It was my first night in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and I was hungry and tired. It was getting late, and due to Covid-19 restrictions, most restaurants in the city were shutting down for the night or were closed. While I was walking aimlessly around the backstreets between the marina and Medano Beach, I stumbled upon Isabel Restaurant – Bar & Friends. I didn’t know anything about this restaurant. So, without reading any reviews or looking at the menu, I decided to take a chance on the small restaurant.
Though it was late, there was a man standing out front who was trying to get customers into his restaurant. This was Alfonso, one of two twin brothers who operated the Mexican restaurant located on a small street behind Puerto Paraiso Mall. Alfonso told me that the restaurant opened four years ago and that they were planning to build a second floor soon. While business was down, Alfonso and his brother kept all their workers employed during the Covid-19 pandemic, which I thought was fantastic.
If you are looking for more information about Cabo San Lucas, I highly recommend you pick up a guidebook such as Moon Los Cabos: With La Paz & Todos Santos
The dining room at Isabel Restaurant was small and open with only a few tables. At night, the space felt cozy, romantic, and intimate thanks to the dim lighting. Like many restaurants in Cabo San Lucas, Isabel Restaurant featured a covered yet open-air dining room. Since Cabo enjoys wonderful weather year round, you can usually expect a cool and comfortable breeze flowing through.
With its open-air dining room and location on a small but busy street, I could hear the sounds of cars and motorcycles driving by. This wasn’t an issue though with the live music. When the guitarist was playing, all the outside noises and worries seemed to disappear.
Isabel Restaurant Menu
What I appreciated about the dinner menu at Isabel Restaurant was that it was one page. Many restaurants these days have confusing menus with multiple pages and endless options. This can make ordering confusing and time consuming. While only one page, the menu was anything but basic. There was something for everyone. This included appetizers, salads, soups, seafood, meats and combinations, and Mexican dishes. While not the cheapest restaurant in Cabo, I felt I was getting my money’s worth.
When you think of Mexican food, the last thing you might think of is a Caesar Salad (215 pesos or about $10.66). Fun fact: the Caesar salad was invented in 1924 in Tijuana by Caesar Cardini. Cardini was an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in both the United States and Mexico. So, the Caesar salad can trace its roots back to Mexico.
The first thing that caught my attention was how big this Caesar salad was. While not cheap, its generous portion size was perfect for sharing. The next thing that caught my attention was how beautiful the salad was. They say you eat with your eyes first, so I was hoping it tasted as great as it looked.
What really stuck out with me was the dressing. This wasn’t your standard Caesar dressing you might find in a bottle at a store. This dressing was made fresh in-house with egg yolks and anchovies. Using egg yolks gave the dressing a bright, beautiful golden color while the anchovies added saltiness. Almost every piece of fresh, crunchy lettuce was covered in the delicious, viscous dressing. But, there wasn’t so much dressing that it made the lettuce soggy.
Topping the salad was fresh grated Parmesan cheese and crunchy, garlicky croutons. And, that was about it. Simple, delicious, and fresh.
Shrimp Enchiladas in Green Sauce
With Cabo located on the ocean, the city enjoys some of the freshest seafood around. Therefore, I knew I had to order something with seafood. While there were many great options on the menu, I settled on the Shrimp Enchiladas in Green Sauce (340 pesos or about $16.94). This dish was absolutely beautiful and colorful.
If you order the shrimp enchiladas, you will have the choice of either the red sauce, green sauce, or mole. While I bet all three sauces were delicious, I chose the green sauce. This bright green sauce, which nearly covered the entire plate, looked beautiful. While light and thin, the green sauce was flavorful and tart from fresh tomatillos.
The enchiladas were quite simple. You had a trio of perfectly rolled corn tortillas filled with chunks of fresh, plump shrimp and a mixture of sautéed vegetables. On top of the enchiladas was a combination of creamy, fresh sour cream and queso oreado. Queso oreado is a local cheese with a salty, somewhat funky flavor that slightly melts. The mixture of fresh shrimp, tortillas, cheese, and green sauce was the perfect combination of flavor and texture.
Served on the side was rice mixed with diced bell peppers, refried beans, and a tortilla chip. While simple, the refried beans were delicious. They were luscious, creamy, and smooth in texture with a rich flavor. Sprinkled over the top of the refried beans was queso fresco, adding the perfect saltiness to each bite.
Chile Relleno with Shrimp
Next up was the Chile Relleno with Shrimp (340 pesos or about $16.94). This dish featured a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and shrimp. On the side, a fried zucchini, rice, and the same delicious, luscious refried beans.
After sampling the green sauce with the shrimp enchiladas, I was excited to try the red sauce. This sauce was just as delicious as the green sauce but was thicker. Made from fresh tomatoes, the sauce had a sweet and tart flavor. I could taste the natural sweetness of the tomatoes in the sauce.
The highlight of the dish was the poblano pepper which was stuffed with cheese and shrimp before being dipped in egg batter and fried. After being fried, the breading was flavorful with a spongy, soft, and moist texture. As with the enchiladas, the slightly spicy pepper was stuffed with fresh, salty pieces of shrimp, sautéed vegetables, and that same funky, salty queso oreado.
Served on the side was another fried goodie. The fried zucchini was similar to the chile relleno as it was stuffed with cheese, coated in batter, and fried the same way. The texture of the zucchini was both crispy yet soft after being lightly fried. The breading was soft, moist, and flavorful. Inside the hollow interior of the zucchini was a generous amount of queso oreado.
The service at Isabel Restaurant was fantastic from the moment I walked into the restaurant until I left. Even though it was late at night and the restaurant was about to close, the servers treated me like I was a special guest. Everyone was friendly from the servers to the owners. It was a memorable experience.
Whenever I travel, I try to plan ahead. I make a list of must visit restaurants or sights to visit in a city. Over the years, I have come to realize that plans don’t always work out as expected. This was especially true when visiting Cabo San Lucas during the Covid-19 outbreak. While the city was everything I remember, everything was different. There were tourists, but the city was quiet. While there were some places open, many restaurants, bars, and clubs were closed.
Some of my most memorable travel experiences have happened when I least expected it. While Isabel Restaurant was not on my list of restaurants to try in Cabo, I am thankful I stumbled upon it. Everything about this unassuming restaurant, located on a small street away from most tourists, was great. The food was fantastic and so were the people running it. I highly recommend you add Isabel Restaurant – Bar & Friends to your list of must try restaurants in Cabo San Lucas. This was a memorable dining experience and I can’t wait to return on my next trip.
- Delicious, homemade food using fresh ingredients and bright colors
- Small but great menu with a wide variety of dishes
- Fantastic service
- More expensive than your typical restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, but you get what you pay for
- Located away from the typical tourist zone on a small but busy street
El Pescador S/N Col.El, Medano, 23450 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico
GPS Coordinates: 22.887369803084226,-109.90703715522534