It was big news a few years ago when Michelin gave a terrific review to Café Capistrano, a humble eatery that has been a favorite with locals for more than a decade. Some fans feared it would cause the quiet Mexican cafe to suddenly flood with tourists, but so far success has not spoiled chef/owner Arturo Mul nor his wonderful Yucatan cuisine.
Indeed, the staff of this hidden jewel, located in a pretty Victorian house two blocks off Main Street, seems almost determined to fly below the radar. You won’t see any ad campaigns touting its wonderful reviews (it’s also received an Award of Excellence from Trip Advisor), nor even a website to market it. At most, when Capistrano is mentioned to non-locals, they might know it as “the place with great fish tacos” — the dish upon which it has built its reputation. But it’s so much more than that.
On weekend mornings, while the lines form for less- deserving breakfast places nearby, you can walk right into Capistrano for the best egg dishes in town. We went with friends on a recent rainy Saturday morning before the farmers market (it’s just a couple of blocks away) and feasted on some of their signature dishes.
My personal favorite is the Yucatan-style eggs ($12.95), which is an ample plate of scrambled eggs with cheese, black beans, guacamole and finely chopped new potatoes sauteed with rosemary and onions.
On the side are four steaming corn tortillas so you can construct your own soft tacos. Divine.
My companions also loved their selections of Huevos Motuleños ($13.95), a variation of huevos rancheros in which the eggs are also topped with ham and peas; and the breakfast burrito ($10.95), a sizable offering of scrambled eggs, salsa and cheese wrapped inside a large flour tortilla topped with guacamole, sour cream and more salsa. It also comes with the wonderful chopped potatoes.
You’ll find wonderful flavorings at Capistrano, but, if you’re a spice wimp as I am, one thing you need not fear is having your mouth set aflame. Mul’s dishes favor more subtle spices like achiote and cumin, and herbs like epazote and Mexican oregano. Of course, hot sauces are set out for those who require them.
I returned a second time — this time for dinner — to experience the fish tacos I’d heard about for years but never tried. (Somehow fish for breakfast has never appealed.) At $15.50 the fish tacos are still a bargain for the amount of food that comes on the plate: Spanish rice, black beans, Mayan coleslaw, guacamole, diced tropical fruit (I got pineapple and papaya) and a sizable and perfectly grilled piece of red snapper with a wedge of lime. Unlike at traditional Mexican eateries, the tortillas are soft, not crispy, and it’s up to you to roll up the perfect mixture of ingredients for yourself. I can see now what all the fuss has been about.
It’s hard to find anything negative to say about Café Capistrano, unless it’s that the morning coffee is not as outstanding as the food. And when it gets busy, as it does sometimes, the small but genial staff can seem a bit overwhelmed. But these are things one takes in stride when anticipating a memorable Yucatan feast in a lovely setting.
Review restaurant articles are done by two local residents who enjoy sampling Coastside restaurants — from taquerias and sandwich shops to upscale places with Michelin stars. They choose to remain anonymous so that they get the same treatment as you would get in these places. Use their insights to help guide you, but by all means check out these eateries yourself.