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Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina

Mahi mahi tacos.
Photo by Steven Persitza
Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cuisine (RBCC from now on) is everything that its moniker suggests. This place is rockin. This place is Baja style cuisine. This place has a flare for coastal/seafood dishes. Seemingly a cheesy Gaslamp venue designed to allure tourists from far and wide, RBCC really turns up the volume with its service, fun factor and most definitely food. Oh yeah, and the music is really loud, too.

Smack in the middle of the Gaslamp, RBCC was already hopping when we hit it early Saturday afternoon. Conversations, laughter and a live DJall made for an almost ominous entrance. We were five old friends looking for a fun lunch experience. Being bombarded by walls of sound made it almost unapproachable. Leave it to a hostess with an eye for detail and she immediately whisked us away from the clamor of the DJ scene to the quiet setting in the back of the house. Way to train the front of the house folks, especially the first person you meet. Well done.

The venue is kitsch, Mexican themed décor. Murals abound on every wall and you gotta love that all of them have some form of cocktail triumphantly front and center. Hey a Rockin’ bar does not need to be timid. The place has such a fun vibe it is hard not to get caught up in the fiesta. If you can, have a sip of the myriad “Rockin’ Ritas” at your disposal. All were winners, from the house margarita ($8) to the “Caddie Maggie” with 1800 Reposando tequila, sweet & sour and a float of Grand Marinier ($9). They also have “Rocky’s Rum Bar” and, of course, a fleet of ice cold drafts. No one will go thirsty at Rockin’ Baja.

We were instructed that chips and salsa were ours for the taking at their inviting chip and salsa bar. While we don’t mind gathering our own chips and salsa, it would have been nice to have maybe a basket to put the chips into instead of a flat plate. You try balancing sliding chips on a flat service with salsa cups in the other hand. Probably saved us about 1,000 calories though. That said, the chips were crisp and crunchy, the various salsa choices ranged from mild to wild (or rather hot) with black bean and spicy carrots in between. Not a bad way to start a meal, and you can’t blame anyone if you over indulge.

The menu has a vibrant array of options. Rockin’ Baja has seafood dishes galore, burgers, soups, traditional Mexican fare (although several are amped up to a higher level) and pasta dishes. Yes, we said pasta! I know, at a Mexican testaurant, who knew?

Appetizers of crispy calamari (bucket of crispy calamari steak strips with chipotle dipping sauce-$10.99) were tasty morsels of delight. Small in stature they were big on flavor, especially when mixed with the zesty chipotle sauce. These were a standing paper cone of sticky goodness. A sampling of entrees included the tacos fresca which are a 3-pack of nirvana with your choice of chicken and/or carnitas with beans and rice ($9.99). These babies were crunchy, bold with flavor and more than enough for one hombre to savor. Equally heavenly were the mahi mahi fish tacos (fried or grilled and wrapped in corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, tomato, onion, avocado and a creamy taco sauce -$11.99) that and scrumptious indeed. The enticing lobster lover’s combo (Baja-style lobster taco, a lobster enchilada and a cup of lobster corn chowder-$15.99) was the envy of the table. C’mon, lobster, lobster and more lobster. Who could resist a lobster-palooza? Not us.

Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina which is quite the tongue twister to say (especially after a margarita or two) really stepped up the volume from what could easily have been the same old thing. Service was spotty. It started out strong and then our table got lost in the shuffle. Regardless it was a beautiful, sunny Saturday in San Diego and that alone allows for several misgivings. Being former frequent visitors to Puerto Nuevo south of the border, RBCC delivers a similarly flavorful experience, which is awesome since we are not thrilled about heading that direction these days. Enjoy fivelocations, including Gaslamp, Old Town and Oceanside.