Baja Cafe: A Taste of the Southwest in the Heart of Tucson

By Jim Newcomb on May 15, 2024

BAja Cafe

Tucson, AZ – In the heart of Tucson, a city heralded as a gastronomic oasis in the American Southwest, stands Baja Cafe, a beacon of local flavor and community spirit. Kim Scanlan, alongside Gerard Meurer, has turned a passion for authentic Southwestern cuisine into a culinary cornerstone that consistently ranks among the best places to eat in Tucson. Celebrating a decade since its inception, Baja Cafe not only dishes out top-notch breakfasts and lunches but also serves a story of resilience and commitment to local ethos.

Gerad, Kim

Baja Cafe has been recognized by Yelp as the #2 place to eat in Tucson and proudly stands at #50 among the Top 100 US Restaurants in 2024. This Yelp acclaim is supported by endorsements from prestigious titles like Restaurant Guru and features in Food and Travel Magazine, which celebrates Tucson’s vibrant food scene.

There are two Baja Cafes in Tucson. Gerard continues to run the original location in the unassuming plaza at Broadway and Kolb. Kim runs the newer location on Campbell, north of Glenn, behind Doughbird and Flower Child.

Culinary Beginnings and Community Ties

It all began in 2014 when Kim, transitioning from a 20-year career in social work, decided to channel her nurturing spirit into the restaurant industry alongside Gerard, a self-taught chef with deep roots in culinary tradition. All the recipes of roasted and smoked meats are his, as are the amazing, caramelized pancakes (one of my favorites).

The pair, who met in 2012, envisioned a place where community and cuisine intersect without the confines of a formal culinary school background.

A Recipe for Success

Kim and Gerard’s approach goes beyond feeding the body. They aim to nourish the soul. This philosophy is deeply woven into Baja Cafe’s operations, where the ambiance is laid-back, and the food is made with love. All are welcome, and the goal is to bring smiles to all. Kim especially loves it when kids smile and have fun. There’s a basket of toys, including dinosaurs, at the Broadway location.

The cafe’s success story is peppered with challenges and milestones, including expansion and contraction, reflecting a responsive and adaptive business model that values quality over quantity. Baja Cafe survived COVID and is surviving the current economic challenges of high prices.

Their menu is a testament to experimentation and tradition, featuring dishes that combine robust Southwestern flavors with innovative twists. Ingredients are locally sourced, including chilies from Hatch, New Mexico, which are a staple in their kitchen. This commitment to local sourcing extends beyond ingredients; it’s about fostering relationships with the producers and the patrons who walk through their doors.

Baja Cafe. A Taste of the Southwest

Community and Canine Companions

Further cementing her community-oriented approach, Kim has ensured both Baja Cafe locations have patios that welcome pets, reflecting her passion for animal rescue. This gesture not only endears her to like-minded patrons but also aligns with her personal values of compassion and community service. The cafes have hosted events supporting local animal shelters, underscoring their commitment to the community’s well-being beyond the culinary scene.

Savoring Each Bite

As Baja Cafe continues to flourish, it remains a cornerstone of the Tucson culinary landscape,  a place where every meal is an opportunity for connection and celebration. Kim and Gerard have crafted more than just a dining spot; they’ve nurtured a community hub that resonates with the spirit of Tucson itself.

For additional insights and accolades, visit Baja Cafe in the News.

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