Our family loves Mexican food. In fact, I think if you asked us our favorite things to eat it would be a toss-up between tacos and pasta. (I think tacos would win, which would make my Italian mother cringe if she were alive to see it!) That’s why when I go anywhere new in Mexico, I’m always so excited to sample the local fare. I was overwhelmed with the best places to eat in Loreto, Mexico and am sharing my list here.
First let me say that Loreto has fast become one of my favorite towns in Mexico. It possesses all the modern amenities and facilities to make me feel safe and secure. And Loreto also never lost its charm and tradition to the Mexican way of life. The town is not overrun with tourists, and there are not Americans stumbling through the streets with drinks in their hands. This is a slower paced, more authentic Mexico that is ready to welcome visitors safely with its natural style and bountiful resources. The natural surroundings are gorgeous, the oceans crystal clear and the beaches ridiculously uncrowded.
I can’t wait to go back. Read more about my visit and things to enjoy in Loreto.
Best Places to Eat in Loreto
Throughout Mexico, different cities are proud of their local delicacies. In Loreto, there are many to choose from and our group set off to sample them all. With its ideal location sitting on the beaches on the western side of the Sea of Cortez, Loreto is a seafood lovers dream. The bounty of the local ocean waters brings so many types of seafood to shore for locals and visitors to enjoy. Everything we sampled was so fresh and flavorful, and prepared with such love by the chefs who cooked for us.
But there is one dish Loreto is best known for: Chocolata clams.
Enjoy Chocolata Clams in Loreto
Chocolata Clams at the Oasis Hotel.
OK, before you get all squeamish let me be clear that this is not chocolate and clams. Chocolata clams is the name of a local species of clam indigenous to this area. They can be found in plentiful quantities by digging in the sands of the local beaches, and clamdiggers bring them in by the boatload. Visitors and locals alike are happy to relieve them of their deliveries, devouring them in feasts like the one we attended at the Oasis Hotel.
The ritual of preparing the Chocolata clams is as important as the eating of them. It’s really quite a process and we were so lucky to have witnessed it from fiery start to delicious finish. Anyone can see this amazing ritual by reserving a table beachfront for the “show”.
First a pit in dug in the sand just in front of the hotel. Clams are carefully arranged side by side in rows, and then buried with sand. On top of the sand, cooks place dry tinder gathered from the local areas. The tinder is lit on fire and burns spectacularly on top of the sand as cooks tend the fire and add more tinder. The heat from the fire cooks the clams buried below by steaming them in their own juices. Somehow they know exactly when the clams are cooked properly, and the fire is allowed to burn out. The clams are dug from the sand pit – carefully because they are hot – and cleaned up for serving. It’s a beautiful ritual and only takes about 20 minutes total.
Eating Chocolata Clams in Loreto
There is also a special way to enjoy Chocolata Clams in Loreto. The locals mix a kind of aioli mixture made from mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and spices. It’s then spooned on top of the clam meat and slurped down by hungry guests. Now Chocolata Clams are not small, so this dish can be filling. Often served as an appetizer, Chocolata Clams are so delicious you can get carried away and fill up on just them!
Italian Food in Loreto? Why Yes, and it’s Quite Good
Los Olivos Restaurant at the Hotel La Misíon de Loreto
There are many other cuisines in Loreto to enjoy, including the delicious Italian food at Los Olivos Restaurant located within the Hotel La Misíon de Loreto on the waterfront. It’s among the best places to eat in Loreto. The Chef here is from Italy, and when we dined here he serenaded us with his food. The plates just kept on coming, and featured a heavy dose of locally caught seafood – we were in heaven.
A favorite was the seafood tostadas, served three ways. The combination of a large shrimp, scallop and clam with delicious sauces was to die for. We gobbled ours up (after photos of course!) and positioned ourselves for the next course. Another favorite was the ribeye steak, which Chef served in a mushroom demiglace with fresh baby vegetables. SO tasty!
People here were dressed nicely for dinner, and the service was excellent. You can find out more about Los Olivos Restaurant in Loreto here.
Casual Italian Restaurant – Casa Mia
Casa Mia is another great Italian restaurant in Loreto. When we dined, Chef prepared us a gorgeous meal that was almost too pretty to eat. But eat we did, and it was full of wonderful local flavors with an Italian twist. Each dish is a work of art, so of course I had to take plenty of photos.
Better yet, the food tasted amazing. We started with a fresh vegetable salad drizzled in a white vinaigrette that was out of this world. Another appetizer of note is the bruschetta, which tops a creamy and flavorful clam soup which I think was saffron infused. Again the presentation was beautiful. Our beef filet was cooked perfectly, accompanied by a locally caught giant prawn and vegetables. Their wine list at Casa Mia is extensive, and we sample several bottles from Mexican vineyards that we quite enjoyed.
Casa Mia is located within the Hotel Santa Fe and is considered casual and mid-priced.
Of Course There is Great Mexican Food!
There is so much delicious Mexican fare in Loreto it’s hard to know where to start. We enjoyed many delicious dishes and cocktails on our travels through this beautiful town. Here are a few of our favorite experiences:
Another of the best places to eat in Loreto, this sweet restaurant is located just across the street from the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto. It sits inside a courtyard festively decorated with lanterns and little white lights. The atmosphere was really quite beautiful and relaxing. Of their diverse menu with many options, I chose something traditional to Mexico – the Molcajete Mixto.
A molcajete is a stone mortar and pestle traditionally used in Mexico to grind nuts and other hard foods. In the restaurant use, a Molcajete bowl is used to serve a dish of meats, seafood, shellfish and vegetables cooked in a spicy tomato-based broth. Topped with fresh cilantro, green onions and sometimes avocado, it is the most amazing meal ever. The serving at Santo Cielo was so huge I could not even finish it.
Lunch at La Palapa is deliciously lazy with colorful sombreros and blankets as decoration. The food here was very good and very affordable, along with delicious fresh margaritas, juices and Mexican sodas. We loved the fresh salsas they served with freshly fried tortilla chips. The mild salsa was chunky and flavorful. The green salsa was spicier and tart with tomatillos, onions and cilantro as its base. And the deep red smooth salsa? Hottttttt and sooooo good after the initial shocking first bite. Trust me, it gets easier – and more delicious. Ask for the freshly made and still-warm corn tortillas as a side. And don’t forget to pose for a photo with your friends outside!
Breakfast at Orlando’s
If I could eat at Orlando’s Cucina Mexicana for breakfast every morning, I would die a happy man. This place has all the right flavor combinations and serves them all up with smiles and laughs. I have rarely seen a team of people so happy while at work – clearly they are enjoying themselves and their guests. The menu ranges from traditional Mexican to some American favorites like fried eggs and bacon, pancakes and oatmeal. But here you really must order something from the Mexican menu options. My favorite was the chile relleno stuffed with scrambled eggs. TO. DIE. FOR.
Breakfast at Pepegina’s
Located right in Loreto’s center plaza, Pepegina’s enjoys a wonderful view of Loreto starting its morning. With the colorful flags waving in the breeze and the sun warming the cobblestones, it’s easy to be romanced by this location. For breakfast here, I had my second most favorite thing in the world behind chile rellenos: sopes. If you have never had sopes, they are small thick corn tortilla with an edge around it to hold all the goodness. At this restaurant, they served it topped with poached eggs, salsa verde, cheese and sour cream. It was a great way to start our day as we traveled up the mountain to visit the Mission San Javier.
And Don’t Forget Something Sweet
Paletas – Mexican Popsicles
There is nothing like a nice cool paleta on a warm afternoon in Mexico. Paletas are Mexican popsicles, but way better than anything I ever tasted growing up. They are typically made from fresh ingredients and come in literally hundreds of flavors.
Just off the main plaza in Loreto is La Michoacana Paleteria. Michoacana is a group of stores throughout Mexico selling authentic paletas and other sweet delicacies. They must have 200 different flavors of paleta at this location, and none are labeled. We must have driven the poor man crazy as we pointed and asked him to describe the flavors we were seeing. I finally settled on two, and I ate the first one so fast I got a brain freeze! It was worth it for the delicious combination of fresh strawberries and cream. The other one? A mystery fruit that grows only in Mexico and I still cannot pronounce. But boy was it good. This is definitely one of the best places to eat in Loreto!
It’s Easy to Get to Loreto
Best yet, Loreto is so easy to get to from several places. We flew direct from Tijuana Airport on Volaris Airlines, which could not have been easier and only took about one hour in the air. Airfare can be as low as $49 one way from Tijuana to Loreto.
Crossing the border via CBX Cross Border Xpress made it even better because we walked across the bridge from the US and directly into the Tijuana Airport terminal. Our boarding gate was just steps away, and going through customs in either direction was a breeze. Read more about crossing the border via CBX Cross Border Xpress.
Other flights are being added right now too. For example, American Airlines will soon start flights from Dallas/Fort Worth direct to Loreto (1x weekly starting December 19) and Phoenix to Loreto direct (3x weekly starting December 17).