Burger with a Side of Gems

Palapa bar/restaurant/gallery/swim up bar in the pool
Shaka is one of those good time bars where everyone knows your name

Cerritos' newest pub and grill, Shaka's Delicious Wood Cantina, has recently added a galleria of jewelry and Mexican handicrafts. Where else can you enjoy a cold beverage, great food and company, and shop for handmade gemstone baubles and leather goods all on one property?Oh, and go for a swim. Soon. We have been promised a swimming pool will be added to this eclectic place.

Shaka's, named after the Hawaiian hand gesture for "hang loose", opened just last April and has already given the neighborhood a bit of a shake up.

"Some thought we were crazy starting up at the end of tourist season," laughs co-founder Brando Strawn. "But there are now enough year-round residents in the area, and when other places closed for the low season, people were saying thank you to us for being here."

This is the culmination of a decade-plus long dream. Strawn bought the property in 2007 and in 21 trailer loads of desert scrub, cleared the land. He recognized the potential of the area as a year-round surfing destination and a more rural Baja experience than Cabo.

"I used to enjoy Cabo, but saw what was happening there, and the handwriting was on the wall about what was going to happen in Cerritos," he said.

It took over a decade for Cerritos and El Pescadero to grow to the point that Strawn saw a viable business opportunity. During that time, he worked in Texas as a locomotive engineer and visited Baja a couple of times a year.

During one of those early visits, he met Edgar Mendoza-Arellano at his gallery in Cabo San Lucas.

Edgar was running a jewelry gallery, selling his own designs plus items he'd brought from Europe's antique markets. A trained silversmith from Taxco with a diploma in jewelry-making, Edgar travelled the globe purchasing precious gems, learning techniques and advancing his skills.

"Years ago we had this idea to do something together," explains Edgar. "At first I didn't believe it would happen, but Brando kept getting more serious and finally said, 'let's do this'".

Looking at a tray of his rings, you see influences from traditional Mexican and Indian motifs to contemporary designs, incorporating Mexican jade and rainbow obsidian as well as Baltic amber and other European gemstones. Prices range from a few US dollars to the sky's the limit. Edgar also sells loose gemstones and can create custom pieces in silver and gold using solder and wax mold techniques.

His gallery includes leatherwork he creates in collaboration with a friend in Cabo, all hand-stitched with stingray and stone embellishments. There is even a backpack made from an armadillo shell.

Madagascar fossils, pieces of jade, arrowheads, and Huichol beadwork are also available.

Edgar has christened his galleria "Tonatiuh Creations", named after the Aztec sun god.

"I believe in the power of stones," he says, as he explains the influence jade and other semi-precious gems can have on their wearer.

While I'm not sure what properties quartz imparts, I certainly feel happy each time I look at the beautiful ring I left Edgar's gallery with.

Shaka's Cantina and Tonathiu Creations is open every day on the road to Cerritos beach. If you’re on that road, you can’t miss it, as the guys have built a big palapa, and there are a Texas flag, (Brando), and a Mexican flag, (Edgar), flapping around up there near the palapa peak.

The new swim up bar will be a nice addition to the sand floor dining room. Let’s everyone hold them to the promise of the pool, keep asking for it. Maybe the guys will start a little jar for coins for the bar,

The pub features a two-for-one happy hour between 4 and 6, and they already have rock bottom sand floor prices on their full menu. Let’s hope they don’t go nuts with the prices when they get the fancy pants pool.