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Monday, July 14, 2014

Sea and Farm-to-Table Dining in Rosarito Beach Restaurants

We all know that Baja California is the land of some of the best taco stands in the world.  The towns along the coast have also been long known for delicious and affordable grilled local lobster.  In addition to these Baja food staples, Rosarito has also joined the farm-to-table movement, which provides some additional exciting dining opportunities for visitors to Rosarito and nearby Baja towns.  During a weekend in Rosarito we had the chance to eat ourselves into oblivion at a few Rosarito restaurants so we could share some of Rosarito’s best food finds with you.

Rancho Las Ilusiones


Rancho Las Ilusiones Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Rancho Las Ilusiones family restaurant.
Breakfast at Rancho Las Ilusiones was our first farm-to-table experience in Rosarito.  The restaurant is actually on the same property as the farm.  Rancho Las Ilusiones started as a trailer, then a palapa, then a carne asada restaurant, and is now open on Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with a full menu.  Rancho Las Ilusiones is a family-run restaurant and the menu is created by the matriarch.  Much of what is on the menu is produced on the farm, and their specialties include items like conejo machaca (made with rabbit meat from rabbits raised on the land), barbacoa, and chilaquiles. 

Barbacoa Rancho Las Ilusiones Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Rancho Las Ilusiones' barbacoa.
After our breakfast we received a tour of the farm by one of the owners’ sons.  Any guest at the restaurant can take a tour.  We saw chickens, turkeys, peacocks (not on the menu, just there because his mother likes them), horses, and a flock of sheep.  We also walked through crops of vegetables growing, much of which are sold at farmers markets if not being used for the restaurant.  Rancho Las Ilusiones also offers a view of the town of Rosarito and the ocean beyond. 

Chilaquiles Rancho Las Ilusiones Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Rancho Las Ilusiones' chilaquiles.

Restaurante El Nido


Restaurante El Nido Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Restaurante El Nido's rustic dining room.
Restaurante El Nido was our second farm-to-table experience in Rosarito.  Restaurante El Nido opened in 1971 and has been a farm-to-table restaurant for some time.  In 1984 El Nido acquired a quail farm in the Valle de Guadalupe and a herd of red deer in 1994, so quail and venison are now two of the restaurant’s specialties.  Prior to our meal at Restuarante El Nido we had a chance to tour their farm in Rosarito, which is something groups of 10 or more people can do by appointment.  In addition to the pigs, cows, horses, and deer on the farm, there is also a fascinating and eclectic church on the property which was built in 1993.

Restaurante El Nido's Church Rosarito Baja California Mexico
The church on Restaurante El Nido's farm.
The restaurant itself is in the center of the town of Rosarito within easy walking distance of the Rosarito Beach Hotel.  Restaurante El Nido has old-world charm with wagon wheels and bouganvilla decorating the outside, wood furnishings and bricks in the dining room, and an outdoor dining area filled with verdant plants and an open fire pit.  We were able to taste El Nido's signature quail and venison, grilled on an open flame in the middle of the dining room, along with fresh tortillas that are handmade in the restaurant.

Meat Platter Restaurante El Nido Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Venison, quail and steak platter at Restaurante El Nido.

Popotla Park Restaurant


Popotla Park Restaurant Seafood Platter Baja California Mexico
Popotla Park Restaurant's seafood platter.
Our first sea-to-table dining experience was at an unusual location, the Popotla Park Restaurant located in the Popotla Mobile Home Park.  The Popotla Park Restaurant overlooks one of my favorite places in Baja, the fishing village of Popotla, which we previously visited on our Baja food tour.  We had a veritable seafood feast starting with a platter of different ceviches, oysters, shrimp, and octopus.  This was followed by a plate of grilled lobster with a surprisingly delicious clamshell of chopped clams, tomatoes, and onions with melted cheese.  It was something like a clam gratin, which seems like it wouldn’t work, but did.

Popotla Park Restaurant Lobster Baja California Mexico
Lobster at Popotla Park Restaurant . . . and cheesy clams?

La Casa Del Pescador


Guacamole and Ceviche at La Casa Del Pescador Puerto Nuevo Baja California Mexico
Guacamole and ceviche at La Casa Del Pescador.
Dinner was at La Casa Del Pescador in Puerto Nuevo, which is famous for serving grilled lobster.  Southern Californians have been driving to Puerto Nuevo for decades for the affordable lobster.  A grilled lobster dinner at La Casa Del Pescador is simple, starting with chips, salsa, ceviche and guacamole before the star of the show, grilled lobster served with fresh tortillas, rice and beans, arrives.

Lobster La Casa Del Pescador Puerto Nuevo Baja California Mexico
A mountain of grilled lobster at La Casa Del Pescador.

Tacos El Yaqui


They say you haven’t really been to Rosarito unless you’ve eaten at Tacos El Yaqui.  Thankfully I can say I have eaten at Tacos El Yaqui, and it was good.  Tacos El Yaqui was started by Felipe Núñez, “El Yaqui,” in 1984.  Felipe is originally from the Mexican state of Zacatecas and worked as an assistant chef at Restaurante El Nido before opening his own restaurant.  Tacos El Yaqui is a few blocks up from the main tourist strip and is well worth the slight detour. 

Tacos El Yaqui Grill Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Meat grilling for perrónes at Tacos El Yaqui.
Tacos El Yaqui’s main taco is “el perrón.”  The perrónes are tacos made with incredibly tender and flavorful beef grilled on a small grill on the patio served in flour tortillas with the slightest layer of melted cheese and topped with beans, crunchy onions, and fresh guacamole.  Grilled jalapenos, limes, and chili sauce are served on the side.  Since they’re made with flour tortillas, the perrónes are larger than typical street tacos.  We shared one since we were actually eating them between breakfast and lunch, but you will want a whole one for yourself . . . or two . . . or three.

Tacos El Yaqui Perrónes Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Tacos El Yaqui perrón.

Baja Produce


Baja Produce Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Fresh vegetables, cheese, and pesto from Baja Produce.
While we were wine tasting at Rosarito’s only winery, Claudius Winery, we were able to sample some of Baja Produce’s organic products.  Baja Produce has been around for four years and grows a wide variety of organic vegetables, most of which are exported to the United States. We had a chance to sample some of their fresh vegetables as well as their cheeses, breads, and pesto.

Baja Produce Cheese Rosarito Baja California Mexico
Baja Produce's jalapeño cheese.  I just love the way it is trying to burst through.
Baja Produce has a market in the town of Rosarito where they sell their home-made bread, artisan cheeses, olive oil, pesto, candies, and more.  An unusual sweet we tried were solid cubes of jellied guava. Normally Rome dislikes guava, but even he found these to be delicious.  Within Baja Produce’s market is also a deli where travelers can sit down and eat a fresh and healthy lunch.

Picuditas (Coming Soon)


Technically Picuditas is not a Rosarito restaurant, but is slated to come to Rosarito within the next year.  Right now the Picuditas food truck can be visited in the Tijuana Food Garden before crossing the border.  The Picuditas food truck was created by Raúl Cárdenas Osuna, the founder of Torolab.  The food truck is as much an art installation as it is a place to eat.  Torolab, which is an artist collective, decided to research the Mexican diet and determine which nutrients were missing.  They then worked to create picuditas, a special type of bread which contains all those nutrients absent from the typical Mexican diet, including nine grams of protein. 

Octopus Picuditas Tijuana Baja California Mexico
Octopus picuditas.
To guarantee Mexicans would want to eat this special bread, they ensured the beloved Mexican flavors were still present.  The picuditas can be filled with beef, chicken, octopus, or vegetables.  Rome had the beef and I had the octopus, which was out of this world.  Along with each flavor are served four special sauces, artfully presented in small jars within metal electric boxes.  The sauces include a dark spicy chili sauce, a cucumber sauce, a habanero mayo sauce, and more.  While the bread might sound awfully healthy, it is also delicious, with a nice crunch from both the ingredients and the fact that it is baked right before serving. The majority of the ingredients used are organic and locally sourced.

Picuditas Salsas Tijuana Baja California Mexico
Picuditas' flavorful salsas.  The dark chili sauce is so good when it hits your lips (and keeps on lingering).
The picuditas project has been shown at the Zacheta National Gallery in Poland and at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.  When it arrives, it will be a great addition to the Rosarito Beach food scene.

Whether you’re looking for tacos, grilled lobster, or something more unusual like rabbit or venison, Rosarito and its nearby Baja towns will be able to fulfill all your food desires.  Luckily there’s a beach nearby where you can relax, lie on the sand, and rub your overstuffed belly.

Thank you to the Rosarito Convention and Visitors Bureau, Las Rocas Resort & SpaPopotla Park Restaurant, La Casa Del Pescador, and Picuditas Food Truck for hosting our food tour of Rosarito Beach and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

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Katherine Belarmino is the author of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. She works full-time in a non-travel related job, but she and her husband Romeo take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.