One of the Top Todos Santos Restaurants, La Garra Claws its Way Back from Fire Damage.
The fire in Todos Santos in February, 2013, did some serious damage. Not only were homes lost, several local businesses were affected, perhaps none so much as the popular restaurant and sports bar La Garra, one of the top Todos Santos restaurants. Despite the best efforts of owners, employees, neighbors and the volunteer fire department, the popular local hangout lost its palapa roof, and sustained a good deal of additional property damage. But when your name means “eagle claw,” you don’t quit. You fight your way back.
Owners Jesus and Happy Cota are a resilient couple and with the help of their family, friends, and the Todos Santos business community, they hope to repair and replace that which was damaged or lost. The fact that the fire occurred hard on the heels of La Garra’s hugely successful 3rd anniversary celebration was a tough blow, but there is never really a good time for adversity. And despite the misfortune, the restaurant remains open, and remains busy.
“It’s been very humbling,” Happy said, “to see the huge support from the community.”
A little more than one month removed from the fateful day, La Garra is still trying to get back to normal. In addition to the building of a new taco stand out front, repairs continue in the interior dining areas, and it may be several more months before the restaurant begins to resemble what it was before the fire. But the important thing is that La Garra survives. The restaurant is still keeping the same hours, and is still dishing up some of the best Mexican food in Baja Sur.
The chile rellenos are as good as they ever were, which is to say spectacular. Made from an old family recipe, the shrimp or cheese stuffed chiles are certainly La Garra’s most celebrated dish, although Jesus’ special fish and scallop sashimi is rapidly gaining ground. La Garra excels at serving up comfort food favorites, but they manage to do so without artery-clogging cooking methods (their excellent fish tacos are neither breaded nor deep fried, for example), and their heart-healthy salads are nearly as beloved amongst locals and expats as the hamburgers and cold beer.
Although several televisions were damaged in the fire, this is still the best sports bar in Todos Santos, and you can still show up to cheer on your favorite teams, whether they play baseball, basketball, football, hockey, or soccer. On the subject of entertainment, most of the restaurant’s beautiful old movie posters – donated by a relative who owned a theater during the golden age of Mexican cinema – also survived, although there were a few casualties. For those who know love popular Mexican culture and remember movie stars like Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, and Cantinflas, these framed posters are a priceless part of La Garra’s charm, and virtually irreplaceable. Luckily, the bulk of the collection was unharmed.
Live music remains the big draw on weekends, from jazz and blues to reggae, rock and roll, and traditional Mexican standards. A benefit is the planning stages that would help local families who lost homes during the late February blaze, and other community-based recovery efforts are also expected. In short, La Garra was bloodied, but unbowed. So, too, the town of Todos Santos, which banded together to protect its own.
But don’t take my word for it. Stop by and see for yourself, and help support the repairs and renovations. And find out more about Todos Santos and places to stay on Baja.com.
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Photos courtesy of La Garra Restaurant and Sports Bar.
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