It is less than a two hour drive from my home to Baja, and on this day, some friends pick me up around 8am and we set off down south towards the border. It is early so most of us are still trying to wake up, however, there is no traffic and we arrive in San Ysidro, zipping across to Mexico rather quickly.
Our first stop is Mercado Miguel Hidalgo Tijuana, a marketplace with various stalls selling anything from fresh produce, spices, to snacks and pinatas. I stop to smell the produce, some I’m familiar with, others, not so much. I see solo garlic, something I am used to using in Asia, but rarely find here, and I can’t resist buying some.
The market is fun, but we are here to eat, so our first stop is a taco place across the street from the market. It says Tacos Rio Birria De Res but I’m not quite sure if that’s the name of the restaurant.
There is a stand where guys are cooking up meat and it is surrounded by people eating and ordering.
Only one type of taco is served here — birria de res — and at around $1 a pop, it is not only seriously affordable, but they are so tasty. We want more, but are warned there is a lot more to come.
It is still early, so we while away some time at Zhi Cafe, a little coffee shop along the beach with a killer view.
As we sip on our coffee and tea, we are all reminded by how good life is!
A short drive south and we reach one of my personal favorites — Tacos El Yaqui. The meat is cooked right in front of the stand on a small grill and the aroma is incredible. I was only able to eat half a taco the last time I was here, and today, I want an entire one. These are pretty big tacos packed with meat, beans, guacamole, onions and cilantro, all stuffed inside a flour tortilla. I like some grilled jalapenos with mine!
Back in the car we go and next is Birrieria El Cunado in Rosarito and it is absolutely packed! There are six of us and there is no table available, however, several counter seats are vacated and a few of us sit down, while others stand behind us. The tacos here are greasy, but packed with flavor. The best part of this place is the beef broth served in a styrofoam cup which we take little sips from in between bites of our tacos.
Off we go again, and before long we are in Ensenada at Mariscos El Guero de Ensenada on the corner of Calle Sexta and Alvarado.
Pick your seafood and you’ll get a plastic cup filled with shrimp, fish, octopus, avocado and a deliciously refreshing juice with tomato and lime.
Walk along Alvarado and you’ll find La Guerrerense several blocks away on the corner of Adolfo Lopez Mateos. This little stand is famous for its tostadas. All the big wigs have been here including Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Javier Plascencia as it is proudly displayed on the banner steps away from the stand.
Everyone orders a tostada except me. I take bits off everyone else’s to taste. Tostadas are a mere $1.50 each and the “especiales” a few cents more. Top with whatever your heart desires — octopus, clams, fish, abalone, and even uni! There are no seats here but that doesn’t seem to deter anyone from eating their tostadas.
After a day of traipsing around town, I am quite happy our next stop is Las Nubes, a winery in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s wine country. We sit on the open patio and enjoy some wine before moving to another winery in the area.
El Cielo was one of the entrants at Sabor de Baja, an annual food and wine event held in Baja during the summer. I was one of the judges last year and was introduced to El Cielo’s award winning wines.
We sat around a firepit sipping on the winery’s Perseus Nebiolo Sangiovese (excellent wine!) and Capricornius Chardonnay. We enjoy the sunset while nibbling off a beautiful presented charcuterie board.
What a wonderful end to an absolutely fun-filled day. If you plan your trip right, you won’t have to wait at the border for that long either. We waited 30 minutes in line to get across. Make sure you go with a lot of people, this way, even the time spent waiting in line will whiz by.
Mercado Miguel Hidalgo Blvrd Gral Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada 9351, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, 22010 Tijuana, B.C., MexicoTacos Rio Guadalupe Victoria 9319, Zona Urbana Río Tijuana, 22190 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
Zhi Cafe De Las Rocas 801, Playas, 22200 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Tacos El Yaqui Mar del Nte #115 12, Zona Centro, 22700 Rosarito, B.C., Mexico
Birrieria El Cunado México 1 742, Villas de Rosarito, 22713 Rosarito, B.C., Mexico
La Guerrerense Av. Adolpho López Mateos S/N, 22800 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
Las Nubes, Callejon Emiliano Zapata S/N, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico
El Cielo, Carretera Guadalupe-El Tigre Km 7.5, Parcela 118, 22755 El Porvenir, Baja California, Mexico