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Feb 22, 2011 03:30 PM

Our Preferred Ensenada Restaurants

(Cross-posted from Baja Nomad, the OP is bajabound2005)

" Some of our favorite Ensenada restaurants – you can Google almost any of these and find great reviews. You can find all of these restaurants on Facebook. PROVECHO!

from north to south

Boules in San Miguel, Open Thurs-Mon starting at 1:00 pm. Casual, seafood and meat. Owner is Javier Martinez (speaks English). Local wines. Sundays are probably the busiest. Waterfront. Just after passing through the toll booth to Ensenada, take the right just in front of the "Extra" store. It's a little cobblestone street. Follow that straight ahead about half a block. The road curves to the right and just on the left is a gated parking lot with a security guard. Tell them you are going to Boules and he will let you in. Park in that lot. The first large white building you see is a "salon". Boules is the smaller place just past it. Cash only. Phone 646 175 9769. Good choice for a group but make arrangements ahead of time with Javi. Sundays and Mondays they have petanque tournaments.

Continue south on the hiway. Next up is Belio at KM 104 on the bayside. Look for a tall white condo building (EntreMar and it looks completely out of place so it’s a good landmark.) A “block” or so past EntreMar is the entrance to Belio. The place is BEAUTIFUL and the most upscale of all mentioned here. Mediterranean style food. I'm not sure of their hours but they open for breakfast at 7:30 on Saturdays. They are also open for lunch and dinner and I would guess they open at 1:00 (except Saturday and Sunday, they open earlier) Also English speaking. If nothing else, stop in for a drink and check out the place. 646 175 8810 Excellent location for a large group, but again, I’d give them advance notice.

At KM 104 just a very short distance (maybe ½ a block) past Belio is Viento (the location was to be a condo complex but it never got off the ground), which houses 2 restaurants. You can recognize the "building" by the crazy fence built around it....just sticks nailed together in an random pattern. Food and atmosphere are great at both places. Both are relatively small but can accommodate up to 20 or so. For either, definitely make advance arrangement if you are bringing a group.

The two restaurants are Gazuza and El Sarmiento. both waterfront. El Sarmiento opens at 2:00 and describes itself as an "enogastrobar". Chef/owner is Guillermo Barreto (also speaks English). Great pizzas and breads made in their wood fired oven. Tapas or full menu available. Closed Mon-Wed.

Gazuza is right next to El Sarmiento. I love their ceviche. They put mango in it! Price Range: $$ 10-30
Tues - Wed: 2:00 pm - 10:00 pm; Thurs - Fri: 2:00 pm - 11:00 pm; Sat: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm;
Sun: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm.

Just as you enter Ensenada at the intersection where there is the Pemex on your left and the "lighthouse" on your right – take the hard right (sign says Migracion) that is almost a u-turn to “Puerto Recinto” – don’t take the exit off the transpeninsular that says Puerto Recinto! About 4 blocks down on your right, you’ll come across Manzanilla. Owned by award winning and notorious chef, Benito Molina and his lovely wife, Solange. Very “funky” inside (pink chandeliers), full bar. Closed Sun-Mon. They open at 1:00.

From Manzanilla, make a u-turn and go back to Blvd Costero. JUST BEFORE Blvd Costero, make another hard right/almost u-turn into the parking lot where the lighthouse marks the entrance. It's a pay lot but both restaurants here will validate. From the middle of the parking lot, (the fish market will be on your left) walk straight out to the malecon. There you will find Muelle 3. This one ranks in our top 3.

Also owned by Chef Benito Molina, Muelle 3 is more casual but the food is excellent and the staff charming. Beer and wine. If you don’t see what you want, ASK! Manager is David Martinez (his brother, Javi, owns Boules) and he also speaks English (and is also an accomplished pianist!) The place is small, but we got 22 people in there once! All fish and seafood as fresh as can be. Definitely make advance arrangements with David.

Go back to the parking lot and walk to the opposite side of it. There is a walkway to goes out to the street and you’ll find La Cocedora de Langosta. The Platillo del Dia is always a good bet. Try their ceviche, it’s also different. In addition to the restaurant they have a small pescaderia and wine boutique. Open 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. 646 178 3742

Let’s head toward downtown. I don’t want to try to give directions from Blvd Costero so you’re on your own here!

At the corner of 6th and Moctezuma you’ll find La Contra (formerly known as Del Parque). It’s a very modern looking building (white). Easy parking. Great outside dining. They do most of the cooking outside. Excellent wine boutique representing most if not all of the local wines. Sample menu: (646) 178-82-13

Around the corner from La Contra, on Moctezuma, between 4th and 5th, is Casa del Arte. Live music most days, and on the menu there is something for everyone. Last summer their wine list was someone limited, but you can always run over to La Contra and buy wine there. Great indoor and outdoor areas. Menu, map and contact info on the webpage.

Barra Azul (also in our top 3). It’s located on 11th between Espinoza and the Puente going over the arroyo. They open at 1:30 and are closed on Tuesdays. Owner is Alain Genchi and the chef is Luis Garcia. The must-haves here are the tempura oysters and the oyster shooters (preferably the ones with green apple!) We don’t order off the menu; we just ask Luis to prepare how many courses we want (4-5). For dessert, the crepe cake. Local wines and full bar.

Looking for comfort food like burgers and wings? Check out Icarus Wings. It’s on Ambar near 29 de Noviembre. From the Reforma, go left on Ambar and ¾ mile. Icarus is on the right (on the left is Licores Los Amigos and a Veterinario). Excellent burgers, fries and wings! They make their own burger buns fresh daily. Other meat and fish items available (like fish and chips). Their pizza is “non-traditional” such as with clams and Spanish chorizo. All the food is excellent. Beer and soft drinks. BYO wine, no corkage fee. Owner’s name is Jorge (who lives in San Diego) and his Dad is also Jorge and Dad is sually at the restaurant. Open Tues-Thurs 1:00-9:00; Fri-Sat 1:00 – 11:00; Sun 1:00 – 7:00. Phone 646 178 6055 Link to map: Mexico&FORM=FBKPL0&name=ICARUS+WINGS is their website.

Not in Ensenada but in the Valle de Guadalupe is our all time favorite, Laja. Casual but upscale food with a fixed price menu. They grow their own herbs and vegetables and almost everything else is acquired locally. Full bar and great list of local wines. Andres Blanco is the manager and “maitre d”. He is also an extraordinary winemaker. Owner and chef is Jair Tellez. You can do the 4 course meal, but splurge and do the 8 courses. They are small so you leave satisfied but not overly stuffed. Last time we were there the 8 course was $720 pesos and the 4 course around $540. Visa/MC accepted. Closed Sun-Tues. Open at 1:30 Wed-Saturday. They close at 3:30 on Wed but are open until 8:30 the other days. (closing time means last people in the door by that time). Located at KM 83 on the Carr Tecate-Ensenada (Ruta de Vinicola). 646 155 2556 "

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  1. Hmmm, lots of places here i've not heard of. I do know and love barra azul and manzanilla, havent been able to try muelle tres cause they are always closed when i try. I've heard of viento but havent been. I will be going to laja on one of my upcoming trips. So...for a real foodie and chef, which of these places should i really try to get to of the following...(Boules, Belio, Viento, Gazuza, El sarmiento, La casa del Arte)

    2 Replies
    1. re: tridogg

      Again cross-posted from Baja Nomad, the OP is bajabound2005:

      "Muelle Tres is open Wed-Sun, 12:00 - 6:00. In the summer they are open until 8:00.

      Viento is not a restaurant...but a location. The 2 restaurants there are Gazuza and El Sarmiento.

      I would skip eating at Belio, maybe have a drink on their patio and watch the sunset, but the food in inconsistent. But the place is beautiful."

      Boules has great atmosphere and the food is excellent. I would put that on the "must try" list for a foodie, along with El Sarmiento, and Laja -- that goes without saying. "

      1. re: Gypsy Jan

        Great...Thanx, will try these spots

    2. I am huge fan of Bara Azul, it is the best seafood restaurant in Ensenada, period. That being said, sometimes when running errands I just need a quick seafood fix, and place we head to is Las Primos on Riveroll between 4th & 5th. The Marlin Pate is unbelievable, I often buy it to go and serve it at wine tastings, beware it is addictive. The sopa mariscos has a stock that is not "fishy" but a wonderful combination of full flavored tomato, fish stock and tame chile that accents and supports the generous amount of local fish that is in it. Dont order the large, the medium is the same size. In fact order the smaller size of everything, you can always order more and besides it will give you the opportunity to try the broiled red clam & shrimp gratin, the aquafresca of thinly sliced fresh shrimp in lime juice w/ cucumbers. The tostadas come in a bout 20 versions. The place is spotless with valadated parking next door.

      11 Replies
      1. re: cmben

        Must Go There! My Mouth is Watering.

        1. re: cmben

          I'll have to try las primas...sounds good. I'll be goin there in may . Totally agree on Bara Azul, i always try to make sure Bara Azul and la Guerrerense gets a visit every time i go. and Bara Azul owns Ultramarino which is great for a quick snack, love their tempura oyster tacos and they make a really good mojito

          1. re: cmben

            First I would like to say that I'm a fish / seafood fanatic , my life is all about the sea .
            So to state that Barra Azul is the best seafood restaurant in Ensenada ..... Plaese !!!!!!
            You should go around , Barra azul is good it's true but as far as the best long shoot .

            1. re: bigotes

              Well...i would be interested in knowing what seafood places you think are better. I do go around and I've been to most of the places listed by foodies and reviews by food critics and recomendations given to me. Everyone has differant tastes and opinions. On another thread you speak highly of mahi mahi, i've eaten there twice and i did not think the food there was very good at all.

              1. re: tridogg

                Hello triidogg my post was responding cmbn post nt yours . La Guerrerense is on top of my list I've lived in Ensenada for 15 yrs and I cannot say wich are my favorite spots cause the chowhound police would edit me but barra azul is just average in my standards -- diferent strokes diferent people
                regarding your coment about me praising mahi mahi I don't know what are you talking about since I posted almost at the same time a post saying about my 3 experiences at mahi mahi wich were worst each time so let me make it very clear that my opinion about mahi mahi is way below average or lower .
                Haliotis for the Abulon Ayala is a must try , just order that .

                1. re: bigotes

                  Sorry..i guess i didn't read your mahi post all the way to the bottom. I also love la Guerrerense but i think of street stands in a category and walk in restaurants as another category. Why would the chow hound police edit you for stating your favorite restaurants, every one else here can? Haliotis is one of the few on my list i have not gotten to yet and will def be getting to in one of my next 2 trips this year (one in may, one in september).

                  1. re: tridogg

                    It has hapened to me quite a few times it is the reason why I don't post much anymore
                    I own some of the mentioned places .....

                    1. re: tridogg

                      If you have any touble finding Haliotis let me know but like I said the big winner is Abulon Ayala the rest is just so so

                      1. re: bigotes

                        Thanx for the specific info, i was planning to go there anyway but i hadnt heard that that was the stand out dish (i have rest here that i go to for one specific dish too). The other place on my list i haven't got to that i have the highest of hopes for is Laja. So far...Manzanilla has been my favorite but my last 3 trips were early in the week and i guess they are only open thur thru saturday.

                        1. re: tridogg

                          Manzanilla is open wednesday to friday from 1 pm to 1am
                          There is also a very nice Oaxacan place on Ruiz in downtown in front of Trocadero wich is a clasic bar . The tlayudas and chapulines are fantastic The name of the place is Agave . closed sun/mon

                          1. re: bigotes

                            Thanx again, i have Agave on my list too as streetgourmetLA spoke highly of them. So far...all his recomendations have been right on the money. I will make sure to look for those dishes. My next trip is fri thru sun may 13 thru 15 so i guess if i am going to get my Manzanilla fix I'll have to do it on friday. Chow

            2. Had a great meal at Muelle 3. Pulpo with huitlacoche is a genius dish. Great mixed ceviche, didn't realize until the last few bites that there was a hint of ginger. Only a few wines but well chosen. Chatted with David Martinez, he's now the sole owner. Current hours Tues.-Sat. 1-7.

              Boules has moved, they've taken over the restaurant part of La Contra and are closed Sundays and Mondays.

              The Contra people recommended a new place open on Mondays, Stella, in Sauzal by the old La Contra at km 103. Italian menu, mostly, pasta and pizzas, plus steaks. I had steamed clams, better than Muelle 3's (which were very good), and very nice swordfish cooked in the wood oven. Tasted spaghetti alla carbonara, really good. Excellent wine list.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Went to Manzanilla, which we had a lot of trouble finding since it's right by the security gate, past the "no unauthorized vehicles" signs. It was maybe 4pm and the port equipment was still noisy, tables were held for reservations so we started at the bar, which was very comfortable. Pretty room. Once the port shut for the day we moved out to the patio which is delightful.

                Fried squid (120), pescadillas (90 / 2), ling cod tiraditos (160), jurel with tomatillo (180), vanilla ice cream with hibiscus sauce and jellies (70), cheese ice cream with sweet potato puree and caramel sauce (70), all great.

                Wasn't crazy about the barbecued oysters (95 / 6). Seafood risotto (210) had a lot of cheese in the rice, didn't really make sense to me.

                Drank some lovely Guadalupe wines. La Contra has a little shop in a shed on the patio, you can browse bottles there if you want. They do separate receipts, you pay retail to La Contra and Manzanilla charges corkage (200). Boules has the same setup, apparently there are tax advantages or something.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Photo after we'd eaten half of a half order of ceviche (100) at Muelle 3. Great clam chowder was 60, steamed clams 110, pulpo 120, fish of the day (yellowtail amberjack?) 180.

                  Had a little trouble finding the place, if you walk through the fish market to the piers and turn right it's across from the last little pier where the fishermen dock.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Eating outside at Boules behind La Contra was delightful. We had a great grilled pulpo al achiote (140), a fried yellowtail amberjack collar (170), and a ribeye steak (330), all great. Sad we didn't try more but that was a lot of food. Corkage 120.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Had trouble finding La Guerrerense because we were looking for it on Tuesday when it was closed and of course there's no sign of it then. Finally got there on the way out of town and had great fish tostadas. Next visit we'll be sure to make time for a whole meal and bring some wet wipes to clean up after.