Rosarito is right on the Pacific coast and in between two great food destinations, Tijuana and Ensenada (including the increasingly trendy wine destination, Valle de Guadalupe) but I think a lot of Americans still come here mostly looking for Vegas-size margaritas. I found evidence for that theory recently when a group of six asked me to take a photo of them in their borracho shirts (borracho number 1, borracho number 2…) I believe it was number 3 who said she was pregnant, and while I will reserve judgment on what could have been one beer, I really hope her kid never sees that picture. (Borracho means drunk btw).
I have spent a lot of time in Rosarito this past year because my boyfriend grew up here. It’s different from most of the places I’ve lived or traveled in Mexico: it’s truly a border town, the highway runs through it like an artery and development catering to Americans crawls across the hills. There is great food here, but it is helpful to know where to go so you avoid any tourist/ex-pat traps. Often the food comes with dope scenery, sitting at the edge of the Pacific. No frills, the ocean, and a local craft beer. Sounds cool, right? Here are a few places I recommend.
Once for a birthday present my uncle Tom elaborately wrapped a box and inside were flour tortillas from his favorite place in the Mission. He gave me the gift of “the best tortillas ever” and the feeling of receiving the most perfectly selected gift for me, and my delight at trying the tortillas is not unlike how I feel eating the warm, freshly made flour tortillas at these two places every time.
Unless there is some weird historical split, I think these restaurants are owned by the same family, and the specialties here— venison, rabbit and quail— are raised on their land nearby. The chewy, perfectly browned flour tortillas are patted out at stations around the restaurant (you can make your own if you ask, mine came out square). Nido means nest in Spanish, and indeed the dining room here feels like you’re tucked in a tropical nest, with plants and lanterns hanging up and down the walls. At Los Pelicanos, the decor is similar but with a patio that sits elevated over the beach. But the 70s kitsch is brought down to real country earth by the brick and fireplaces and wagon wheels and the smell of mesquite. For breakfast at either of these places we always get the same thing: venison machaca with beans, nopal and quail eggs, a plate of tropical fruit, a green juice, and lots of tortillas. One thing I love at El Nido in the mornings is that they’ll bring you toasted buttery white bread with three different house-made jams. For dinner, we often just get queso fundido with mushrooms and chorizo, guacamole, and a pinto bean soup, with margaritas of course. Beware on the weekends, the waits here can be long so go at off hours. In downtown Rosarito.
The quaint little world of thisFrench-leaning cafe feels much farther away from the highway than it is. Come here for simple egg dishes, quiche and pot pies, with daily desserts and freshly baked pastries. There’s a chalkboard breakfast and lunch menu, and the place is small enough that you’ll probably end up in conversation with other diners. I loved the almond and goat cheese quiche we had, and I wanted to bathe in the light, mango creme for dessert. On the left across from Las Gaviotas.
Come here for tacos made of juicy arrachera, flour tortillas, a guacamole splat, and pinto beans. Go for perrones, all the ingredients above with melted cheese. There’s usually a bit of a wait to get your food if you go at typical hours. This place is open Thursday through Monday and seating is all outdoors. In downtown Rosarito.
We found this place when Tacos El Yaqui was closed, and I’m glad we did. Gorditas are kinda like especially thick corn tortillas, slit and stuffed with different guisados, anything from shrimp to steak or salsa verde chicharron. We were happy with the steak and avocado, and the guisado of potatoes, poblano peppers and melted cheese. The wrapping of a burrito is truly an art form taken for granted by an Oakland girl like me, don’t make that ordering mistake or you will end up like me running to the trunk of the car and grabbing an extra tortilla to soak up the mess while in the border line. But the gorditas we’re perfect for taking to go (I mean, no officer, nothing to declare). A family joint that opened three months ago, I hope it is still there when we return.
At Trenta Cuattro, on the edge of the right side of the road headed south from Rosarito, you’ll find a pizza restaurant with epic ocean views and good snacks at decent prices— a rare combo most places in the world. The open-air space here feels pieced together in a good way, like someone thoughtfully decided that the feel of the place should not be overly thoughtful. There’s mismatched furniture on different levels, all facing a parking lot and beyond that the ocean and a few palapas for sitting right at the edge of the drop.
They have wines and cheese from the Valle de Guadalupe, as well as Mexican craft beer. It’s here where I’ve met two of my favorite new beers: the Agua Mala sirena pilsner, and the Insurgentes Tiniebla. If you aren’t up on it yet, there’s a craft beer revolution in Mexico right now and a lot of good stuff is coming out of this very area.
I’ll admit that I haven’t had the pizza, but there is a seasonal abalone pizza on the menu and that possibility alone makes me want to come back. Regardless, come for a beer or glass of wine and a cheese board. This is a great place to watch the sunset, keep in mind it may not be the best when temps are low.
This is a tiny taproom serving different Mexican craft beers right in downtown Rosarito. You can try some of the best craft producers in the state, and the menu is switched up monthly. In a food court, where we have yet to try any of the stalls. Cheers!