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Is it worth driving to Baja for the food? [Moved from L.A. board]

My friend just got back from Ensenada/Rosarito and said it wasn't worth the trip. The hotel they booked looked good online but ended up being dirty. The food wasn't spectacular.

I know another person who thinks the food is great. Do you think it's worth the trip? Where should I stay and what's good to eat?

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  1. It is worth it for one reason alone: Taqueria el Fenix (next to the Fenix Hardware store) in Ensenada. It's a fish and shrimp taco stand well away from the Malecon where all the tourists go. Honestly they were the only fish tacos I had in Ensenada that were significantly better than what I could get in LA at Senor Fish or other places. But they are amazing - perfectly crispy but light and with great salsas. They are fried right in front of you and handed to you immediately when they are ready. I would go just for that. I also had great pozole - better than Liliana's Tamales in East LA - in Ensenada at a place called Cenaduria el Parrian.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oro3030

      my mouth is watering...thanks for the recommendations.

    2. As long as this thread is here, I've been considering going to Laja, possibly next Thursday or Friday. I've read all the searchable posts here, but curious if anyone has anything to add or recent experiences at Laja?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Itslikeimsayin

        Absolutely, GO to Laja. They grow (organicly where possible) their own produce, they treat it with great respect. The cooking is contemporary Mexican, alta cocina, don't expect typical or traditional Mexican food. There food would be quite similar to what you would find in D.F. (Mexico City). If you "get" Chez Panisse, you'll understand the concept at Laja.

        Also, you'll be in the Valle de Guadalupe, which is the prime wine growing region. If you're into it, you can do wine tastings at several different wineries. To get to the V de G and Laja, take Mex 3 east from the main highway. The cut off is not too far past the 3rd toll booth and north of Ensenada, it's well marked.

        1. re: Itslikeimsayin

          I have been to Laja, and I would recommend waiting until the weather cools off. They do not have AC and the resteraunt gets very very hot. It was so hot that it felt extremely uncomfortable.

          The food was very good and it was prefix. The table has to aggee to the course amount. One fuddy dutty can incumber the whole table's ability to have the whole experience.

          We took Taxi's from our Hotel, and it was well worth it. It is fairly remote. I certainly would not want to drive it after a few drinks at night.

          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

            Thank you very much for the 'no A/C' info. That would have ruined the trip.

            1. re: Itslikeimsayin

              Laja now has AC. It is now 2 years since it has been there

        2. I like some of the fish taco places at the Bufadora (south of Ensenada). Check out the Estero Beach Hotel; they should have a website. I like the location.

          I've taken many, many chow drives to Tijuana SOLELY for the purpose of having carnitas at Carnitas Uruapan, next to the Aguas Caliente race track. Carnitas, guacamole, beans, and beer. It's such a hassle to drive into TJ now, just walk across the border and take a taxi.

          You should probably check the California board for some tips from San Diegans.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mrs Fang

            Carnitas Uruapan rocks. Mrs. Fang is right on. However, if you don't want to cross the border, the family also runs a sister Carnitas Uruapan in Lemon Grove, which is in the San Diego east county. Also, El Por Venir in National City does exceptional carnitas. Absoulute hole-in-the-wall, absolutely fabo carnitas.

            1. re: Sonrisa

              well everyone is right carnitas uruapan does have one of the best carnitas of tijuana and has been open for 47 years now, but the carnitas uruapan in lemon grove is not owned by the same family so please do not ever say that. and if the restaurant does say that then remember this that the restaurant in lemon grove has no relationship at all with the one in Tijuana. And trust me I know the statement I am saying is 100% true

          2. Hi-

            Just a quick note, Chowhound is about food, any lodging discussion would be off topic and will be removed.

            Thanks for helping us maintain the value of Chowhound as a site for exchanging tips on where to find great food.

            1. The best time to go to Ensenada is mid-week when there are no cruise liners in port. The cruise industry has pumped dollars and dollars into the economy, but it's kind of killed any ambiance. When the tourists are on shore, look out.

              First, do a search on this board and the CA board for posts by Gypsy Jan. She lives in Baja and has posted some real, non-touristy, recommedations.

              Second, what exactly are you looking for because you can find everything from the open air stand where you are sure to get a killer case of food poisioning to extremely upscale food at upscale prices. You'll find the usual tourist fare, Americanize Mexican food, American food, and alta cocina/contemporary Mexican.

              In La Mision, about 10 miles or so south of Rosarito is La Fonda. This has been a must-stop watering hole/restaurant since moses parted the Red Sea. It was recently sold and reports are that it's still good. Have breakfast on the way down, it's very good. La Fonda sits on the cliffs above the beach and has spectacular views of the fog burning off and the sunsets. Food is good to very good - try the quail - as are the drinks. Prices are fair.

              The restauranat at Punta Moro just north of Ensenada is very good, tremendous views. There used to be a web page on line for them somewhere.

              Puerto Nuevo is pretty much a tourist trap, but the original Ortega's - brown restaurant on the corner of the 2nd block in - is actually not too bad. Potent margaritas

              Barkissimo on the malecon in Ensenada is owned and operated by an American married to a Mexican. Food is pretty good, somewhat inconsistent. Try the steamed clams. This is an old recommendation, hopefully it's still there.

              Manzana is an upscale place run by a couple of kids from the interior of the Mexico (D.F & Cuernavaca). Both professionally trained in the U.S. and/or Europe.

              El Rey Sol is one of the oldest restaurants in Ensenada. They do have a web site that you can Google for. I've had good meals there and not so good meals. Pricey and the value doesn't always match the price. Depends upon who is in the kitchen cooking.

              Hussong's has morphed into multiple locations to take advantage of the tourist dollar. Tourist is the operative word here...........

              The marisco vendors around the fish market are all pretty safe and you'll find fresh seafood and fish tacos galore from which to choose.

              Casamar is another old time Ensenada restaurant. Probably not spectacular, and it's probably not going to set the world on fire, but it shouldn't be awful either.

              This is prime tourist season. Food is probably taking a back seat to fishing as many dollars out of tourist pockets. If you want to go to Ensenada wait until after Labor Day when prices drop and the thundering herds of tourist depart.