La Paz’s most fashionable diners must walk underneath a faux buffalo skull to reach Sonora native Carlos Valdez’s open-air wonderland, Buffalo Bar-B-Q. It’s one of the many amusing details that demonstrate the vivacious chef has a sense of humor. Based on our experience, and the crowd that celebrated with food and drink, deep into the (week)night, we also learned that Valdez also owns one of the hottest, best restaurants in all of Baja.
Valdez graduated from Monterrey in 1985 with a degree in civil engineering. He returned home, started cooking, and eventually opened Buffalo Bar-B-Q in 2002 as a Sonoran grill. He expanded eight months ago, outgrowing the original indoor space, and added an open kitchen with an adjacent wood burning grill that feasts on mesquite and mauto. He’s improved the scale and scope of Buffalo Bar-B-Q over the past decade, added Al Forno Pizzeria to the neighborhood, and plans to open a second Buffalo in his home state this fall, in Hermosillo.
From mariachis, Street Gourmet LA founder Bill Esparza requested Los Laureles, a famous song by from Lucha Villa; and Son Jarocho, a prideful song about being from Veracruz.
Tables hosted bottles of Sea of Cortes sea salt with chiltepin, and salsa de habanero with ajo, cebolla, zanahoria, jugo de zanahoria, vinagre, sal, and azucar. That’s garlic, onion, carrot, carrot juice, vinegar, salt and sugar for non-Spanish speakers.
Chef Valdez prepared a feast with very few dishes were on the regular menu, which revolves around wood-grilled meats, burgers, salads and seafood-focused starters.
Chef Valdez isn’t satisfied with a simple clam ceviche. Instead, he chops five kinds of local clams – Almeja Blanca from the island of Espiritu Santo, Almeja Pinta, Reina, Roñosa and Geoduck – and tops them with a creamy ring of avocado, onion, garlic, sessano, jalapeno and two microgreens: cilantro and amaranth.
An inspired sashimi involved rosy yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and swordfish dressed with sweet, tangy, colorful and crispy combination of honey, yuzu, toasted chilies, julienne bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, wonton chips, chopsticks
Chef Valdez topped a slate slab with several seasonal bites, including a branch of roasted cherry tomatoes; yellowtail roe pate flatbread spiked with jalapeno; chewy smoked clam with parsley and garlic. He even went all science lab with droppers with soy (for the clam) and smoky, spicy chile de arbol (for the flatbread).
Buffalo makes seven different kinds of hamburgers, including the irresistible Baja Burger (130 pesos ~ $10), a wood grilled shrimp burger with firm, savory-sweet patty, bacon, Gouda, grilled onions, tomato, and garlic mayo, served with some very good French fries. This shrimp burger most definitely rivals South Carolina’s scintillating shrimp burgers.
Carlos Valdez gathered his kitchen staff for a group photo before we disappeared into the La Paz night. He was clearly proud of their efforts, and it was easy to see why. They created our most exciting culinary memory in a week of Baja California Sur experiences.
Our visit to Buffalo Bar-B-Q was part of a Baja California Sur tour sponsored by Baja.com.