Adventuring in Mexico: Tacos Salceados and Popotla
Last weekend Jake and I made our first international trip together to Mexico! We applied for our passports in mid-February and were surprised at how quickly we got our passports. My folks were going down to Rosarito and we joined them in their sweet condo rental. Jake and I drove separately since we had to come back to the US on Sunday and we met my folks in Tijuana for lunch.
I was a bit apprehensive about going to Mexico since most of the news you hear about Tijuana and Mexico is bad news. Drug cartels and gang wars and stuff. But I think if you’re smart, don’t get crazy drunk in Mexico, don’t go to unpopulated areas, and don’t do anything dumb, you’ll pretty much be fine.
Driving over the border into Mexico is pretty darn easy. They have people guarding (are they really guarding or just standing around? I don’t know) the border but pretty much you just drive right on through. It was an easy drive to where we were going for lunch.
We got there early and walked around just a tiny bit. I didn’t feel like straying too far since I was still weirdly nervous about being in Mexico. Across from where we were eating I spied Frosty Ice Cream. It looked like a Thrifty ice cream shop! We didn’t go in and investigate though but my dad told me that Thrifty ice cream was popular down here.
Here’s a side photo of the place we were stopping for lunch: Tacos Salceados. It looks like “Salscedos” to me, but everything on the internet says “Salceados”. I didn’t feel like going out into the street to get a head on photo. Also, the sidewalks were pretty weirdly uneven here. The streets curbs were also painted red here, but people were still parking in the red. Does a red curb mean something different here? I have no idea but we didn’t chance it and parked on a side street.
There’s just a big wide opening for the entrance. We walked in and started taking photos.
There was a little cart that had all of these sauces and salsas on it. Someone explained what all of the sauces were to my dad in Spanish and he had no idea what the guy was saying, but he listened to him. I didn’t even try any of these sauces! I liked what was on our lunch as-is.
There are menus up on the walls but once we sat down, someone came over and gave us menus to look at. I looked up this place on Yelp so I knew what I wanted already and kind of how it worked here.
All of the items on this side are items I’m familiar with. The item I really came here for was the “Quesataco” which was new to me. You can get items on corn (maiz) or flour (harina) tortillas. The flour tortillas cost a little more and they are much larger in size than the corn tortillas.
Here’s the other side of the menu. “Papas” means potatoes. “Molcajetes” is like a stew that is served in a stone dish (the dishes that look like a mortar and pestle). We didn’t know what that was and saw someone else order it – it looked amazing. A “Platillo” means “saucer” or “symbol” so… not sure what that dish is. There are a few photos on the menus to help give you an idea of what’s what.
We were given a plate of sliced cucumbers with some kind of seasoning sprinkled all over the top. It wasn’t spicy hot, but it did give the cucumbers a bit of extra flavor. They were cold, crunchy, and tasted great with the additional spice on top.
Bottled Mexican Coke! Awwww yeah. I didn’t see a single aluminum can the entire time we were in Mexico. The cokes were $20 pesos each which is equal to about $1.13 in dollars (current rate is ~17 pesos to one dollar at the time of this post).
[papa con adobada / $57 pesos or $3.21 dollars]
Jake made the wise decision to order a “papa” or potato. I knew I wanted to try this from the photos I saw and we were not disappointed! Jake got it with pork adobada. The potato is like a baked potato that’s stuffed with delicious things. The potato is on the bottom and comes wrapped in foil and topped with your choice of meat, cheese, and this thick creamy sauce on top.
The potato is perfectly cooked – it’s fluffy and kind of creamy in texture. The thick creamy sauce was almost like a really flavorful sour cream. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly but it tasted wonderful on top of the meat, potatoes, and melted cheese. This was a really awesome dish!
[quesataco with new york steak and shrimp on corn tortilla / $39 pesos or $2.20 dollars]
And these are Quesatacos! A “quesataco” is cheese that’s been melted and grilled – then the fillings are placed on top of the melted cheese and folded over. You can order a quesataco by itself without a corn or flour tortilla but I have no idea how you’d manage to pick that up and eat it. By ordered it “con maiz” or “con harina” you get that outer shell to make it a bit more portable and easier to get it into your mouth.
We ordered the quesatacos as New York with “camaron” or shrimp. The “New York” part means New York steak. It’s a bit different than carne asada – it looked like strips or bits of steak. Each quesataco is topped with fresh slices of avocado and that wonderful creamy sour cream-like sauce on top. The cheese is grilled to perfection and the shrimp and steak bits are melted and cooked right into the cheese.
[quesataco on flour tortilla / $58 pesos or $3.27 dollars]
My mom wanted her quesataco on a flour tortilla instead – it was much larger in size than the corn tortillas and costs about a $1 more.
Here’s a side angle I-already-took-a-bite shot of the taco. It was STUFFED with delicious shrimp and the NY steak was delicious inside of the taco. The crunchy-creamy grilled cheese added so much flavor to this taco and just took it to the NEXT LEVEL. That creamy sauce on top really tied it all together as well adding a little bit of tang, sweetness, and creaminess.
I love the grilled cheese which was creamy with little bits of crunch from being on the grill. It was the perfect combo and the perfect way to incorporate cheese! Melted cheese is the best – way better than the unmelted bright orange cheese you see on a lot of tacos in the States.
[carne asada taco and adobada taco on corn tortillas / $23 pesos or $1.30 dollars]
Just for reviewing sake we also ordered two “normal” tacos – one beef and one pork – to see how they stacked up. They were no where near as good as the quesataco. They tasted kind of disappointing after I had already tried the quesataco.
[quesataco dulce on flour tortilla / $58 pesos or or $3.27 dollars]
Now for my “weird” order… I wanted to try the “quesataco dulce” which is a sweet dessert taco. You get to choose what kind of meat (yes, it also comes with meat) to put inside and I choose beef again and a flour tortilla.
It has the same grilled cheese as the other quesatacos but then it’s topped with a sweetened strawberry sauce and nuts.
Inside the quesataco are bits of grilled pineapple plus the steak – all grilled into the cheese. This is a really hard item to describe because it’s so different from anything I’ve tried. The strawberry sauce is not insanely sweet but you definitely know it’s sweet strawberry. The nuts on top give it a little crunch and texture. The flavors of the savory meat contrast with the sweet pineapple bits and the hot cheese to create this kind of complex sweet-savory combination that was a bit mind boggling. It wasn’t terrible… but it wasn’t the greatest things I’ve ever eaten. Mostly it was just different and my mind kept trying to figure out what in the world was going on in my mouth! I’m not sure I’d want to order it again – but I’d definitely have a bite again if someone offered it to me. In any case, if you’ve never tried it I would recommend it mostly so you could try something totally different than what you can get in the US!
Tacos Salseados (Yelp)
Calzada Ermita Norte 30 Local A, Santa Cruz
22105 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Going to Popotla
After lunch we headed out towards Rosarito. Rosarito is where we were staying and it’s not a very far drive from Tijuana.
On the drive down, I was looking out the window when I spied these two champs climbing around on the roof!
I like to think that these German Shepherds were perhaps scoping out a place where they could score themselves some hot dogs.
Since it was too early to check-in, we drove further down past Rosarito to this arch. The view of this arch is actually from when you are leaving Popotla but this is the marker to look for when heading to Popotla which is a little village by the sea. It’s hard to miss with it’s mismatched, crumbling archway.
There was a line and there was a “police officer” standing just past the entrance. When we originally went through we saw my dad get stopped and then drive off. The person in front of us handed something over and then it was our turn – but Jake and I had no idea what she was saying to us. Jake explained in Spanish that the car ahead was our parents and then she just kind of shook her head and let us go. My dad told me they were asking for “donations” which he refused to pay. We didn’t pay either but that’s because we had no idea what they wanted. Are these really “police officers” or just people who are wearing shirts that say “Police” on the back? Who knows.
Popotla is a pretty small place and there were a few little restaurants selling various items such as fresh fish and tamales. Everyone tries to get you to come into their restaurant by talking your ear off. The only thing that caught my interest were the corn tamales.
This guy was making a fresh batch of tamales using fresh corn on the cob.
This guy was more than happy to show off his giant batch of tamales.
They had a few different flavors but we got just a plain corn tamale for $1.
It almost looks like a corn on the cob, doesn’t it? The tamale was very sweet and tasted a bit like dessert. It was a bit more on the “wet” side and I thought it could use a dash of salt but it was still quite good. There were bits of corn kernels within the tamale and it had a wonderful sweetness.
We walked around the village to kill a little bit of time and the further we walked in, we saw there was a long line of cars… driving down to the beach! The tide seemed to be coming in but this didn’t stop anyone from driving their cars IN THE OCEAN.
A couple of pretty views around the little village.
There were lots of stray cats and dogs all over the place. This kitty was nice enough to pose for me for a minute.
Someone was grilling some fish nearby. They quoted us $14 dollars per kilo for grilling up some fresh fish. 1 kilo is about 2.2 lbs – so about $6.36 per pound.
Here’s a little closeup of all the cars and trucks parked right on the beach.
They were also selling fresh crabs. GIANT fresh crabs.
Here’s the view of part of the village from the road as we drove away.
We headed back towards the hotel and back towards Rosarito after our adventure to Popotla.
WorldMark at Rosarito Beach
We stayed at the WorldMark at Rosarito Beach – a little community of two bedroom condos with access to the beach. We stayed on the top floor.
Here’s the view from the balcony, looking over at the other building.
And also down to the pool/jacuzzi area. You can’t really tell from this photo, but you can see the ocean waves a little bit. It’s a short walk to the beach from here.
This is the main living room/dining room and kitchen area. The room came equipped with a fully stocked kitchen so you could stay here and prepare all your meals in the condo, if you wanted to.
Here’s the “master” suite with a larger bed and it’s own bathroom.
This is the second bedroom where Jake and I bunked for the night. There is also a pull out sofa so the condo can accommodate up to 6 people.
There was a lovely outdoor patio and each condo get its own grill. How cool! Both bedrooms and the living area had a TV. There’s wifi available, but you have to go down to the Pool Room to use it (there are apparently computers there with internet access – I didn’t check but that’s what it said).
All in all a really nice little resort – very comfy and cozy to stay in, even if Jake and I had to sleep in separate beds (what).
WorldMark Rosarito Beach
Km 28.2 Carretara Libre A Ensenada Int.
295 Rosarito BCN Playas de Rosarito 22710 Mexico
More on the rest of my Mexico adventure – plus our kind of crazy “coming back across the border” story in my next post!