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Apr 10, 1999 03:02 PM

Ensenada, Baja California

  • t

This coming week I'm going to spend four days in
Ensenada. Other than Jonathan Gold's ecstatic
reference to fish tacos on the pier in Ensenada, I
don't have much information on where to eat. Help,
por favor.

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  1. Having recently returned from Ensenada, I'll answer my
    own question about where to eat there. The answer:
    roadside stands and push carts. On the road from
    Ensenada to La Bufadora, I had some of the best sweet
    corn tamales I've ever eaten. They came from a small
    stand, near Punta Banda, where a woman was cooking them
    at roadside over an open wood fire. Her pineapple
    tamales and chicken tamales were also wonderful. In
    Ensenada, I had some very good fish tacos and beef
    tacos from push carts. One cart marinated the beef in
    lime juice, garlic, onions, orange slices, and chiles
    (a not uncommon marinade for carne asada), and cooked
    the meat over natural wood coals. Across the front of
    the cart were a variety of toppings (shredded cabbage,
    etc.) and salsas. Five tacos for $3. Delicious! Of
    course there are also carne asada tacos available from
    similar carts in East L.A. that are just as good, so no
    need to go all the way to Ensenada for these. (To
    Jonathan Gold: Alas, I didn't make it to the pier to
    seek out the fish taco vendor you extolled. Next
    time.) There is one block on Avenida Lopex Mateos in
    Ensenada that seems to specialize in spit roasted
    chickens, there being three separate restaurants with
    chickens roasting in the front windows. I believe the
    best--and most sedate--of these is La Hacienda del
    Charro, 454 Avenida Lopez Mateos, where I enjoyed a
    good version of chicken mole poblano. The plain,
    unsauced spit-roasted chicken was also very good
    although, again, these are readily available in Los
    Angeles at lots of places. (A point of confusion:
    there is a different "El Charro" restaurant with a
    younger, noisier crowd across the street from La
    Hacienda del Charro.) In the unlikely location of the
    garish Festival Plaza in Rosarito Beach, north of
    Ensenada, I had lunch at El Patio, which included a
    mediocre tortilla soup (vastly inferior to the version
    served at Cha Cha Cha on Virgil in Los Angeles), very
    nice crepas Xochimilco with tasty, firm and juicy
    shrimp and huitlacoches in a mild, creamy poblano chile
    sauce. Although the huitlacoches were canned, the dish
    overall was delicious. I also liked the taste of the
    Chihuahua-style charbroiled quail in rielera sauce,
    though the quail were overcooked. But, as far as I'm
    concerned, the real adventures in Baja California are
    to be had at the small stands and carts. Tengo hambre.