Mexico is one of my favorite countries in the world. Lucky for me I live in San Diego and have Baja California, Mexico just minutes from my home. One of my favorite reasons to visit Mexico is the food. Baja food is varied and offers many delicious dishes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new things to try each time I visit. In case you are planning a trip south of the border, here are my picks for foods “not to be missed” in Baja Norte.
15 Best Baja Food Finds for 2017
In no particular order, here are my favorite Baja foods to eat in Tijuana, Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe and Tecate in the Baja Norte region of Mexico.
1. Molcajete at La Tradicion, Casa de Molcajete
La Tradicion, Casa de Molcajete in Tijuana offers one of the best molcajete bowls in Baja California. A molcajete (mohl-kah-HEH-tay) is a stone tool, often carved from volcanic rock, that is among the world’s oldest kitchen tools. It is the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle. It is also a delicious dish that is named molcajete and served in a molcajete. The Molcajete dish features carne asada, chicken, chorizo or shrimp. The meat or fish is added to a sizzling hot molcajete bowl and topped with onions, cilantro, cheese, cream and served with tortillas.
2. Otto’s at Telefonica Gastro Park
Telefonica Gastro Park is Tijuana’s most popular culinary collective. You’ll find everything from vegetarian tacos, to a cheese monger and first-rate craft beer at this gastro park. While everything is top notch in the park, it’s Otto Spahn from Otto’s Grill that is king of this food truck castle. Otto’s is the spot for fresh raw and prepared seafood. Not only do you have the chance to taste his delicious creations, but he just might invite you in while he is cooking for a close up look at his culinary creativity!
3. Caesar Salad at Restaurante Caesar’s
There is a lot of debate about who officially created the Caesar salad. Most agree it was made in the 1920’s by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur. Whether or not you agree it was Cardini who invented it, all agree it did originate in Tijuana, Mexico. To enjoy this quintessential Baja food, you must head to Caesar’s restaurant on the famous Avenida Revolución in Tijuana.
Today, its hard to find a table side Caesar, but luckily there is a restaurant in Tijuana keeping this food art alive. Having a Caesar salad at the beautiful Caesar’s restaurant is a definite must for any Baja California food pilgrimage.
4. Lemon Dill Poached Sole at Susanna’s Restaurant
The first time I tried the lemon dill poached sole in a dill butter sauce at Susanna’s Restaurant I swore I’d be back. It took a year, but when I did head back to the restaurant, I had to order the exact same dish. It’s light, buttery and if you didn’t know it, you’d think it was lobster.
Related Article: Susanna’s – Rosarito – Restaurant Review
5. Chilaquiles at Rosarito Beach Hotel
Chilaquiles are one of my favorite Baja food dishes. They were originally created as a way to use up leftovers and are now considered a traditional Mexican breakfast. Typically, corn tortillas are cut in quarters and lightly fried and topped with a green or red salsa. Most restaurants in Baja California served them with eggs of your choice and beans. The Rosarito Beach Hotel offers this traditional dish with the added bonus of a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.
6. Enchiladas Verde at Las Cazuela de Mole
Las Cazuela de Mole is known to have the best Mexican food in Rosarito. They are most famous for their mole, but their enchiladas verde are also one of the most delicious items on the menu and my personal favorite. As a starter, you should also try the Huaraches Sencillos with onion, cheese and salsa verde.
7. Lobster at Angel Del Mar
If you are looking for a magnificent view with excellent fresh and delicious lobster, Puerto Nuevo is the place. Angel Del Mar sits on a cliff with an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean. While the menu is extensive, Lobster is the hero of this town. Lobsters are available in a variety of sizes and served with hand made tortillas, beans, rice and melted butter. Definitely a must when you visit Baja California Norte.
8. Fish Tostada at La Guerrerense seafood cart
La Guerrerense is known for being one of the most important food street carts of the world. Just ask Chef Anthony Bourdain and he’ll back me up. In fact, Chef Bourdain is opening an international food hall at Pier 57 in New York and has invited Sabina, founder of the iconic seafood cart to bring her fish tostada masterpieces to the big apple. Her sea urchin tostadas and a little help from Chef Bourdain made her famous, but you can’t go wrong with anything on her menu at her street cart or new restaurant, located just around the corner from her food cart.
Related Article: A Perfect Day at Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina
9. French pastries at El Rey Sol
French pastries in Mexico? Yes! In fact, if you close your eyes and indulge in the pastries from El Rey Sol, you would think you were in France. This is most likely because all the recipes are authentic and come from the grandmother of the own, Jean-Loup Bitterlin. It was his grandmother who started the restaurant and they are now the oldest French restaurant in Mexico.
Related Article: A Cheese Cave, Wine Tasting and French Food in Baja
Valle de Guadalupe
10. Dessert at Malva
Chef Roberto Alcocer is creating the most beautifully plated and delicious food in Valle de Guadalupe. Every dish at Malva is a worthy Instagram moment. While I love everything on the menu, his desserts are to die for! From his amuse bouche served with every meal, to the dessert finale, this is a Baja food dining experience you won’t want to miss in the Valle de Guadalupe wine region.
Related Articles: Malva – Valle de Guadalupe – Restaurant Review || Wine & Dine: A Perfect Day in Valle de Guadalupe
11. Oysters at Casa de Piedra
Conchas de Piedra restaurant is self-described as a celebratio
12. Lamb Borrego at La Cocina de Doña Esthela
Doña Esthela is known for several favorites Baja food favorites such as pan de elote (corn bread muffins) and huevos rancheros (eggs with red salsa), and her house-made machaca (dried, shredded beef) won the Foodiehub award for best breakfast in the world. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, it’s her lamb borrego that is considered her house specialty and signature dish. The secret to this lamb dish are the spices and a slow cook in the adobe oven. The dish is served with refried beans, freshly made warm flour and corn tortillas, as well as house made queso fresco (cheese).
Related Article: Celebrating The Queen’s of Baja’s Culinary Landscape
13. Tacos at Los Amigos
If you want to try a great Baja taco, head to Los Amigos in Tecate. The most popular item on the menu is the carne asada taco topped with guacamole. I also love the bean and cheese taco. Each table in the small taco stand is decked out with all the fixings to doctor your taco to your liking. Don’t forget to add a Mexican Coke to your order for the ultimate experience.
14. Fettuccine at El Lugar de Nos
Mariela Manzano is the head chef and owner of El Lugar de Nos. Before she opened this restaurant she was head chef at the famed destination spa, Rancho La Puerta. Chef Manzano has created a gourmet, Italian-Mexican fusion restaurant. I couldn’t write this article without sharing my husband’s favorite Baja food dish; the fettuccine alfredo. He describes it as fresh and delicate with a traditional sauce and hints of spice you can expect from Mexico.
15. Pastries at El Mejor Pan de Tecate
I’m gluten free and still have a fun time wandering around El Mejor Pan de Tecate. A first-time visit may leave you overwhelmed by the variety of choices which range from delectable sweets to loaves of bread. Everything is made on the premises and is a must Baja food experience if you visit Tecate.
This list of my favorite Baja foods in the Norte section of Mexico includes some of the meals, snacks, and restaurants that I look forward to eating each time I visit. The list is not exhaustive and I anticipate updating it with every trip. If you feel I am missing anything, please let me know!
A special thank you to Mikkel Paige from sometimeshome.com for sharing her beautiful photos of the Caesar salad and the fish dish at Susanna’s.
Getting There: From San Diego, you can cross the Mexico border at San Ysidro and follow route 1. The highway hugs the pacific coast and passes Las Playas de Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Puerto Nuevo, the famous K-38 surf spot and just before reaching the port town of Ensenada, you’ll head inland on highway 3 for a perfect day in Valle de Guadalupe. If you continue on highway 3 you will arrive in Tecate. There is also a Tecate border, which is my favorite way to enter and depart Mexico because of it’s shorter lines.
A huge thank you to many of the chefs and restaurants for the generous hospitality and sharing their Baja food specialties. I was a guest at some of the above restaurants, but as always, all opinions are my own.
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.