Once we knew we were going to attend the Latin Food Festival, we made plans to cross the border at least for one day.
It is hard for us to spend only one day in Baja California but, hey, a day is better than nothing.
This time we settled for Rosarito, a small beach town located 10 miles south of the border.
I have been to Rosarito many times, mainly while doing volunteer / missionary trips around the area. However, there were a lot of “firsts.” I have never been or stayed in Rosarito by myself. That means there was never the opportunity to explore at my pace. Plus, and I didn’t realize this before leaving the house, my husband had never been to the town (not sure in what dream “we” visited).
So, an hour and a half after leaving the car in a parking lot in San Diego, crossing the border on foot and catching a bus in Downtown Tijuana, we made it to Rosarito.
I messed up and exited the bus too soon. Thankfully, the locals directed in us in the correct direction and we found ourselves in the middle of town hungry for some tacos.
As a matter of fact, we only had food on mind when we decided to make the trek to Mexico.
So without further ado, here are some recommendations on what to eat in this fun town.
Arrachera is skirt steak. A considerable number of businesses prepare it over oak on a metal box grill. Then, the big pieces of meat are moved to a block of wood and cut into small pieces. The flavorful chunks are served with onions, guacamole, cilantro and beans in a hearty flour tortilla (Baja is flour tortilla territory).
Locals and visitors swear for the arrachera tacos at El Yaqui. We had the pleasure of trying the tacos at this establishment and we can testify how delicious they are. The official name of these tacos are perrones (which means cool, awesome or bada**). The tenderness of the meat goes so well with all the toppings. My husband was mesmerized by the grilled, smoky jalapenos too.
This place is an institution in Rosarito and it has been visited by politician, artists, actors and so forth.
As you can imagine, people who have worked at El Yaqui at some point, had moved on and opened their own businesses. This is the case of Tacos El Gerente and Tacos Manuel. I have heard a lot of good things about these two places too (and they have good reviews in Yelp and TripAdvisor).
Tacos Manuel also offers carne asada, pork adobada, tripa, buche and other offal parts tacos.
Venison, Quail and Other Cuts of Meat
Since 1971, El Nido has been serving traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine. Nevertheless, they have made a name for themselves by serving quail, venison, rabbit and lamb from local farms.
I tried the roasted quails (3 come in the order) and they were very good. To be honest, I ate slow trying to savor every bit and piece. My husband ordered the marlin tacos and they were delicious too.
The eclectic restaurant decoration adds to the dinning ambience.
There is a new player in town serving game, steaks and seafood. It is called Tapanco and it has found great success in a short amount of time. This place is in my list of places to try during my next visit.
Several miles south of Rosarito you are going to find another small town called Puerto Nuevo (it is still in Rosarito’s municipality).
The self-described “Lobster Capital of Baja,” is the place where you can choose from dozens of restaurants serving up lobsters. According to tradition, the lobsters are pan-fried in lard, so the meat stays soft and tender with beans, rice and homemade flour tortillas served on the side.
We had six small lobster tails in a family owned restaurant. Everything was tasty but we felt like we missed something.
When I visit a place, I try to buy local and stay small as much as possible. This time my good desires backfired. On a place like this, I think it is better to go with the masses.
The Puerto Nuevo Restaurants (same name as town) and La Perlita have a good reputation.
It is not a secret that the lobsters in town come from a refrigerator (but taste really good anyway). For fresh lobster, visit Vince’s Fish Market and Restaurant in central Rosarito.
I prefer to satisfy my fish tacos fix in Ensenada. If for some reason, you are not going to be able to make it to the big city, Tacos Baja Jr. or Mariscos German are good options.
Go directly to La Flor de Michoacan for delicious carnitas (braised or simmered pork in oil or preferably lard until tender).
Asada, Adobada and Other Tacos
I have seen tons of reviews giving thumbs up to Tacos El Paisano. This establishment, located on the main street, is cheap and full of locals.
I was excited to visit because I saw the “taqueros” preparing the adobada trompo (marinated pork spin) in the morning. I was disappointed when I gave that first bite to the taco I desired all day long.
The meat and guacamole sauce were bland. Not even salt saved it. I cannot recommend this place.
We also went to another taco place owned by El Paisano, I can’t remember the name but it is not good either.
For good asada, adobada and other cuts of meat, go to Tacos El Zurdo or to Tacos Manuel (mentioned in the arrachera area).
What to Do Between Meals
There is plenty to do around town between meals. You can visit the beach, the markets, the crafts area, the Rosarito Beach Hotel or the many shops in town. Remember to stroll around the beach during sunset.
- Make sure you are given the correct change if you are using dollars. The value of the peso is constantly fluctuating and even a math genius can get confused.
- If you are going after a lobster meal, take note of everything that is offered to you for one price. Sometimes, restaurant owners want to charge you extra for something they offered you when trying to get you to eat at their restaurant.
- Visit places where the food is moving fast and served piping hot to avoid getting sick.
What dish would you like to try in Rosarito?
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