From the outside, Cafe Capistrano in HMB looks like a typical coastal home with painted wood siding and chocolate wood trim. Lavender and poppies are bursting in the front garden, and a friendly dog is waiting patiently on the porch as its owner is inside enjoying lunch. The sign above the door that reads “Mayan Food Comida Yucateca” gives you an idea that this isn’t just any Mexican restaurant, but one that has deep roots in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Inside, the atmosphere is warm and the tables have on display white cloths with vibrant painted flowers, courtesy of Arturo’s sister who is a textile artist back in the Yucatan. Kaila, our waitress and Arturo’s niece, proudly brings over a book and album of her aunt’s artwork when she sees me snapping some photos of the tabletops. She also recommends two dishes for us, the fish taco and cochinita pibil.
The owner of the dog is sitting at the table next to ours, and he is eating alone. He’s dressed all in black, has tousled blond hair and the air of a surfer turned entrepreneur. As soon as I start to feel like I’m in Portola Valley, Arturo comes over and shakes the man’s hand. And that is when I notice the flip flops, of course black, and he asks Arturo for the house habanero salsa. I’m back in Half Moon Bay.
The fish taco dish comes with grilled red snapper, guacamole, mayan slaw, black beans, rice, and soft chewy corn tortillas. Cochinita pibil is a pork dish, where pork wrapped in banana leaves is slow cooked in the oven until it is fork tender and the banana leaves infuse a floral scent to the pork. The food is simple with clean flavors. No salsa and chips here(thank god), but there is Mexican Coca-Cola. And the house habanero salsa, which is bottled like a hot sauce, is addictive. I leave feeling nostalgic for my grandmother’s cooking, and happy to have met Arturo and his family.