by Paul McMahon
When traveling, there are times when you just want a burger, no matter how fine the local cuisine. The opt-out is for the familiar American-based chains, but in almost every city there is a gringo hangout. In La Paz, it is Bandido’s, behind the older marina and frequented by live-aboard sailors and long-term cruisers exploring the rich Sea of Cortez.
Situated in a grove of palm trees, you are first struck by the peaceful setting, then revel in the lack of traffic noise. Cold beer comes quickly, accompanied by a menu focused on burgers and chicken. My wife suggested we share the half-pound burger garnished with onions, Jack cheese and a fried egg (hence the name…Just Laid Mama!).
After your first beer, you begin to explore this peaceful oasis in the midst of dusty, noisy La Paz. The city is about two hours north of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Suddenly you see flames leaping from under the hood of a truck. Then you smell grilled meat, wander over to get another beer, and watch the young Mexican chef with a passion for burgers.
Our burger came hot, with perfectly melted cheese and crispy seasoned fries… and of course more beer. The service was attentive and friendly, and we got a great lunch for less than $30, tip and alcohol included, in a splendid setting.
We introduced ourselves in our broken Spanish to Rossi, the nickname of owner Rosember de Luna Chembo. He quickly switched us to English, explaining that born of Hispanic parents in San Diego, he was orphaned young and raised by a loving couple who spoke no Spanish. Deciding he needed to learn Spanish, he moved to Cabo in 1998 to learn, fell in love with Baja and adopted it as his home.
He laughed when we asked him about “Just Laid Mama!” and said the name captured many customers’ imaginations, or perhaps their dreams! The fried egg on the burger brought back fond memories of similar burgers in Belgium and France.
But what about the pickup truck? “Actually it is what’s left of my second ’71 Blazer.” He’d owned two after moving to Baja and kept cannibalizing one to keep the other running. When he thought of opening his own restaurant, he decided to place the stove where the engine had been, put the fry station where the pickup used to be, and convert the rear to a trailer hitch so he could tow his invention from place to place. When he acquired this space behind the marina, the converted ’71 Blazer provided a hook to set his place apart.
Go there only if you want to eat at half the price restaurants charge on the waterfront and you want a burger with real beef taste. Of course, the coldest Pacifico in La Paz doesn’t hurt either!
If you go:
La Paz is one of the oldest cities in Baja California. It has an international airport with frequent daily connections to the U.S. and the mainland and is the capital of Baja California Sur.
Telephone: 612 156 8222
Location: Navarro Esq. Topeto, La Paz, Mexico
Paul McMahon, an ITWPA member, is a travel writer based in Portland, Oregon. Prior to this, he was an international businessman traveling to—and eating in—more than 100 countries.
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