The Ultimate Guide to Eating in Ensenada, Mexico

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Ensenada, Mexico’s seafood capital, is a haven for foodies and beach lovers alike. This charming surf town offers an array of fresh seafood, from fried fish tacos to refined regional plates, all prepared with passion and expertise by local chefs. Here, you’ll find the best restaurants, street carts, and hidden gems serving up delicious ceviches, aguachiles, cocktails, and just-caught shellfish.

 La Opah del Güero

For a taste of traditional Baja cuisine, head to La Opah del Güero, a street cart in El Sauzal that serves smoked opah stew. This dish is a nod to the region’s gastronomic heritage from Sinaloa and Sonora. The cart offers a unique combination of fin, belly, top loin, and breast, all garnished with a sauce made from mustard, red wine, and habanero.

 El Nuevo Jalisciense

For the best tempura-battered fish and shrimp tacos in Ensenada, visit El Nuevo Jalisciense. This humble restaurant is a favorite among local chefs, who rave about its light, mustard-colored batter and fresh seafood. Enjoy your tacos with Mexican cream or mayo, pico de gallo, cilantro dressing, and red or green salsa.

 Tacos El Paisa

Experience the flavors of Ensenada at Tacos El Paisa, where you can enjoy fire-roasted carne asada and tacos adobada (al pastor tacos) alongside steamed beef head. The menu also features quesatacos, quesadillas, mulitas, and tortas.

 Restaurante Madre

For a romantic dinner or a special occasion, head to Restaurante Madre, where chefs Miguel Bahena and Carolina Verdugo have created a “creative Baja California kitchen” menu. Highlights include ceviche shakeado (shrimp and scallops mixed with lime juice, chile serrano, and cactus) and camarones en costra de pepita (pumpkin seed-crusted shrimp over piquant shrimp chile atole salsa).

 Boules

Located next to Revolution Park, Boules offers an inviting patio setting perfect for enjoying a glass of Mexican wine from its adjacent Contra wine shop. Pair your wine with modern Baja surf and turf delights, including local shellfish, Baja-style ceviches dressed with soy sauce, creamy seafood risottos, and steaks cooked over an open flame. Share your meal with friends and enjoy several bottles of wine while playing petanque (boules) on the adjacent court.

 Casa Marcelo

If you can’t make it to La Cava de Marcelo’s cheese tasting in Ojos Negros, Casa Marcelo offers a more accessible way to try the brand’s fresh, aged, and snacking cheeses. The breakfast menu features Mexican classics like chilaquiles, egg dishes, and machaca (beef jerky), while lunch options include Ensenada-style ceviches, tiraditos, and roasted fish.

 Oyster Shuck

Chef Christian Herrera brings his expertise with shellfish to this cool, kick-back patio near Parque Revolución. Order a dozen Bendito Mar oysters to start, paired with a chocolata clam prepared with finely diced vegetables and habanero confit oil or oysters and clam au gratin cooked over mesquite. Diners may even see a whole tuna cooking on a vertical spit for tacos.

 La Concheria

Located near the tourist zone, La Concheria offers an unusually wide variety of local clams, mussels, and oysters in its contemporary shellfish bar. Try the delightfully salty oysters, chocolate and Pismo clams, and Manila clams or mussels steamed in local wine and herbs. Pair your order with a cool, crisp ceviche dressed with Persian cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and purple onions.

 La Morocha Resta Bar

This rustic, beach-chic hangout offers signature cocktails like the Rey Flamingo, made with sidra, and a selection of wines from Valle de Guadalupe. Share flatbread with crab claws, chicharrón de pescado with tortillas and salsas, or a tostada de atún rubbed with chile pasilla mixe.

 Hussong’s Cantina

This historic bar has been serving Ensenada since 1892. While the margaritas are okay, the beer is cold, and the bandera (a trio of lime juice, sangrita, and beer)

 Raw Oyster Bar

Join Chef Melissa Navarro at her Raw Oyster Bar for a unique dining experience. This modern take on the traditional barra fria and barra caliente (cold and hot bars) offers fresh Baja oysters and clams with simple garnishes, as well as battered oysters stained by squid ink, oyster croquettes, and kumamoto oyster shots. Try the duela de ostiones (oysters on a plank), a flight of six stunning oysters, both fresh and cooked, that exhibit impressive contrasts in technique and dressings.

 Tacos El Fenix Puesto

This popular taco stand is a benchmark for Ensenada’s famous Baja fish and shrimp tacos. Fresh and high-quality dogfish and shrimp are cooked in a flavorful tempura batter, served with standard condiments like chipotle mayo, shredded cabbage, red and green salsas, ketchup, pico de gallo, and mustard.

 Carreta de Mariscos el Gordito

At this tiny stand near the tourist zone, try an order of campechana (mixed seafood cocktail) or local fish ceviche made from ground tuna. But don’t miss out on luxurious shellfish from nearby waters, such as a prepared clam dressed in diced tomato, cucumber, and purple onion, topped with sliced avocado.

 La Cocedora de Langosta

Get your Puerto Nuevo-style lobster fix at this hidden gem in the Black Market. This cozy spot only serves the dish when the lobster is fresh and in season, along with modern Baja-styles like abologue ceviche, aguachiles  (seafood in spicy lime juice), and soy-sauce-dressed sashimi.

 Wendlandt Brewery

This brewery offers a variety of superb beers, including the saison called Hann Zomer, the lighter Baja-style IPA Perro del Mar, and chef Krista Velasco’s personal favorite, Vaquita Marina – an American pale ale named after the endangered porpoise. The gastropub menu features fine versions of American fast-food snacks like onion rings, deep-fried pickles, and chicken wings, as well as Baja-style ceviche, seafood tostadas, and tempura-battered oysters.

 La Guerrerense

No visit to Ensenada is complete without queuing up at this legendary seafood cart from one of Mexico’s most famous traditional cooks. Sabina Bandera and her family serve seafood tostadas, seafood cocktails, and raw shellfish dressed with brilliant, essential salsas that have codified Bandera’s original style.

 Sabina Restaurante

Sabina Bandera’s inaugural brick-and-mortar establishment transcends her renowned tostada, shellfish, and seafood cocktail stand. At Sabina Restaurante, you’ll discover an expanded menu featuring barra caliente (hot bar) classics. Indulge in shrimp albondigas, seafood pozole inspired by Guerrero (the cook’s home state), and a tantalizing smoked oyster-stuffed chile guero taco. Slide along the counter, order ceviche tostadas, savor a Baja fish taco crafted from Bandera’s cherished family recipe, and relish a bowl of clam chowder infused with local mollusks. Enhance your dining experience with Wendlandt’s local craft beer or house wines curated by Mexican wine master Hugo D’Acosta.

 Muelle Tres

After exploring the Black Market (Ensenada’s fish market), veer around the corner to Muelle Tres—a haven for contemporary Baja cuisine. Here, local wines, Mexican craft beers, and fine mezcal complement your meal. The tuna ceviche exemplifies the kitchen’s regional seafood approach, combining quality local fish with citrus, ginger, and soy sauce—a nod to the Asian influences in Baja California cuisine. Amidst the quiet retreat from bustling tourists, indulge in seafood rice, pescadillas (fish quesadillas), and local mussels steamed with green chiles. Pair your feast with one of the delightful white wines available by the glass.

 Mariscos El Guero

Among the bustling street carts lining the tourist zone’s main road, Mariscos El Guero stands out. Known for fresh clams, seafood cocktails, and ceviche tostadas, this spot offers a unique culinary experience. Try the prepared chocolate clam adorned with diced tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and cucumbers, finished with a splash of lime juice and sliced avocado. While ketchup is standard, consider skipping it to savor the natural flavors of this rare clam. Build your own tostada with a base of chopped tuna ceviche, then layer it with squid, octopus, pen shell clams, or lightly cooked raw shrimp infused with lime. Brace yourself for the vibrant and fiery salsa marinating in the molcajete.

 Tacos de Pescado Marco Antonio

When Marco Antonio’s cannery business faced decline, he transformed his industrial plant into a remarkable Baja seafood taco haven. Here, creativity thrives with an array of seafood stew tacos and inventive salsas. Choose from nearly 20 different tacos, including shrimp chile relleno, chipotle shrimp, tuna machaca, and salmon belly. Of course, the regional beer-battered fish and shrimp tacos are exceptional. Don’t miss the condiment bar, where you can customize your tacos with tempting salsas—fiery toasted chiles in vegetable oil, creamy cilantro and chipotle dressings, cured habaneros and onions, and vibrant pureed chiles with hints of salt and water.

 Manzanilla

Step into this former warehouse-turned-restaurant, nestled across from Ensenada’s shipyard, and slide onto its antique wooden bar. Order one of the best gin and tonics you’ll ever have, expertly crafted with citrus, Japanese cucumber, wild fennel, and Hendrick’s gin.

Pair your G&T with locally farmed Kumamoto oysters, served both fresh and grilled with Ramonetti cheese and tarragon, or opt for fried abalone and seaweed in a delightful nod to fish and chips. Chef Benito Molina, a pioneer of modern Mexican cuisine, has carefully selected a range of local white wines to complement your meal.

Once seated at a table, indulge in iconic dishes like the taco of the day (which might feature octopus, chicharron, and refried black beans), fish of the day (made with rockfish), or Molina’s creative takes on traditional Baja California quail, served with poached quail eggs.

Mariscos el Coyote

For nearly three decades Joaquín “El Coyote” has been serving up top-quality shellfish, Ensenada-style ceviche, and seafood cocktails loaded with a variety of seafood at the peak of freshness. Tostadas spread with finely chopped tuna ceviche are delicious on their own, but the local fashion is to add chopped shrimp, sea snail, or local clams on top. Look for briny oysters, umami-rich blood clams, known a pata de mula, and luxury clams like chocolata, pismo, or reina, either au natural, or prepared with diced red onion, cucumber, tomato, lime juice, and cilantro, plus salsas. This is also the place to go for seafood cocktails made with a light but flavorful cocktail sauce that highlights the seafood.

Source: Eater San Diego