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While San Diego has enough delights and sights to satisfy anyone looking for a great night on the town or a weekend visit, another great feature of this fantastic city is its close proximity to Mexico, particularly Baja California. Whether you’re looking for a day trip of full of interesting escapades or a weekend of amazing adventures, head south and don’t look back.
While many first timers to Mexico will find themselves drawn to the easy route of heading for Tijuana, let me challenge you to drive another twenty minutes further and discover a better experience and a feast of fun culinary opportunities.
First you can stop in historic Rosarito and I highly recommend a visit to a quaint little restaurant located on the main strip in downtown Rosarito called El Nido. The interiors decor of the restaurant itself is worth the visit. Elaborately outfitted with a tropical and Mexican ranch style motif that transcends the concept of over-the-top, with a huge birdcage featuring numerous parakeets, cascading waterfall and large umbrellas over each table. Yet in this case over-the-top is a good thing. You feel like you are somewhere else and that is what a vacation or time away from home is all about. Upon being seated you will be immediately be treated to warm homemade tortilla chips and salsa, both authentic and fresh. The margaritas are made to order (no frozen vending machine here) and whether fruity or sour, either satisfies the tequila palette. A bowl of bean soup starts your meal and warms up your tummy. The menu has the usual Mexico cuisine to delight your taste buds, but this reviewer highly recommends the Carne Asada steak. The plate offers delectable meat that drips of flavor, cooked to your desire, accompanied by a baked potato with all of the trimmings. Now you may think this doesn’t sounds like a traditional Mexican meal, but the seasonings and delights of the Carne Asada are nothing like you will find elsewhere. El Nido also boasts a range of game meats (venison and elk) and lamb.
About 15 minutes further south takes you to a quaint little restaurant enclave of Puerto Nuevo. Catering to tourists and locals alike, the downtown avenue is packed with one restaurant after another. This reviewer prompts you to travel the distance to the end of the street, look on the right side and you will find both Ortegas and Ortegas Patio. The separate restaurants are each owned by brothers and offer a different type of ambiance for you to choose from.
Ortegas Patio has a more polished flare and is well suited for a romantic dinner for two. Nicely furnished with deep wood pieces that are complimented with candles that cause the lights to flicker and dance on the walls. Again, this is Mexico, so tortilla chips and salsa appear instantly while margarita orders are placed. Tortilla soup then finds its way in front of you to welcome you to a night of traditional Mexican cuisine. Our party enjoyed chicken fillets, beef fajitas, and lobster. Rice and beans complimented all of our orders along with fresh, homemade flour tortillas served warm that literally melt in your mouth. As you begin your build-your-own burrito session, the hardest part of the evening comes into play; getting yourself to stop gorging as an endless supply of tortillas and fixings loom in front of you.
Lastly is my personal favorite and that is Ortegas. Situated at the end of the block the restaurant is a three level building offering lots of spacious settings, many of them by the window where the shops below and the ocean beyond beckon your attention. Traversing the different levels is the first part of your journey here, as you travel up a winding staircase until you loop yourself to the top and the delights that await you there. As always, chips and salsa arrive and pitchers of margaritas join them with tortilla soup hot on its tail. While there are other festive items to tantalize you, look no further than their famous lobster burritos. Awarded in sizes of small, medium, large or extra large, your meal will include two halved deep fried delectable lobster tails for you to savor. Accompanied by melted butter, rice, beans, (the guacamole is worth the side order) and more of the warm, fresh tortillas and your meal is set. Always wandering amongst the tables, making sure his customers are enjoying themselves, is owner Manual who will quickly introduce his lovely wife, Rosa. Mariachi bands will seal the meal away with a smile on your face and a contented tummy, warm and satiated from the meals splendor.
Prices for all of the restaurants range in the $10 to $15 dollar range, even the flavorful lobster tails and while American dollars can be used at all three venues, they do not take credit cards. We highly recommend overnighting in one of the areas charming hotels (Calafia or Los Rocas are two favorites) as a nap is always in order after a fabulous day of enjoying Puerto Nuevo.
El Nido, Rosarito Beach
Ortega’s, Puerta Nuevo
Ortegas Patio, Puerta Nuevo
- City: Rosarito Beach & Puerta Nuevo