Adventuring in Mexico Part 2: Rosarito and Ensenada

After we went to Popotla and checked into the room, we hung out for a little while before venturing back out to check out Rosarito. We headed down towards the beach first.

ocean-pier-rosarito

The tide was pretty high so we decided to not walk on the beach. In the distance we could see a pier that jutted out into the ocean. 

ocean-waves-rosarito

riding-horses-on-the-beach

And we saw a bunch of people riding horses on the beach. There was an area right before you got into the main part of Rosarito that had horses for rent, as well as camels and donkeys. I don’t know if you can ride a camel on the beach but we saw camels!

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Jake and I by the ocean.

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After checking out the ocean views, we headed into the main part of town and walked around to do some shopping. We went into a few dulcerias (candy shops) and also went into a little market area right off of Benito Juarez. There’s an arch that shows the entrance to this hidden marketplace (which I didn’t photograph) where there are tons of stalls selling all kinds of things: jewelry, pottery, paintings, shirts, ponchos, hammocks, etc. Tons of stuff! It was late when we wandered through there and most of the stalls were closing up for the night.

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churro-cart-wheel

While we wandered through the market, I spied this churro cart in the back of a yet another candy store (we probably passed by at least 4 candy shops). I totally dug this “steering wheel” design for making the churros. We didn’t buy any but I loved looking at the cart.

Dinner in Rosarito

tacos-el-norteno

There were a few taco stands on the main drag and we just randomly picked one of them. Tacos el Norteno is where we ended up. 

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There was a woman making fresh tortillas.

For the menu – pesos are on the left, dollars are on the right. Tacos were a dollar each while just about everything else was $2.50. 

tacos-el-norteno-overview

tacos-el-norteno-adobada-station

This was the adobada station. Check out that giant slab of meat!

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I don’t know what this guy was chopping up. The meat looked like some cut of pork.

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I thought it was interesting they used a tree stump as their cutting board.  

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Jake and I ordered a variety of stuff for all of us to try out. These are the adobada tacos ($1 each) topped with guacamole, onions, and cilantro. The adobada was HELLA SPICY. Like “holy crap” spicy! I had one bite of the tacos and that was enough for me. Usually the guacamole will help temper the flavor and spice of the adobada, but it was just spicy through and through. My mom had ordered a burrito with adobada before we tried it and Jake had to eat it since it was too spicy for my mom. Jake ate it later in the evening and said that it was extra extra spicy eating the whole thing. Crazy.

tacos-el-norteno-adobada-torta-sandwich

Jake ordered a torta ($2.50) for himself using the crazy spicy adobada. It tasted slightly less spicy with the bread, but still too much for me. Jake seemed to enjoy the torta though but thought it should have lettuce or something on it.

tacos-el-norteno-carne-asada-tacos

Here are some carne asada tacos ($1 each) that we ordered for my folks.  They were not spicy and didn’t set anyone’s mouth on fire – hooray! I liked these much better since I could actually eat them. 

tacos-el-norteno-mulita-carne-asada

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For myself, I got a carne asada mulita ($2.50). A mulita is kind of like a quesadilla but with all of the fixings of a taco. It had melted cheese, carne asada, guacamole, onions, and cilantro. I thought this was pretty good and the carne asada wasn’t bad. Not mind blowing, but pretty decent. 

tacos-el-norteno-mula-pork

Mulita with evil spicy adobada ($2.50). I wish I had asked what meat was on that tree stump cutting board so we could have tried it in one of these items!

tacos-el-norteno-quesadilla

I also got a plain quesadilla ($2.20) which was a little too plain to me. The cheese in this was just kind of meh. I was thinking of the awesome quesadillas from Tacos el Gordo when I ordered this but it wasn’t anything like that. Oh well.  

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Jake offering me a bite of his torta. 

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And me taking him up on that offer.

All in all Tacos el Norteno was just an okay spot. Not mind blowing but at least it was cheap. 

Tacos el Norteno
Boulevard Benito Juárez
22700 Rosarito, Mexico

Ensenada

On Sunday morning we headed down to Ensenada for a little drive.

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The first thing we up was the Seafood Market. Look how pretty they made their display of shrimp!

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The thing I noticed about walking through the market was that there was NO fishy smell at all. You could really tell all of this stuff was very fresh. 

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There was an indoor side and this more outdoor side. We saw lots of different kinds of fish, including garibaldi. If, for some reason, you ever wanted to eat a garibaldi then Mexico is the place to do it (since it is a protected fish in California). 

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My mom bought a few clams, some crab and some scallops. 

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Clams! 

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This is a view of the whole market from above. 

ensenada-taco-shops

Right near the market are tons of little restaurants. As you walk by, they have people outside who try to entice you to pick their restaurant. We paused in front of a couple of spots and these two ladies really went at it, trying to convince us to choose their place instead. Of course they were both talking very fast in Spanish – just about the only thing they’d say in English was “No like, you no pay!”

Time for Lunch!

My dad randomly picked one. They all seemed alike. Each place was like this little stall with just a few tables. 

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-cooking-station

If you wanted to use the bathroom, it was upstairs. When I came back down, I snapped this photo. 

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And here’s the view of where I just was. There were also a few tables outside.

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This is the upper area. 

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Each table had this big goblets filled with different salsas. Is this sanitary to leave it out like this? Meh. You’re in Mexico. Just go with it. But don’t drink the water. 

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Hot sauce.

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They brought us some chips. These were just from a bag. They had no salt on them. 

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Fresh pico de gallo.

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Menu! You can tell this was a touristy spot since everything was in Spanish and English.

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There’s a heavy focus on seafood here – unsurprising. 

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[whole fried fish / $130 pesos or a little over $7 dollars]

Mom ordered a whole fried fish and was pretty excited about it. She really enjoyed it. I have no idea what kind of fish this is, sorry.

Those teeth, man. Oy. 

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-clams-on-the-shell

[clams / $35 pesos or about $2 dollars]

I ordered the clams. I think you can get these raw and I made sure that Jake ordered them prepared. I wasn’t even sure how they would be prepared when I ordered it but clams sounded good to me. It arrived covered in cheese – hooray! 

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-cooked-clams

There were a ton of chopped up bits of clams inside the large clam shell. Inside there was a buttery sauce with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro and the whole thing was covered in gooey, melted cheese. It was delicious! It reminded me a bit of a Clams Casino type of recipe – very flavorful with the juices and sauce inside. 

Mom and I both got our food – but then the tacos that we ordered never arrived. The chef never cooked them! My dad bugged the waitress and she told the cook who seemed surprised that we had ordered additional food. Miscommunication, hooray. 

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-carne-asada-taco

[carne asada taco / $18 pesos or about $1]

After a little extra wait, the tacos came out. Jake ordered one carne asada taco. It comes plain – you dress it yourself with what’s available on the table. In addition to the salsas there was also crema, cabbage, and fresh pico de gallo. 

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-plain-fish-taco

[fish taco / $14 pesos or about $.80 cents]

Jake and my dad both got fish tacos. Again… I’ve no idea what kind of fish it was, but it was some kind of white fish!

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-fish-taco

Dad dressed his fish taco with crema, cabbage, and pico.

el-taco-riendo-ensenada-shrimp-taco

[shrimp taco / $18 pesos or about a $1 dollar]

I ordered a shrimp taco in addition to my tasty clam. It looks a lot like the fish taco, doesn’t it? It was a few shrimp and they seemed to all be battered together in one long strip. I thought that was weird since it was actually a few pieces of shrimp.

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I added a little crema, pico, and extra cilantro on top of my shrimp taco.

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Here’s a little peek – you can see a little bit of the pink shrimp! It was very crunchy on the outside and the shrimp was perfectly cooked and juicy. I loved the light, crunchy batter on the outside of the shrimp – it was pretty tasty! 

El Taco Riendo
Corner Blvd. Cardenas and Calle Miramar
Ensenada, Baja California

driving-back-to-rosarito

We drove around Ensenada a little bit and then headed back up to Rosarito so Jake and I could fetch my car and head back home. Here’s a little bit of the view from the drive back to Rosarito. You drive right along a windy road right on the coast. Most of the drive there was no development and just mountains and fields (where we saw horses and a few cows). Very pretty drive!

Jake and I made a couple of additional stops before we left to pick up some extra snacks, candies for the kids, and some tamales. 

tamale-stand-tijuana

There was this little stretch by the side of the road that had about 7 or 8 different tamale stands in a row. We parked and just went to the one we parked the closest to. It was just a simple little stand where the lady had pots of tamales available. 

tamale-stand-sign

If you’re going to Mexico and bringing tamales back, don’t get pork tamales. Pork is not allowed across the border in any form. We bought chicken, cheese, and corn tamales and these were fine for bringing across. Make sure if you buy any produce, that it’s allowed to come across the border as well. Lots of stuff isn’t allowed to cross! This article is a good place to start.

Lessons Learned: Crossing the Border

border-churros

So here’s the happy part of our border crossing: freshly made churros! 

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Goodness these were pipping hot and so incredibly delicious. Better than most of the churros you can get in the states and the whole bag cost $2. YUM.

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This view is from the first time we tried to cross. Yes. “First” time.

We made the horrible mistake of getting IN THE WRONG LANE.

There are three lanes – the Sentri Lane, the Ready Lane, and an “All Traffic Lane”. We accidentally got in the Sentri lane. Please don’t do this. The Sentri lane is like a super special lane – people pay a fee to get all their background checks and stuff done so it’s easier to cross the border. If you don’t have a Sentri pass and you get in this lane, you will automatically go to Secondary. Going to Secondary sucks balls. 

Secondary is basically this special area where a border patrol agent more throughly inspects your car – and you. It takes a long ass time as well. We sat in secondary for at least an hour before an agent got to us and inspected our trunk and the under the hood of the car. The agent with us also seemed to be constantly grumpy – which is understandable with a job like this one. 

We had illegal items with us – Cuban rum – which is a big no no. I didn’t know it was Cuban or that it was illegal (I thought it was just like… Cuban cigars and stuff). The agent told us we could either pay a $5,000 fine (which could get knocked down to $1,000) or go back to Mexico to dispose of the illegal items.

Uhhhh, yeah. We chose to go back to Mexico.

Once we told her our decision, she just left. She didn’t tell us what was going on and we just sat there since we didn’t have our passports. We had no idea what was going on at this point. Eventually another agent came by and escorted us through the traffic so we could go back into Mexico. 

Now for our second try…

We drove briefly through Tijuana and I dumped our illegal stuff into a trash can. 

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About four hours later, we made it back to the border. In the correct lane, which says “ALL TRAFFIC” (which are the lanes to the far left). “Ready Lane” is also a special card  thing, so don’t go through that either unless you’re approved for it! If we had been in the wrong lane again, it would have resulted in a $5,000 fine. Trust me, we won’t ever go in the wrong lane again. 

Even though it took FOUR more hours, Jake and I amused ourselves by playing “I Spy”. Every once in a while I’d say, “Hey! This is still better than paying $5,000 dollars!” to keep everything in perspective. It was a very, very, very long day. 

I’ll still go back to Mexico and definitely will not be making the same mistakes we made this time around. 

Author: Mary

Mary is a San Diego native and has been a food blogger for 11+ years. She is an avid reader, a lover of puppies, and loves trying new food. Foods she loves: sweets, peanut butter, pasta, Triscuit crackers with cream cheese, and extra nuts on top of her sundaes. Food she dislikes: pickles, really spicy food, runny eggs, olives, and too much arugula.

10 Replies to “Adventuring in Mexico Part 2: Rosarito and Ensenada

  1. your crossing back story is insane!!! ahh i would go crazy it already takes SO long to cross back the border. and who knew about the rum thing, what an oddly specific thing and even more so why can’t they just let you toss it and then continue on to the US, like if you carried a water bottle into the TSA screening? At least there were street churros!

    1. I believe the agent was trying to “teach us a lesson” or something to that effect. She seemed like she was in a really pissy mood. I was also wondering why we couldn’t just toss it but frankly I was kind of afraid to ask, like she would fine us for asking or something. I think it’s anything Cuban is illegal – which I didn’t know. Perhaps I should have, but the lesson is certainly learned now! The churros were soooooo good at least. Almost bought another bag but resisted.

  2. i have friends that have the Sentri pass. If I were to ride with them, I would actually have to get out of the car and walk across and still have to wait. My friend La Ley has the pass but her mother doesn’t so when they go to TJ and have to go back to the US, her mom has to get out and then it takes longer because they have to process her at the border. That sux.

    The last time I was in Mexico was about 10 years ago for La Ley’s wedding reception. Getting in to MX was easy but getting back to the US sucked. I actually forgot my ID and passport. Bert’s dad’s funeral was the week before the reception and I had switched purses. Well, I forgot my wallet in the other bag. The guy at the border was a total a-hole – an older grumpy white guy who quizzed us mercilessly especially after he found out Bert was born in the Philippines (they asked us our place of birth) and after he found out I didn’t have any ID on my except for my work ID. Luckily, we did NOT get sent to secondary. He very easily could have sent us there. But we did have to wait a super long time in line, about three hours. It totally would have been my fault if we got sent to secondary. This was around 1 am. OMG. This incident made me not want to cross the border ever again. Even if I do have my ID card, passport, etc.

    As for the food you guys had there – wow, no wonder my Mexican friends think the taco prices in the US are a ripoff! It’s dirt cheap in MX! I can’t believe the garibaldi is sold there. It’s protected here and illegal to capture/kill/eat them. The young garibaldi are quite aggressive and territorial. Bert went snorkeling in La Jolla Cove back in college (this was before those damn seals took over and polluted the water and the air) and many of them were “rushing” at him and making clicking noises.

    The fried fish looks pretty good, teeth and all. I know my parents would have been excited to eat that, ha ha (Filipinos).

    Looks like you guys had a great time, except for the ordeal on the way back to cross the border. Great food, good prices and experiencing a different culture.

    1. Yeah, I should have looked up what the Sentri pass was first… I had no idea! It’s good for it you cross the border a lot but no good if you go in that lane and don’t have it. Ugh. I think the Border Patrol peeps don’t have fun at their job – I mean, their job is to basically find criminal activity so I guess that’s what makes them so grumpy!

      The tacos are soooo cheap! Pretty much all of our meals were very cheap down there. I forgot to put the price we paid for the tamales – but it was less than a dollar per tamale from that little roadside stand. I definitely want to go back and try more food… just need to pay more attention when we cross the border…

  3. Oooh yay plenty of my favorites!! The Rosarito beaches are absolutely beautiful. And those tacos look SOOO good!! Kinda looks like the ones they sell at Tacos El Gordo. I’ve made several trips to Ensenada too, and we usually always hit up the fish market-we usually buy our own fish and then bring it to one of the nearby restaurants and they’ll cook it for us. I think I’ve taken the San Ysidro crossing once but we usually just take the Otay one…although it still takes about 2 hours. At least there are hot churros!! 😉

    1. Hi Joleen – Mexico was a lot of fun! We may just take that Otay crossing next time and hope for less of a wait. The churros were the best!

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