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Miguel’s Baja Grill
is a “little window” to the Old Country.
by Carrie Mossien

Miguel's Baja GrillMiguel Valdes said he once promised himself he’d never go into the restaurant business. It’s a lucky break for Moab that Miguel changed his mind.

Miguel has been in the restaurant business most of his life with family in Baja, Mexico. He’s also an avid boatman. His earlier promise to avoid the restaurant business was more a thing of “been there, done that.” But after cooking for friends in Moab, and guiding on local waterways for a few years, Miguel and his wife Carea opted for a Cinco de Mayo, 2001 grand opening that brought authentic Baja cuisine to downtown Moab.

“It was my friends who asked me to open a restaurant,” Miguel admits. “When we came to Moab three summers ago I was a river guide. Now I do winter guiding in Baja.”

And March through November he and Carea run Miguel’s Baja Grill, where Miguel says diners won’t find Southwestern or Mexican American food, only authentic Baja cuisine made from recipes passed down by his own parents.

Miguel’s Baja Grill
51 North Main Street
Moab UT 84532

Open daily for lunch and dinner 11:30 to 9 p.m.

breakfast Friday, Saturday and Sunday 7 to 11:30 a.m.

“There are some dishes we fix that you can’t even find in Mexico,” Miguel said. “Baja cuisine is very simple to prepare. There aren’t as many different kinds of chili peppers or spices as Southwestern cuisine. Our food is very simple.”

And very fresh. Everything but the chips and tortillas are prepared on site. “Nothing frozen,” according to Miguel.

This freshness extends to the decor. Miguel, and his partner, Mitch, put a lot of thought into the colors, music and ambience of both indoor and semi-outdoor seating. The restaurant, which seats 62, includes a patio with window doorways, with light spilling in from the glass roofed walk-way. Picturesque steps lead into a dining room with authentic Mexican decorations.

Miguel’s aspiration to prepare the best and most authentic Mexican food north of the border, and his desire to provide comfortable dining for his patrons was handsomely rewarded with a mention in the May 2002 issue of Outsdie Magazine. A travel publication that featured Canyonlands National Park in this month’s issue, Outside included a sidebar of Moab features: average temperature, visitation, and the now “World famous fish tacos” at Miguel’s Baja Grill.

Our Baja fish tacos are one of the best things on the menu,” Miguel said. Made with Maji Maji or red snapper, this popular entrée sells more than any other.

Other popular items include the Nopolo style Ceviche, a blend of raw fish, onion, cilantro and tomatoes marinated in lime juice; stuffed jalapenos, and Carmen’s chile relleno. New this year is a breakfast menu including chilaquiles,chorizo, machaca and for the sweet tooth, churros and cinnamon rolls.

Although cerveza (beer) has always been served at Miguel’s, this year the restaurant will have a liquor license allowing Miguel to show off his talent for making fresh margueritas, using no mixes and offering three grades of tequila: “good, better and best,” he says. “I recommend them on the rocks,” he adds.
“I think we do a good job,” Miguel said. “I’m Mexican. I know my country and I know what I’m cooking.

“This is a little window into my country.”

Miguel’s Chicken Tamale Recipe
Makes a dozen tamales

1/2 Kilogram (approx 1 pound) Corn Flour

250 Grams (approx. 9 ounces) Lard

3 Grams (approx. 1 teaspoon) Salt

50 Grams (approx. 2 ounces) cooked, shredded chicken

3 Grams (approx. 1 teaspoon) Sugar

1 liter (approx. 1 quart) Warm Water

300 Grams (approx. 11 ounces) Tomatoes

2 Cloves Garlic

50 Grams (approx. 2 ounces) Onion

3 Chile Serranos

30 Milliliters (approx. 1/2 cup) Canola Oil

12 Corn Husks

• Soak the corn husks in room temperature water for 45 minutes. Pat dry.

• Stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Slowly add to the warm water. Hand mix until dough becomes stiff. Divide dough into 12 balls.

• In blender, blend tomatoes, garlic, onions and chiles.

• Sautee sauce in the canola oil over medium heat.

• Add chicken to sauce and simmer until heated thoroughly.

• Shape each dough ball into a boat shape and place on husk. Fill “boat” with mix. Pinch closed and then wrap completely in husk. Repeat for all twelve husks.

• Steam for 45 minutes.


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