BY CINDY RAY
If you have cabin fever like almost everyone at this point, a ride up the Sea of Cortez on the East Cape coast road could be quite inspiring and invigorating. Grab your surfboard or just an umbrella and venture out! The road is slow but in good shape and has been recently graded at least part of the way.
The coastline is stunning with absolutely breathtaking views and overlooks. And now there are numerous great places to graze along your trek as well – all with gorgeous views. Some of them are well established wonderful eateries like Zai’s Sushi Bar at Fortuna and Vida Soul Hotel in Vinorama. Others are newly opened and equally as tasty and welcoming: The Lazy Gourmet at Playa 9 Palms and the Restaurant Bar Fortuna overlooking Playa Fortuna. They are all very tasty and each one offers a different vibrancy and cuisine.
About 16 miles (25km) north on the coast from the San Jose Marina is Playa Fortuna. It is a favorite surfing hang out and now home to two delicious restaurants. The newly-opened Restaurant Bar Fortuna is a wonderful place to get some traditional Mexican cuisine. The palo de arco covered patio is breezy and offers an excellent view of the wonderful surf.
They open at 10 a.m. for desayuno (breakfast) and close at 6 p.m. The offerings are chilaquiles, enchiladas, fish and shrimp tacos, and quesadillas just to name a few. The food is very fresh. We had fish tacos which were a very fresh grilled firm white fish and shrimp tacos which had 3 very large grilled shrimp in them.
The salsa toppings are freshly prepared with the meal: pico de gallo, sliced avocado and some cabbage slaw. It is wonderfully affordable and comfortably pleasant. Mariachi music was playing in the background and the ambiance was romantic. The restrooms are clean and have running water for handwashing. They serve the standard Mexican brews with fresh limes. We definitely will be going back and maybe try some other Mexican specialties.
Directly on the other side of Playa Fortuna is Zai’s Sushi Bar and Grill. They are open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The sushi is so fresh and the rolls are artfully handcrafted by expert sushi rollers. We got the California roll and spicy tuna roll and had plenty of delicious food. It was served with an ample helping of thinly sliced ginger and wasabi. In addition to the rolls, they serve wonderful sushi bowls and chicken for those who don’t like fish. The outdoor dining is breathtaking with a view of the beach and the determined surfers lined up to catch a wave. The atmosphere is festive and fun – an oasis decorated with local art. They have an expert mixologist who can craft almost any exotic cocktail with fresh fruits.
They also serve Fortuna Brewery artisanal beers as well as the standard Mexican varieties. I had the Fortuna Ippolita IPA which was the best hoppy bitter beer I think I have ever found down here (which I love). The new building has all the amenities: a glass deck for viewing and shielding the wind, new restrooms, and lovely bar stool seating.
Traveling another 5 miles (8 km) of beautiful coastline you arrive at Playa Nine Palms which is another surfing hang out. Inside the entrance to the Playa is an eatery of a different vibrancy and cuisine. The Lazy Gourmet offers a variety of Mexican and American dishes. It opens at 7 a.m. and closes from 5ish to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
The dining is al fresco as well with a playfully decorated and very pleasant patio or a less private seating with a view of the surfers and wonderful sea. We had a hamburger with fries and fish and chips which were both outstanding. The fish and chips were served with malt vinegar and the “chips”, which were fries, were very crisp and perfectly cooked on the inside. They serve a variety of breakfast items, including bacon or sausage and eggs, a wild salmon bagel with cream cheese and capers and huevos rancheros divorciados. In addition, they serve California kombucha; espresso drinks and freshly squeezed orange juice. The patio is very intimate and inviting with a restive atmosphere. It is an excellent place to stop in for an espresso refresher or some food.
Wandering still north another 6 miles (9.5 km) is Playa Vinorama. Perched gracefully overlooking the beach and surf is Vidasoul Restaurant, Bar and Hotel.
It is a great place to sit on the outdoor patio either in the sun or under the shade for a lovely view of the whales during the season or the windsurfers with their brightly colored kites.
The food is outstanding, gourmet-class but they also serve local dishes such as guacamole and chips, fish tacos and quesadillas. I had a lovely ham and cheese omelet with nice firm black beans and freshly-sliced avocado for breakfast. It was piping hot and very tasty. The coffee was good and replenished. I enjoyed the sound of the surf and watching the manta rays jumping out of the water almost like they could fly. They also serve huevos rancheros and a very good French toast. Vidasoul is open every day from 8 a.m. to about 9ish p.m. (later if they have traffic). We often order the guacamole and chips which is excellent and freshly prepared. They have dinner specials with fresh fish and the pasta dishes are a refreshingly welcome change. In the mornings and most evenings, the ambiance is romantic and serene with the lapping waves and exclusive setting. The patio is fresh and breezy and has an art-deco theme. The black and white are crisp and modern and they have live music on Saturday nights. Then the vibe becomes festive and fun and they serve almost every cocktail and all the Mexican beers. It is a great destination for a coastal trip (they have a lovely boutique hotel) or just a stop off before traveling on.
At this point, there are a few decisions to continue your journey. Since Vinorama is at the “crossroads” of the coast road and the Calle Eucalipto road, you have some options. If you travel up the coast, the road meanders through Los Frailes Bay, Cabo Pulmo (Mexican protected reef and lovely museum) and then to La Ribera and Highway 1 (approx.16 miles/25km). The Palo Escopeta road will take you back to Santa Anita (15.5 miles/25 km) and to Hiway 1 or you can head back the way you came back down the coast. The adventure is well worth it, but make sure you tank up before you leave or end up in La Ribera where there is a Pemex station. The trip offers views of pristine coastline and a variety of wonderful eateries along the way. So, don your beachwear and flip flops for a lovely day of fresh air, good eats and breathtaking coastline. Buen dia! ,