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This was my first time visiting the west coast of Mexico so I wasn't really sure what to expect - and frankly all you hear these days about the Pacific coast is about how dangerous it is. While that may be true in spots, during a recent tour of Ensenada Mexico I found it a very fun and unusual, with more to do than a frankly was expecting.
Unlike the Caribbean cruise ports I am used to, Ensenada is a real town with people that lead real lives and aren't just there to look pretty and offer excursions to rich American tourists. However there is some of that too, though it was more like visiting a regular city vs a sanitized "made for tourists" experience.
Honestly I can't wait to go back and explore the tourist stuff in Ensenada like La Bofadora or a tour of the local wineries, but this time it was about tasty mariscos and margaritas with a friend and fellow blogger, Sugar Jones!
This included a quick tour of the downtown area, complete with a visit to a fish market, street food vendors, pharmacies, a margarita bar, and finally wrapped stuff up with a visit to the beach and a French food truck.
I am completely shocked as to how a town like Ensenada can support a fabulous fish market, but in San Diego - only a few miles north across the border, "seafood" means fish, shrimp, and shellfish from somewhere else in the world. Here, I can walk through an amazing fish market or "pescaderia" and dream of a time to return when I can get a villa on the beach with a kitchen so I can cook up some of these delicious mariscos.
Luckily, there were street vendors not too far away!
Mariscos El Guero I was told was one of the better ones in Ensenada and while I honestly have no idea what the dishes that I had were called, they were delicious and inexpensive.
What's amazing about these guys is that everything is incredibly fresh. Fish that was caught just hours ago was then chopped up and served right in front of us.
After a few clamshells of what essentially is ceviche with avocado and hot sauce, it was time for a margarita!
If we were going for the "Gringo Tour" of Ensenada we would certainly have stopped at Hussong's - the "Birthplace of the Margarita" ... instead we chose to stop by El Corralito Cantina a sort of "biker" bar celebrating the Baja off-road racing scene. The walls were COVERED with dollar bills, football was on the TV's and memorabilia from the different Baja races adorned the ceilings and walls.
After a few margaritas it was time to head down to the beach - but first we stopped at Cocos Locos for some more street food!
There were a variety of different recipes here ranging from nachos in a Doritos bag to savory and sweet coconuts. One of the interesting things about here is that they didn't just serve up the coconut meat - but also gave you the water in a bag to drink. All for just a few bucks.
On the beach here was a great man who Sugar tells me is one of the best street food vendors in Ensenada, Yiyo who's people prepared some amazing food that has inspired me to try to recreate it back home.
The almeja gratinada essentially is chopped clams covered in cheese stuffed into a clam shell and roasted in a fire, but it was AMAZING and delicious. I am sure it would still be almost as good if we were eating it in a restaurant, but the fact that we were on a beautiful beach in Mexico with friends made it just that much better.
After a few clam shells here, it was time for our last stop - a culinary collective with food from Cuba, Argentina, and even France.
Ensenada is attracting a large number of ex-pats and from what we were told, this is fueling an increase in international cuisine and culture.
Once inside the Collectivo Culinario, we found a row of food stands and picnic tables. This was absolutely no-frills but sometimes that's where you find the best stuff!
So, that's the non-traditional side of Ensenada and an experience that makes me want to go back and check out more of the city.