When I created The Fork Lifter, blinders on, I was only thinking about Sothern California. How could I even think about overlooking one of the greatest influences of our region since before the white man even arrived in California? Baja California. Yeah, Mexico. The media has done a really good job of creating a sort of paranoia we should all associate with danger, drug cartels, corrupt police and possibly being locked up in a dirty Tijuana jail with a dirt floor and a bucket in the corner to relieve yourself in, of course with the hopes of never, ever getting out. Come on, man. Really? If you’ve ever traveled anywhere in the world or even anywhere in the United States, apply the same common sense when you travel to Mexico. Don’t be the dumb, obnoxious American and you’ll be just fine. Put some adventure in your life, cross the border and discover a culture that has greatly influenced more than just the food we eat.
Friends of ours told us about a place between Rosarito and Popotla, that by far had the best fish tacos around. The place, Tacos Baja Jr.; a few minutes south of downtown Rosarito. We have enjoyed eating there ever since our first trip 11 years ago.
Last weekend my wife and I decided to take the boys down there for lunch. We pulled up to the colorful, small restaurant located just off of the main road, across from several tile, ceramic, and wooden furniture shops.
Husband and wife, Andres Christoval and Rosa Martinez are the owners of Tacos Baja Jr., started out of a humble food truck in 1995. After several years of building a loyal customer base, Andres realized that the food truck was no longer able to handle the amount of business they were doing and decided to set up shop in their current location. A bigger space, lots of room for people to sit, inside and out with a traditional Mexican style patio and cocktail area with lush plants and a beautiful fountain, along with the proverbial larger than life, wall mounted shark, swordfish and dorado watching the diners from above. A true success story considering Andres did not have any restaurant experience prior to starting his food truck in 1995.
We make the 1 hour trip from San Diego to Tacos Baja Jr. several times a year just to have lunch. To say the food is good is an understatement.
We have our favorites, and this time our boys; Jonas and Jude got to make their own fish tacos. Quite an experience for them, one I hope they will remember.
Caldo De Mariscos, loaded with swordfish, squid, shrimp, and octopus, swimming in a hearty seafood consommé. When I asked Andres how he makes the base for this soup he politely stated, “There’s a lot of different stuff in there.” I think if he told me then it would be like giving away one of his secrets. As a fellow cook I understood.
The Taco California with shrimp, octopus and grilled onions, a new item just added to the menu did not disappoint. The crisp sweetness of the shrimp, the chew of the tender octopus, and the char of the grilled onions are a great, an unexpected combination of flavors. Delicious and a great addition to the menu.
Of course we always have to have a few of our favorite Tacos De Pescado. Fried to a crispy golden color the fish is fresh and light, dressed with shredded cabbage and tomatoes, served in freshly made corn or flour tortillas.
We love Tacos Baja Jr. and always look forward to making the trip south of the border, Andres and Rosa make us feel right at home. Located at Blvd. Popotla No. 639 km. 28.8 pasando el 7/11 Nxt: 125*1032*973 Cel: (661)112-8346.
Heading back to San Diego we always make a stop at my son’s favorite piñata shop, located in the heart of Rosarito. An open shop situated on a corner, it is loaded with hundreds of colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling as well as selling many dried fruits, nuts, spices, candies, fresh cheeses and dried meats. Spend a little money and get a piñata, buy some Mexican candy, dried chilies, machaca (dried, shredded beef), cotija cheese or whatever you think looks interesting. My motto is, “You always have to try something at least once.” So be adventurous.
One last indulgence before crossing back into San Diego…”Diabolitos.” Mango Sorbet with Chile and Chamoy; sweet, spicy, salty, fruity, and creamy. It will literally blow your mind when you take the first bite. It’s almost confusing on how and why it is so good. Only one of the many things sold by street vendors to those waiting in their cars heading back through customs.
Expand your horizons, have an adventure, indulge your senses and take a trip south of the border. You will be amazed at what you will find and experience.