 22+ moved out of downtown Cabo San Lucas a few years back, albeit only by a few miles, near Costco in the Tourist Corridor. The benefit of this move? Land’s End views from your barstool. This one of the few places where you can wolf down your eggs in the morning with spectacular views, although we’d specifically recommend the “John Wayne” special, which comes complete with eggs, sausage and ranchero sauce, plus sides of rice and potatoes. The food is all great, though, classic downhome fare ranging from roast beef, southern fried chicken and meatloaf to chili and chicken fried steak.
For visitors who’d like to experience a taste of the Old Cabo, there’s even a Legends Cottage, a comfy accommodations option mere steps from the bar that’s chockablock with nautical accents and historic photos and memorabilia.
Latitude 22+, The Roadhouse, Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 4.5, behind the CFE Subestación Eléctrica, Los Cabos Tourist Corridor, (624) 143-1516, [email protected], www.latno2baddays.com. Open Mon. to Sat. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sun. All major credit cards accepted.
Macondo Librería, Arte & Café
Macondo is named for a village in Nobel Prize winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s 1967 masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, and like the fictional place to which it pays homage, this downtown establishment exists in a world that might best be described as “magical realism.” The stern of a Spanish galleon bursting from the front of the building – as if it sailed halfway through before grounding itself – is not an architectural detail one expects…even in as singular a place as Cabo San Lucas. But, of course, nothing here conforms to expectations.
Much of the remainder of said galleon extends into the expansive second-story walk-up space housing Macondo, a business that is, depending on where you are standing, either an artsy café, an independent bookstore, an old-fashioned bar, or a community theater. No clear cut descriptions suffice, and that’s a big part of the charm. Macondo is a bohemian cultural outpost in a town where such things have never really existed. Cabo San Lucas is a town, after all, has never been known for its subtlety or for its cultural pretensions.
The guiding forces behind Macondo, however, are esteemed local artists and cultural figures – the poet Vico Caballero (author of Al Cabo Canto) and columnist and actor Jorge Chávez (AKA El Marlin Rojo) – and their aesthetic sensibilities have created what is now a literary oasis amid the clustered thicket of tourist bars hawking Coronas, margaritas and live sports on multiple televisions.
This is the rare place where you can order an espresso or a mojito, buy some beach reading material, play a game of dominoes or pool, and see a staged play or a performance from a great local musician. The only thing guaranteed is that you’re going to meet some interesting people…which is magic enough.
Macondo Librería, Arte & Café, Calle Miguel Hidalgo, between Blvd. Paseo de la Marina and Camino del Cornejo, Col. Centro, Cabo San Lucas, (624) 176-3797, [email protected], www.facebook.com/macondoloscabos/. Open Tue. to Sat. 3 p.m. to 1 am., Sun. noon to 6 p.m. Closed Mon. Major credit cards accepted.
There are generic sports bars in Cabo San Lucas, and then there is Fenway…which is so utterly different from the usual run that it doesn’t even belong in the same category.
No, you don’t have to love the Boston Red Sox to love Fenway Bar, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The small downtown watering hole is a paean to all things Fenway Park, from photos of Pedro and Manny and Yaz and Teddy Ballgame to a replica Green Monster scoreboard and even a Pesky Pole that visitors can sign.
Along with this love of all things Boston Red Sox comes a sneering disparagement – albeit in a friendly way – of all things New York Yankees. Souvenir t-shirts tout Fenway Bar on the front, but also say Yankees Suck on the back. Certain “traitors,” players who went from playing for the Red Sox to the Yankees, are “honored” in the gentlemen’s facilities, where their pictures serve as targets in the shared ballpark like urinal.
This concept, one which seems like a natural in Boston but rather strange in Cabo San Lucas, was the brainchild of Ignacio “Nacho” Padilla, a Mexico City native who is nonetheless a long-time fan of the team and who has made multiple pilgrimages to Fenway Park to see his beloved Boston Red Sox. Nacho is an eccentric character, one whose gregarious and outgoing personality have made his bar a welcoming haven for both locals and visitors, for Sox fans and even for baseball agnostics.
In addition to his treasure trove of stories, Nacho is also a talented cook who occasionally whips up delicious tacos or other Mexican specialty dishes; and when nothing is cooking, he and fellow bartender Jordan will happily call in orders for hungry patrons to any local restaurant that delivers.
The recent addition of a pool table has also proved popular.
Fenway Bar, Calle Emiliano Zapata, between Miguel Hidalgo and Vicente Guerrero, Col. Centro, Cabo San Lucas, (624) 355-8015, www.facebook.com/fenwaybarcabo/. Open Mon. to Sat. 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sun. 4 p.m. to midnight. Major credit cards accepted.
Blue Thai Martini Bar
If you’re looking for Thai food or a trendy martini lounge in Cabo San Lucas, save yourself some time and just head directly to Blue Thai. Set in the heart of the downtown nightlife district at Plaza Bonita, Blue Thai reimagines the classic Cabo party experience, eschewing margaritas and fajitas for menu items like fresh basil rolls, red curry and pad thai noodles, and old-school cocktails like Manhattans and dirty martinis.
If martinis sound a little too much like hangover trouble, don’t worry…Blue Thai also serves up traditional ice-cold cervezas. Like the old bridal saw – “something old, something new…” – Blue Thai balances the novelty of its concept with a bit of old-school seasoning, thanks to the well-established track record of its partners: long-time Cabo Blue owners Scott and Amanda Osborne, and local men-about-town Kirk McCormick and Eric Gausepohl. All four are veterans of the local drinking scene; familiar faces to both the U.S. and Canadian expat crowd, as well as the seasonal visitors who return year after year.
This experience shows in their newest endeavor. Blue Thai may only have opened in the summer of 2017, but it already showcases some of the signature elements that have made Cabo Blue a local’s favorite since 2011. Daily specials and live music are the most reliable ingredients of this recipe, but there are also highly anticipated special events like the annual chili cook-off competition, a beloved and always sold-out holiday staple.
The most potent year-round attractions, however, remain the martinis, the spicy Thai cuisine, and the cool atmosphere, highlighted by a beautifully lit floor-to-ceiling liquor display case and a plaza seating area centered around four majestic, rotunda descending pillars.
Blue Thai Martini Bar, Plaza Bonita, Blvd. Marina at Lázaro Cárdenas, Col. Centro, Cabo San Lucas, (624) 105-0709, [email protected], www.bluethaicabo.com. Open Tue. To Sat. 3 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Mon. Major credit cards accepted.
Two for the Road
One of the coolest nightlife trends in Los Cabos is the micro bar, the spot with limited seating but great local color. Slim’s Elbow Room – seating capacity: four – is a notable example of this, but the place that started it all is Two for the Road, a one-of-a-kind jazz club that celebrates the timeless standards of the Great American Songbook.
Two for the Road seats a few more than Slim’s, but not by much. One a packed night there may be 30 patrons. Seating capacity has nothing to do, however, with the qualitative nature of the experience. No one who has been to Two for the Road has forgotten what a great time it was, and chances are that they’ve been back many times since. It’s the rare nightclub whose ideal audience is people over 30.
Marty and Kathy Daniels are the club’s owners and headliners, moving smoothly from delightful banter to romantic ballads from the golden age of popular American music. The couple originally moved to Cabo San Lucas in 1998, opening a company called Montana de Baja that specialized in fishing charters and accessories. Note that was Montana not Montaña, a reference to former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and their San Francisco roots. About a decade ago, the fishing business turned into a bar, and was renamed Two for the Road. He plays piano, she sings.
The small bar serves up top-shelf tequilas and traditional cocktails, and other local musicians occasionally drop in to play, but Marty and Kathy’s relationship is at the heart of the bar’s success. It’s cool because they are.
Two for the Road, Tesoro Los Cabos Resort (in the breezeway behind the resort, near Solomon’s Landing), Cabo San Lucas Marina, Cabo San Lucas, (624) 143-7759, [email protected], twofortheroadcabojazzspot.webs.com. Open Mon. to Sat. 8 p.m. to midnight. Closed Sun. Major credit cards accepted.
Saludos from Co-Founders…
Chris Sands – Writer and Michael Mattos