Exploring Baja California, Mexico: Ensenada’s Best Seafood-Centric Carts

"Exploring Baja California, Mexico" is part of a series recap. If you're just tuning in, you can catch up on the series here: Mexico Trip Recap

If you're in Ensenada and hanging out at Papas and Beer, you're missing out on what this little seaside port town really has to offer - cheap, fresh locally caught seafood and, of course, a variety of glorious street eats. When you look past the tourist traps and big titty shot glasses, Ensenada is full of charm that awaits exploration. 

The very first time I went to Ensenada was back in November 2009. I was on a cruise ship celebrating two friends' birthdays and we paid for an incredibly boring excursion that included a lame history walk paired with a margarita stop at Mango Mango, where we learned how to make guacamole. To this day, I still look back and shake my head, shamefully, asking myself why the heck I decided to go along with it and pay for a guacamole lesson instead of immerse myself in the culture that Ensenada truly has to offer. 

So, on our recent visit that's exactly what we did. We ate like locals and explored beaches and markets where no tourists were in sight. In this post, I'm walking through our experience at three of the best seafood-centric carts in Ensenada. 

This is our "Hello from Baja California, Mexico" digital postcard. The drive to Ensenada from Popotla was breathtaking! The scenic views of the coast and cliffs were so beautiful that we had to pull over to take a photo. 

Ensenada's Best Seafood-centric Carts

La Guerrerense

Location: Calle Alvarado y 1era., Centro, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Website: http://laguerrerense.com/index.html

La Guerrerense has been in operation for over 50 years and is the most popular seafood cart in Ensenada to both locals and tourists, serving fresh seafood on tostadas. 

They've been featured in multiple media outlets and popular television shows, like Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations because of their many unique seafood options: fish, shrimp, octopus, pismo clam, sea urchin, sea cucumber, sea snail, fish pate, and more.

We paid 123 pesos ($8) for three tostadas: [1] fish, [2] sea urchin and pismo clam, and [3] sea snail. 

It was love at first bite - the fish tostada was satisfying and flavorful. 

The sea urchin tasted like it was conserved, salty and silky, then topped with supple pink pismo clams and buttery avocado. 

The sea snail tostada was our least favorite and reminds me of a bland steamed and meaty abalone. 

There are also 16 different homemade hot sauces offered at the cart, but we were only able to try a few that we could get our hands on because people were hogging up the space. My favorite is the ‘Chilitos de Mi Jardin’ made with dried chiles, garlic and peanuts, which has earthy and smokey characteristics. 

I'd love to go back again to try out the rest of their options. The sea cucumber and fish pate is on top of my list for next time. 

Mariscos El Guero

Location: Alvarado, Zona Centro, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico

You know a food cart is worth trying when you see locals surrounding it. El Guero offers raw seafood that's fresh, clean, and made to order. 

Upon our arrival, we were confused and did not know how to place an order. There was no menu, so we had to observe and see what other people were eating. Patrick was able to flag a floating worker to ask him how it works.  It turns out that there are specific stations for tostadas, cocktails and shucked oysters. 

 

The workers at the cart are shucking oysters and clams all day, and chopping up all sorts of seafood.  

I saw a station filled with chopped shrimp, fish, clams, mussels, scallops, and octopus. I knew this was something that my life would be incomplete without trying, so we ordered a plate of the tostada mixta. 

The tostada mixta is what dreams are made of. The seafood was piled on so generously that we couldn't even finish it. Instead of a large tostada, we were given a bunch of small ones that are better used for scooping and sharing.

I couldn't believe my ears when Patrick told me that the plate of seafood was only 100 pesos ($6.46). 

Tacos de Pescado Los Originales

Location: Avenida Gastélum & Avenida Benito Juarez, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico

"There is speculation that the Japanese fisherman working off the coast of Ensenada introduced the locals to tempura, hence the battered and fried fish," says Bill Esparza on an interview on KCRW's Good Food.

There are dozens of fish taco stands in Ensenada, but many of them don't care about the quality of ingredients they use. Esparza says that the best stands are the places that use dogfish or angel shark and that it's important to check out a stand's produce and salsa add-ons for quality. He created The Ultimate Guide to the Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada and marked Tacos de Pescado Los Originales as the one spot he would drive across the border for. So, of course, we had to check this place out. 

We arrived at 5pm on a Sunday, so the add-on options were a bit picked over. There's a huge mayo bottle with a community fork in it, fresh shredded cabbage, five different salsas and toasted chile de arbol.

The price of a fish taco is 66 pesos ($4.30) each. It was completely worth it for a generous piece of cazon (shark), battered and fried in pork lard until beautifully plump and crispy. 

It's unlike any fish taco we've ever had before. The shark meat has a firm texture that resembles chicken, but with a lovely flakiness. I don't know if this is best fish tacos spot in Ensenada, but it was so good that I was craving for it again the next day. 

There are many places to try, but so little time. I would love to go back to Ensenada again just for the seafood carts and fish tacos alone. 

A huge thanks to our friend, Sandy (Foodhoe), for her amazingly-documented blog post that we used as a guide: Baja Road Trip: epic seafood in Ensenada.

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