San Diego Dining - Laja? [Moved from CA Board]
Ok... so we are heading to SD for the weekend coming up and I was researching restaurants to check out. What I came across over and over was the suggestion to drive down to Laja in Mexico. I love this idea, but have some questions/concerns. Specifically, about the driving part. I didn't think taking your car over the border was a good idea. Am I wrong? What do I need to know about this? We were thinking of doing it all in one day.
Any help is appreciated... thanks!
I wouldn't advise taking your own car down there, especially if it is at all nice. Staying overnight is an excellent idea, as it is a bit of a run from San Diego. You are in wine country after all, and you can only bring back one bottle per person. There are only two rental companies that even rent a car to the Baja, but they are resonable enough. Make sure you make a reservation at Laja before you go. You will not be disappointed.
We have just returned from a romantic Valentine's getaway in the Guadalupe Valley. What a treat. I agree with the above comments about driving in Mexico but I also agree with the comment about spending the night if you go into the valley. It is very dark and landmarks are hard to find. We dined at Laja and the food was excellent. We had the 4 course meal and were quite full. Our waiter directed us to a delicious wine but before we committed to a bottle we tasted six different wines that he brought us. The biggest treat of the trip was where we stayed. Las Brisas de Valle is a Tuscan style villa with six rooms, some with balconies. It is on 40 acres up on a hill. It is a B&B and includes a hearty delicious breakfast but they also serve dinner with a 24 hour reservation and you don't have to be a guest! Like Laja they use only fresh, local grown produce. It was $45/person prix fixe menu. It is one of the best meals we have had since our trip to the French Laundry. It is not as easy to find and is about 21/2 miles off the Hwy 3 so get good directions.
I would also recommend staying overnight if you are heading down to Laja. We eat there over Thanksgiving weekend, and had an incredible meal with great wine. While the road condition was fine, we found 3 to be very dark, and I would not have relished the drive at night after the meal. We stayed at Rancho Maria Teresa and found it very nice and also felt much better about tasting at the local wineries knowing that we had a place to stay.
I'm actually very familiar with the valley and I have made the trek many times. Usually we do a few wine tastings and then head back to wherever our hotel is (usually on the coast).
I'm curious about the wines they serve because I'd like to know whether we should bring our own. We haven't tried Casa de Guadalupe's wines yet, which are supposed to be ok-to-good, but we've tried tried wines from most of the other wineries in the Guadalupe Valley (Xanic, Camou, Mogor Badán, Liceaga, and others). With the exception of Casa de Piedra, we've concluded that the wine has a LONG way to go, (but we love it there anyway).
The wine list at Laja is very extensive and offers wines from the area that can only be found there, i.e., I mean that the vintners only bottle small amounts and that production goes to known and favored national customers and not exported.
We and our guests (a retired president of a Fortune 500 company and his wife)had an exquisite meal there last fall. The prix fixe menu offers a choice of four or seven courses, rouglhy $45 dollars for four courses and $55 for the seven courses.
Portions are smallish, very artfully presented and, at the end, completely satisfying.
When it came to choosing the wine, our guests asked me to pick. I asked our waiter for an opinion, indicating three wines on the list that looked interesting to me, but I knew nothing else about.
I pointed to one, he smiled; I pointed to another, he smiled and nodded; when I pointed to the third, I was given a big smile and an enthusiastic nod.
The bottle was the least expensive of the three and came from a winery in the valley that I had never heard of. The label was stamped "309 of 500" as I recall.
Our guests swooned over this wine and took the empty bottle back home with them.
I'm sorry to end this story as a tease, but I can't remember the name of the winery.
I can say, with a fair amount of assurance, that if you go to Laja and peruse the winelist, you will discover an equally exciting wine to accompany your meal.
And that your meal will be very delicious and memorable.
Here's the link for Laja - http://www.lajamexico.com/
Driving across the border shouldn't be a problem. Along about the time you hit Bonita you'll begin to see signs advertising insurance. Just have your car registration handy and take your pick. Driving isn't especially difficult you just need to pay attention to where you're going because things aren't marked quite as explicitly as they are in the U.S. Crossing the border into Mexico will only take a few seconds, then just follow the signs that say "Playa and/or Cuota" and that will take you to the toll road south. The exit to Laja is Mexico Rte. #3 which is either just before or just after the 3rd toll booth just north of Ensenada.
I kind of agree with Normalheightsfoodie, this isn't exactly a day trip, it's easier to spend the night in the Ensenada area and drive back the next morning. Driving on Mexican roads at night, particularly when you're a novice or unfamiliar with them, isn't always the best idea. Other than the night driving thing, you should be perfectly safe in Tijuana/Ensenada corridor.
The border crossing in Tijuana back into the U.S. can be anywhere from an hour to 3 hours depending upon the day, the time of day and whether or not it's a holiday.
I hope this doesn't get deleted for being not about food or off-topic for the board.
I have driven to Mexico before, as have many friends from San Diego and southern California. The roads between Tijuana and Ensenada are good, though the guadalupe valley where Laja is located is a little off the main route. Hundreds of thousands of Americans travel to Mexico by car each year.
Certainly, you want to get a good insurance package (usually $20 to $30 at any of the the places near the border) and a road map of the area (AAA has them for free if you are a member). But there is no reason to worry; it is probably safer than driving in parts of LA.
If you take the costal road down to Ensenada before heading inland, pay for the toll road (it is a nice expressway; much faster and easier than the local road).
But turn off at the big concrete arch at Popotla, for some great seafood. The little town near the Foxploration theme park has a dozen seafood restaurants serving local fish brought in that morning. The steamed whole fish was the best meal we had on our last trip, and the ocean view was cheap. I also hear that the Ensenada waterfront has great fish and fish tacos.
I hope you enjoy Laja. You should post the review on the Mexico board, but feel free to put a link to it here, so we will know about it.
I would recommend an overnight if you are going to LAJA. Laja is located near Ensenada, about 100 miles across the border. We went with friends and enjoyed it. We taxied from our Hotel to the resteraunt. It is fairly remote. The dinners are Prefixe, and you have a choice on the amount of courses, the whole table has to be in sinc with the order.
There are plenty of places in Tijuana that you can taxi from the border to.