6 Great Dishes from Baja

By Joshua Lurie | July 20, 2009 10 comments
6 Great Dishes from Baja

Food Guide
Last weekend was a Baja blur, featuring a relentless food tour of the northern Baja Peninsula that included state-of-the-art Tijuana tacos, high-end “alta cocina” and Baja Med fusion. We visited more than 20 spots in just over 48 hours. These are just six of the staggering tastes along the way, with a full report to come in the next two weeks.

El Mazateno – Shrimp Taco
Food Baja
The second-largest migrant group in Tijuana hails from the coastal state of Sinaloa. El Mazateno is a leading example of the style, a high-volume open-air taqueria that produces scintillating seafood. The smoked marlin taco was memorable, but couldn’t compete with the taco camaron enchilado, featuring a flaky, paratha-like flour tortilla topped with plump grilled shrimp tossed with chile de arbol.

La Querencia – Beef Tongue Carpaccio
Food Baja
Miguel Angel Guerrero, a fourth generation Tijuanan, invented a style of cooking called Baja Med by combining Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican influences with the best local ingredients. At his nine-year-old restaurant in Tijuana’s Gastronomic Zone, Guerrero features several carpaccios that would shame most high-end L.A. restaurants. My favorite: silky beef tongue carpaccio topped with fried garlic, frizzled scallions/leeks and drizzles of sea urchin cream.

Barbacoa Ermita – Pansita
Food Baja
Every weekend, Hidalgo native Victor Torres opens up his home’s covered patio so people can eat his barbacoa, an entire mutton slow-roasted for 8 hours in maguey leaves that leave the meat moist and aromatic. My favorite part of the experience was digging into the bowl of pansita, a chile-tossed mess of organ meats, include tender strips of stomach and a mixture of kidney, liver and who knows what else. The roasted mutton was great, but didn’t feature pansita’s distinctive organ funk.

Guerrerense – Sea Snail
Food Baja
Sabina Bandera has been producing mind-blowing tostadas from an Ensenada street cart for 33 years, topped her corn crisps with jewels of the sea like sea urchin and sea cucumber. After we had three rounds of tostadas, she passed around a plate of sea snail, featuring warm two-inch steaks that were reminiscent of clam, but not as chewy. The chile marinade helped to make the cooked “meat” supple and flavorful.

Silvestre – Bluefin Tuna Ceviche
Food Baja
Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada and you’ll see circular pens just off the coast. These gigantic pens are used to farm bluefin. We encountered the prized tuna in Valle de Guadalupe at Silvestre. Benito Molina’s seasonal restaurant overlooks his Zinfandel vineyard and features twin mesquite grills. Our first course: luscious ruby-hued bluefin ceviche topped with minced ginger, Serrano chiles and a judicious dressing of olive oil, soy, and balsamic vinegar. This seemingly simple preparation generated explosive flavor.

Los Salceados – Dessert Taco
Food Baja
A decade a ago, Jalisco native Javier Campos Gutierrez invented a taco that utilizes griddled cheese as the tortilla. Word of his state-of-the-art tacos spread and he soon outgrew his street cart. Los Salceados produces several masterful tacos, but it was his dessert taco that blew me away, featuring the crispy cheese tortilla, thin-sliced beef, onions, and mango puree, topped with colorful purees of cherry and strawberry and a sprinkling of chopped pecans. This was a daring combination of savory and sweet elements that complemented each other to the fullest and didn’t lean too far to one side of the flavor spectrum.


  1. Mama Foodie says:

    How do I get to Victor Hidalgo’s Home/Patio for that great sounding Barbacoa Ermita – Pansita. I’m already living ( and drooling) in San Diego! I will be eternally grateful for directions. Thanx, Mama Foodie

  2. Lorraine Lurie says:

    Josh, you certainly have a talent for encouraging people to try the unusual. Your descriptions entice me to try the yummy dishes depicted in your colorful photos.

  3. Great shots and coverage, Josh. It brings back the most appetizing memories of our weekend in Tijuana. I can’t wait to go back.

  4. Josh, you loved the pancita.You’ve made my day.

  5. Nancy says:

    What a food frenzy! Your photos have my mouth watering.

  6. H.C. says:

    Nice — we share similar tastes on many of fave dishes. Also, mind if I used your sea snails photo? (I’ll credit & link, of course) My hands were too saucy by then for me to snap a shot, but I def. regretted once I tasted those juicy lil suckers!

  7. a great list of dishes; I probably would’ve picked the same ones.

  8. Noah says:

    Nice report! Man oh man…what a trip.