"Exploring Baja California, Mexico" is part of a series recap. If you're just tuning in, you can catch up on the previous post here: Mexico Trip Recap.
Puerto Nuevo is a small coastal town that sits between Ensenada and Rosarito, about a 40 minute drive from the San Diego/Mexico border. The town, known as the "Lobster Capital of Baja," is famous for serving freshly caught spiny lobsters, fried in lard. It may sound simple, but there's a secret method to cooking this lobster that keeps people coming back for more.
There are over 30 restaurants in Puerto Nuevo that serve lobster, but the most popular is Puerto Nuevo I or Restaurant Nuevo. The family who operates the two most popular restaurants also owns many of the restaurants nearby, including Grana's Place, which is where we went. According to Baja Times, "The first really commercial lobster restaurant was started in 1955 by Rosario Grana, and it still is serving Lobster Puerto Nuevo in the same spot, which is on the very first southwestern corner of the main street of the town."
Our waitress recommended two orders total; each order comes with three lobster halves, which ended up being the perfect amount for us. The lobsters are served with a spread of beans, rice, chips, salsa, drawn butter and basket of warm and fresh, homemade flour tortillas. The tortillas are perfectly soft, moist and pliable with silky layers, easily the best that I've ever had in my life. I have the exact same sentiments with the rice and beans - it's on point.
The lobsters are pan-fried in lard, so the meat stays sweet, soft and tender. The secret is in the lard. David Nelson of LA Times says "these places use lard as the cooking element and reuse it through the day until it has become an unimaginably rich emulsion of fat and lobster juices." The volume of lobsters results in lobster juices overpowering the lard, so you get lobster that's essentially fried in its own juices. It's ridiculously effin' good; I'm obsessed with these spiny creatures.
In total, we paid $25 per person in cash. The price varies at restaurants based on season and size of the lobsters, so expect an order to be anywhere from $15 to 30 per person. The restaurants in the area are usually open from 10am to 8pm on weekdays, some restaurants stay open until 11pm on Friday and Saturdays. If you go during the weekday like we did, the entire town is pretty dead, which is in some way a good thing because the restaurants have lines out the door on weekends.
I've come to the conclusion that life is so much better when there's a plate of Puerto Nuevo-style lobsters in front of you, waiting to be devoured.
Puerto Nuevo Shops
There's not much in a town that's taken over by restaurants, but I would highly suggest stopping over after eating lobsters to check out Paleteria Y Neveria Ice Cream, a popsicle and ice cream shop.
I had the strawberry cheesecake, which was splendid. I also really loved the pistachio flavor as well. I don't think you can go wrong with any flavors here. It's creamy and tastes like ice cream on a stick, rather than an icy popsicle.
I felt like a kid - the selection of candy and treats at this shop was unreal. My biggest regret is not grabbing a bag of De La Rosa or the chili mango pops.
In addition to candy, there's dried fruits, many of which are coasted in sugar and covered in chili, along with shelves of vanilla extract.
The shops are, kind of, fun to check out. I scored a backpack for $14, which I am pretty sure is the tourist's price, but I didn't mind. I couldn't help but to admire the creative jewelry for sale. If you enlarge and look closely, you'll spot stone fruit pits, acorns, and other uses of seeds and nuts, beautifully dyed and handmade into a necklace or bracelet. I'll need to grab some on our next visit.
I'll see you again soon, Puerto Nuevo!
You can visit this link for maps and directions on how to get to Puerto Nuevo: http://www.puertonuevolobster.com/puerto-nuevo-map.htm