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A hand holds a taco outside. A long piece of fried fish sits in the taco topped with lettuce, onions, and sauces Bill Esparza

The 22 Essential Restaurants in Ensenada, Mexico

Where to find fried fish tacos, crisp Mexican wines, and all the ceviches, aguachiles, cocktails, and just-caught shellfish you can eat in Baja’s inviting surf town.

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Ensenada is Mexico’s seafood capital. One of the region’s most beloved tacos, the fish taco, can be found on every corner, but chefs are also well versed in the diverse regional seafood styles of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Nayarit. They revamp the barra fria (cold bar) using cultivated geoduck, abalone, and oysters, while offering refined versions of regional plates made with wild quail, lamb, spider crab, and a variety of fish. Meanwhile, seafood carts boast products worthy of Japan’s Tsukiji market, such as callo de hacha (pen shell clam), sea urchin, Pismo clam, and the rare chocolate clam, all prepared with vegetables and sauces, alongside heaping tostadas topped with a seafood tower’s worth of oceanic products. Many carts are run by steadfast, traditional cooks, like La Guerrerense’s Sabina Bandera, who has become one of the most famous street vendors on the planet.

Around 2000, the wealth of local seafood, produce, olive oil, and food-friendly wines from the nearby Valle de Guadalupe attracted chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris to open their seminal Ensenada restaurant, Manzanilla. Their kitchen has helped popularize modern Baja cuisine here but also in Mexico City, Oaxaca, and beyond. Now, Ensenada’s upscale seafood producers, iconoclast chefs, and food carts influence contemporary Mexican seafood all over the world. Here’s where to eat in Mexico’s popular tourist port.

Update, June 2021:

As Mexico begins to welcome more travelers following the worst of the pandemic, Ensenada is open and ready to serve visitors with its bounty of seafood and regional cuisine. Before the pandemic, the restaurant landscape of the city was at its strongest in decades. With interest in Baja tourism from the U.S. picking up, along with a young local crowd buzzing around a vibrant new bar scene at spots like Bodegas de Santo Tomás, Ensenada could quickly reclaim its place at the forefront of the Baja boom.

Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases and travel restrictions, please visit the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:

$ = Less than 200 pesos (Less than $10 USD)

$$ = 200 - 700 pesos ($10 - $35 USD)

$$$ = 700 - 1,500 pesos ($35 - $75 USD)

$$$$ = More than 1,500 pesos ($75 USD and up)

Bill Esparza is a James Beard award-winning freelance food and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Roads & Kingdoms, Food & Wine, Los Angeles Magazine, CNN Parts Unknown, and GQ Mexico. He is a regular contributor to Eater and Eater LA.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. La Opah del Güero

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Calle A 9, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal
B.C., Mexico

Caguama (turtle stew) is one of Baja’s many gastronomic inheritances from the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The dish is prohibited due to the endangered reptile’s protected status and has mostly been replaced by caguamanta (manta ray stew). But a street cart in El Sauzal serves a magnificent stew of smoked opah that local star chef Diego Hernandez swears is “closer to the real caguama” than any manta ray stew you’ll find on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The cart, parked in a home garage, combines gelatinous fin, belly, top loin, and breast, all garnished with a sauce of mustard, red wine, and habanero. El Güero offers the stew along with tostadas of ground opah pate, a style of ceviche typically found in Ensenada. [$]

2. El Nuevo Jalisciense

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Calle Primera, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal
B.C., Mexico

Ask any Baja chef where to go for Ensenada’s world-famous tempura-battered fish and shrimp tacos, and they’ll send you to El Nuevo Jalisciense. It’s where the chefs go when entertaining their chef friends visiting the region. The restaurant, along a lonesome strip of businesses on the way to the tourist zone, consists of two plastic benches and a half dozen seats in an L around a convex comal. Cooks deep-fry dogfish and local shrimp in a light, mustard-colored batter before wrapping them in white corn tortillas and handing them over the counter. Complete them yourself with Mexican cream or mayo, pico de gallo, cilantro dressing, and red or green salsa, but use just enough to appreciate the fine seafood and well-seasoned breading. [$]

A hand holds a taco outside. A long piece of fried fish sits in the taco topped with lettuce, onions, and sauces
Fish taco at El Nuevo Jalisciense
Bill Esparza

3. El Taco de Huitzilopochtli

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De Las Rosas 242, Lomas de Valle Verde, 22810 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Take a break from the best seafood in Mexico for one of the country’s greatest breakfast institutions. In a remote residential neighborhood, hungry locals pay their respects to the patron deity of Tenochtitlan at Ensenada’s weekend-only specialist in Texcoco-style barbacoa (pit-roasted lamb). Come for consommé made from lamb drippings, a variety of lamb cuts, and lamb skulls steamed in an earthen pit, which one of the owners jokes is “our natural microwave” for making tacos in the central Mexican style. The menu also includes traditional quesadillas filled with huitlacoche, squash blossoms, and chicharron prensado (pressed, stewed pork rinds), as well as tlacoyos, a pre-Hispanic masa diamond filled with beans. For a quick bite, order the lamb flautas, a pair of long, deep-fried tacos covered with salsa, lettuce, and cream. [$]

From above, a bowl of lamb consomme topped with lots of chopped cilantro, on a bright gingham tablecloth
Lamb consommé at El Taco de Huitzilopochtli
El Taco de Huitzilopochtli / Facebook

4. Tacos El Paisa

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Avenida 20 de Noviembre 1043, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Nights in Baja California mean fire-roasted carne asada and tacos adobada (the regional name for al pastor tacos). Both are here at El Paisa, along with steamed beef head, all served on corn tortillas dressed with mild red sauce, onions, cilantro, and generous scoops of creamy guacamole, The result is a Baja style of taco that you’ll find from Los Angeles all the way down to Cabo. You can also get the meats in other familiar formats like quesatacos (made with melted cheese), quesadillas, mulitas (meat and melted cheese between two corn tortillas), and tortas. [$]

An adobada taco topped with sauce, chopped cilantro, and onions sits on a slice of butcher paper on top of a plastic-wrapped plate
Adobada taco at El Paisa
Bill Esparza

5. Restaurante Madre

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Calle Octava, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

After closing Pacifico, chefs Miguel Bahena and Carolina Verdugo evolved their kitchen from a purely Baja California approach to a menu based generally on northeastern Mexico. Plus, their cozy, new dining room feels like home. Ceviches with Persian cucumber and cherry tomatoes, tiraditos marinated in algaes and chile morita, and local oysters flavored by fire-roasted chiles satisfy the Ensenadan fundamentals. Meanwhile dry fideos (noodles) are topped with hearty beef head stew, and seasonal grilled vegetables evoke scenes of families gathered around smoky backyard grills in Chihuahua and Sonora — and, of course, Baja California. [$$]

A bowl of noodles and beef, topped with herb garnish
Noodles topped with beef head stew at Madre
Madre / Facebook

6. Boules

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Av Moctezuma 623, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Javier Martinez’s inviting patio, located next to Revolution Park, is a brilliant choice for a glass of Mexican wine — there’s even a Contra wine shop attached — paired with modern Baja surf and turf delights. Order local shellfish, Baja-style ceviches dressed with a touch of soy sauce, creamy seafood risottos, and steaks cooked over an open flame. Share your feast with friends, along with several bottles of Mexican wine, and you’ll feel like you’re throwing a party on your own deck at home. If you’re any good at petanque (boules), grab your wineglass and head to the court for a toss. Maybe you can join the Mexican national team, because this is their headquarters. [$$]

7. Casa Marcelo

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Av Riveroll 771, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

If you’re not able to make it over to La Cava de Marcelo in Ojos Negros for a cheese tasting at the largest cheese cave in Latin America, Casa Marcelo offers an easier way to try the brand’s fresh, aged, and snacking cheeses. The breakfast menu features Mexican classics — chilaquiles, a variety of egg dishes, and machaca (beef jerky) — and for lunch there are Ensenada-style ceviches, tiraditos, and roasted fish. Or just grab a glass of wine and order a cheese board of Casa Marcelo’s signature Ramonetti cheeses, made from the milk of Holstein cows on its ranch. [$$]

From above, a plate of hotcakes topped with slices of fig and a sunny-side-up egg
Buttermilk hotcakes with fig and pineapple at Casa Marcelo
Casa Marcelo / official

8. La Concheria

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Miramar 637-9, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

As opposed to niche specialists, you’ll find an unusually wide variety of local clams, mussels, and oysters in this contemporary shellfish bar located near the jello shots end of the tourist zone. One of Ensenada’s elevated seafood eateries, La Concheria also features a short list of craft beers (and national beers), and young, acidic, mineral white wines and light rosés. Try the delightfully salty oysters, chocolate and Pismo clams, and Manila clams or mussels steamed in local wine and herbs. Round out your order with a cool, crisp ceviche dressed with Persian cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and purple onions. [$$]

A long dish of ceviche beside a wood board loaded with tortillas and a bottle of beer
Octopus ceviche at La Concheria
La Concheria / Facebook

9. La Bête Noire

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Miramar #666, Centro Comercial Santo Tomás, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

For a decade, chef Diego Hernandez earned accolades for his daily tasting menus at the acclaimed Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Corazon de Tierra, including a spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Now he just wants to jam. La Bête Noir is the place to chill, drink, and enjoy a menu of rotating bar bites made with local ingredients. The motto here is, ironically, “keep Ensenada boring.” Inhale powerful, ferocious background tunes from Miles Davis’s revolutionary Bitches Brew album while sipping on inspired cocktails created by Alexandra Pucaru and snacking on local yellowfin tuna crudo with harissa, rich spider crab salad, or beef tongue spiced with Yemeni hot sauce. [$$]

10. Hussong’s Cantina

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Av. Ruiz 113, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Beer and peanuts aren’t exactly a gastronomic experience worth seeking out. Still, you’ll never forget you left your footprint in sawdust and peanut shells on these hallowed saloon floors. Not much has changed since German immigrant John Hussong took over this bar in 1892. Hussong’s is one of the bars claiming to have invented the margarita, though you’d never know it after ordering one. The margaritas are okay, the beer is cold, and the bandera — a trio of lime juice, sangrita, and tequila — helps the mass-produced tequila go down. But once the bassist in the ranchera band snaps his noisy, nylon strings to kick off Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” you can’t help but smile while sipping the night away. [$]

11. Tacos El Fenix Puesto

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22830, Espinoza 451, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

This taco stand always has a crowd. It has long been the benchmark for Ensenada’s most famous export, Baja fish and shrimp tacos cooked in a flavorful tempura batter. Like the best stands in Ensenada, the dogfish and shrimp are fresh and high quality, and the double-fried, golden-brown batter is light and crispy around the thick-cut filets. The condiments are standard: chipotle mayo, shredded cabbage, red and green salsas, ketchup for the sweet-toothed locals, cream and mayo, pico de gallo, and mustard. Fans will tell you there is no better fish taco stand in Ensenada. [$]

From above, A taco with a long strip of fried fish on one side, beside a long mound of chopped vegetables and multiple sauces
Fish Taco at El Fenix
Bill Esparza

12. Carreta de Mariscos el Gordito

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Av. Ryerson 44, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Every seafood cart in Ensenada has a specialty. At this tiny stand, you’ll never go wrong with an order of campechana (mixed seafood cocktail) or local fish ceviche made from ground tuna. But in Mexico’s seafood capital, it’s all about luxurious shellfish from nearby waters. Find Mariscos El Gordito on a quiet corner at the edge of the tourist zone, then order a prepared clam, dressed with diced tomato, cucumber, and purple onion, topped with sliced avocado. Whether you get a white, Pismo, reyna, or chocolate clam, ask for it without ketchup (a common local topping) to enjoy the delicate flavors of the exquisite shellfish. [$]

A huge clam, split open, fills a paper plate a hand holds above a concrete floor. The clam is topped with slices of avocado, red onion, and red sauce, with a plastic fork sticking out
Prepared clam at El Gordito
Bill Esparza

13. La Cocedora de Langosta

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La Marina, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Get your Puerto Nuevo-style lobster fix away from the barkers and touristic town where the dish gets its name. One of a pair of hidden gems in the Black Market (along with Muelle Tres), La Cocedora de Langosta only serves the dish when the lobster is fresh and in season. You’ll also find modern Baja-style ceviches, aguachiles (seafood in spicy lime juice), and soy-sauce-dressed sashimi and tiraditos (Peruvian-style raw seafood in spicy lime juice) made with fine seafood like abalone, geoduck, or Pismo clams sourced from local estuaries, farms, and divers. [$$]

Cooked lobster, split in half and topped with sauce, beside a pile of cheesy beans on a plate
Puerto Nuevo-style lobster at La Cocedora de Langosta
Bill Esparza

14. Wendlandt Brewery

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Blvd. Costero #248, Zona Centro, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

The beers are superb, notably the saison called Hann Zomer, the lighter Baja-style IPA titled Perro del Mar, and the personal favorite of chef Krista Velasco, Vaquita Marina — an American pale ale named after the endangered porpoise. The chef’s playful gastropub menu includes fine versions of American fast-food snacks like onion rings, deep-fried pickles, and a variety of chicken wings, as well as Baja-style ceviche, seafood tostadas, and tempura-battered oysters. Order some LA-style Korean tacos and wash it down with a glass of Harry Polanco, a red ale full of herbs and citrus. [$$]

A tall sandwich overloaded with meat and fixings, sits on branded waxpaper with a pile of garnished fries beside a pint of dark beer
Sandwich, fries, and beer at Wendlandt Brewery
Wendlandt Brewery / Facebook

15. La Guerrerense

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Av Adolfo López Mateos 917, Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

No stop in 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. Everyone knows the protocol: Get a cooked-and-cooled sea urchin tostada and a salt cod tostada to start. For toppings, ask for Pismo clam or splurge on callo de hacha (pen shell clam). Then dress the tostadas with guacachile (spicy guacamole) and chiles de mi jardin (toasted chiles in vegetable oil with peanuts), or take a chance on one of the countless jars of proprietary salsas. [$]

A tostada topped with slices of crab and clam, as well as avocado and red sauce spotted with clumps of ground chiles, on a paper plate beside a plastic spoon
Crab salad with pen shell clam tostada at La Guerrerense
Bill Esparza

16. Sabina Restaurante

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Av Adolfo López Mateos 993, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Sabina Bandera’s first brick-and-mortar spot isn’t just a sit-down version of her tostada, shellfish, and seafood cocktail stand. Here you’ll find an expanded menu of barra caliente (hot bar) classics like shrimp albondigas, seafood pozole from the cook’s home state of Guerrero, and a smoked oyster-stuffed chile guero taco. Slide along the counter cafeteria-style, order some ceviche tostadas, a Baja fish taco made with Bandera’s family recipe, and a bowl of clam chowder brewed with local mollusks. Pair your meal with local craft beer from Wendlandt or house wines made by the Mexican wine master Hugo D’ Acosta. [$]

Two plates with tostadas topped with fresh seafood, vegetables, guacamole, and salsas on a bright wooden table
Seafood tostadas at Sabina Restaurante
Bill Esparza

17. Muelle Tres

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Paseo del Náutico, Centro, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

After a walk through the Black Market (Ensenada’s fish market), turn the corner for a delightful lunch of contemporary Baja cuisine paired with local wines, Mexican craft beers, and fine mezcal. The tuna ceviche highlights the kitchen’s regional approach to seafood with quality local fish, citrus, ginger, and soy sauce — one of several Asian condiments used in Baja California cuisine. Enjoy the quiet retreat from the nearby tourist throng as you snack on seafood rice, pescadillas (fish quesadillas), and local mussels steamed in a mix of green chiles, along with one of the tasty white wines sold by the glass. [$$]

A pile of ceviche, with shrimp and slices of avocado sticking out, in a shallow bowl on a wood table with condiments and a bowl of tortillas blurred in the background
Ceviche mixto at Muelle Tres
Bill Esparza

18. Mariscos El Guero

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Alvarado, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico
646 277 1941

One of the busiest street carts among the scattered seafood stands flanking the tourist zone’s main road, Mariscos El Guero is popular for fresh clams, seafood cocktails, and ceviche tostadas. Order a prepared chocolate clam dressed with diced tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and cucumbers, finished with a splash of lime juice and sliced avocado. Ketchup is standard too, but you might want to skip it to enjoy the natural flavors of the rare clam. Then start a tostada with a base of chopped tuna ceviche and have the stand build it up with squid, octopus, pen shell clams, or raw shrimp lightly cooked in lime. Brace yourself for the bright and fruity (but very hot) salsa marinating in the molcajete. [$]

A tostada layered with shrimp, diced vegetables and other seafood
Cured shrimp at Mariscos El Güero
Bill Esparza

19. Tacos de Pescado Marco Antonio

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Av Rayon 351, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

When his cannery business began to wane, thick-mustached Marco Antonio transformed his industrial plant into a restaurant. This unique Baja seafood taco destination is now known for its variety of seafood stew tacos and creative salsas. There are almost 20 different tacos, including a shrimp chile relleno taco, shrimp in chipotle, tuna machaca, salmon belly, and of course, very fine versions of regional beer-battered fish and shrimp tacos. Make haste and head to the condiment bar to finish your tacos with tempting salsas, including fiery toasted chiles in vegetable oil, creamy cilantro and chipotle dressings, cured habaneros and onions, and simple, colorful salsas of pureed chiles with touches of salt and water. [$]

A taco covered in three sauces and fixings lying on a napkin on top of a colorfully dotted paper plate
Fish adobada taco at Marco Antonio
Bill Esparza

20. Manzanilla

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Av. Teniente José Azueta 139, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Slide along the antique wooden bar at this former warehouse tucked away across from Ensenada’s shipyard, and order one of the best gin and tonics you’ll ever have, made with citrus, Japanese cucumber, wild fennel, and Hendrick’s gin. Then ask for locally farmed Kumamoto oysters, both fresh, and grilled with Ramonetti cheese and tarragon, followed by fried abalone and seaweed, an ode to fish and chips. Either pairs well with a glass of local white wine selected by chef Benito Molina, who’s a pioneer of modern Mexican food, a visionary of contemporary Baja California cuisine, and a damned good sommelier. Once you make your way to a table, continue to imbibe with iconic dishes: a taco of the day, which might consist of octopus, chicharron, and refried black beans; fish of the day, that Baja classic, made with rockfish; or Molina’s riffs on traditional Baja California quail, a plate of tender breasts with poached quail eggs. [$$$]

From above, four clams and oysters of various sizes and shapes, topped with sauces and ground toppings, sit on a long plate atop small black rocks
Oysters and clams at Manzanilla
Bill Esparza

21. Mariscos El Pizón

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y, Av Dr Pedro Loyola & Guaymas, Acapulco, 22890 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Alan Pasiano is one of Ensenada’s ceviche masters. He’s a former skin diver and seafood purveyor, and he worked the sea urchin market at the old Tsukiji market in Tokyo for a Japanese seafood exporter based in Ensenada. No one does a better geoduck ceviche in the area, but don’t miss the restaurant’s masterpiece, a plate of raw yellowtail topped with a strip of sea urchin, flash-cooked in lime and dressed with squirts of yellow mustard. Pasiano, a natural storyteller, prepares dishes slowly, allowing himself enough time to share tales of the Tsukiji market or diving adventures. As he nonchalantly dices vegetables and exotic seafood, he might even provide waiting customers with a snack of cooked and cooled sea urchin ceviche spread on a tostada. [$]

A paper plate covered in a layer of sliced fish topped with lots of bright sea urchin, a drizzle of thick yellow sauce, oil, and a dusting of spices
Yellowtail with sea urchin at El Pizon
Bill Esparza

22. Raw Oyster Bar

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Carr Tijuana-Ensenada Km 108, Zona Playitas, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Chef Melissa Navarro offers her take on the traditional barra fria and barra caliente (cold and hot bars). That means fresh Baja oysters and clams with simple garnishes, but also battered oysters stained by squid ink, oyster croquettes, and kumamoto oyster shots. Order 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. Then order the grilled octopus quesatacos with a sauvignon blanc, along with the fruity ceviche tropical for the table, paired with a light Mexican rosé. Slurp oysters in the sunny, industrial dining space, and toast the chef for this perfect late-afternoon break. [$$$]

From above, a tray of six dressed oysters on a bed of ice sits on top of a wooden-backed menu, alongside a plank of more oysters on salt
Oysters at Raw Oyster Bar
Raw Oyster Bar / official

1. La Opah del Güero

Calle A 9, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal, B.C., Mexico

Caguama (turtle stew) is one of Baja’s many gastronomic inheritances from the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The dish is prohibited due to the endangered reptile’s protected status and has mostly been replaced by caguamanta (manta ray stew). But a street cart in El Sauzal serves a magnificent stew of smoked opah that local star chef Diego Hernandez swears is “closer to the real caguama” than any manta ray stew you’ll find on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The cart, parked in a home garage, combines gelatinous fin, belly, top loin, and breast, all garnished with a sauce of mustard, red wine, and habanero. El Güero offers the stew along with tostadas of ground opah pate, a style of ceviche typically found in Ensenada. [$]

Calle A 9, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal
B.C., Mexico

2. El Nuevo Jalisciense

Calle Primera, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal, B.C., Mexico
A hand holds a taco outside. A long piece of fried fish sits in the taco topped with lettuce, onions, and sauces
Fish taco at El Nuevo Jalisciense
Bill Esparza

Ask any Baja chef where to go for Ensenada’s world-famous tempura-battered fish and shrimp tacos, and they’ll send you to El Nuevo Jalisciense. It’s where the chefs go when entertaining their chef friends visiting the region. The restaurant, along a lonesome strip of businesses on the way to the tourist zone, consists of two plastic benches and a half dozen seats in an L around a convex comal. Cooks deep-fry dogfish and local shrimp in a light, mustard-colored batter before wrapping them in white corn tortillas and handing them over the counter. Complete them yourself with Mexican cream or mayo, pico de gallo, cilantro dressing, and red or green salsa, but use just enough to appreciate the fine seafood and well-seasoned breading. [$]

Calle Primera, El Sauzal, 22760 El Sauzal
B.C., Mexico

3. El Taco de Huitzilopochtli

De Las Rosas 242, Lomas de Valle Verde, 22810 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, a bowl of lamb consomme topped with lots of chopped cilantro, on a bright gingham tablecloth
Lamb consommé at El Taco de Huitzilopochtli
El Taco de Huitzilopochtli / Facebook

Take a break from the best seafood in Mexico for one of the country’s greatest breakfast institutions. In a remote residential neighborhood, hungry locals pay their respects to the patron deity of Tenochtitlan at Ensenada’s weekend-only specialist in Texcoco-style barbacoa (pit-roasted lamb). Come for consommé made from lamb drippings, a variety of lamb cuts, and lamb skulls steamed in an earthen pit, which one of the owners jokes is “our natural microwave” for making tacos in the central Mexican style. The menu also includes traditional quesadillas filled with huitlacoche, squash blossoms, and chicharron prensado (pressed, stewed pork rinds), as well as tlacoyos, a pre-Hispanic masa diamond filled with beans. For a quick bite, order the lamb flautas, a pair of long, deep-fried tacos covered with salsa, lettuce, and cream. [$]

De Las Rosas 242, Lomas de Valle Verde, 22810 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

4. Tacos El Paisa

Avenida 20 de Noviembre 1043, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
An adobada taco topped with sauce, chopped cilantro, and onions sits on a slice of butcher paper on top of a plastic-wrapped plate
Adobada taco at El Paisa
Bill Esparza

Nights in Baja California mean fire-roasted carne asada and tacos adobada (the regional name for al pastor tacos). Both are here at El Paisa, along with steamed beef head, all served on corn tortillas dressed with mild red sauce, onions, cilantro, and generous scoops of creamy guacamole, The result is a Baja style of taco that you’ll find from Los Angeles all the way down to Cabo. You can also get the meats in other familiar formats like quesatacos (made with melted cheese), quesadillas, mulitas (meat and melted cheese between two corn tortillas), and tortas. [$]

Avenida 20 de Noviembre 1043, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

5. Restaurante Madre

Calle Octava, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A bowl of noodles and beef, topped with herb garnish
Noodles topped with beef head stew at Madre
Madre / Facebook

After closing Pacifico, chefs Miguel Bahena and Carolina Verdugo evolved their kitchen from a purely Baja California approach to a menu based generally on northeastern Mexico. Plus, their cozy, new dining room feels like home. Ceviches with Persian cucumber and cherry tomatoes, tiraditos marinated in algaes and chile morita, and local oysters flavored by fire-roasted chiles satisfy the Ensenadan fundamentals. Meanwhile dry fideos (noodles) are topped with hearty beef head stew, and seasonal grilled vegetables evoke scenes of families gathered around smoky backyard grills in Chihuahua and Sonora — and, of course, Baja California. [$$]

Calle Octava, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

6. Boules

Av Moctezuma 623, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico

Javier Martinez’s inviting patio, located next to Revolution Park, is a brilliant choice for a glass of Mexican wine — there’s even a Contra wine shop attached — paired with modern Baja surf and turf delights. Order local shellfish, Baja-style ceviches dressed with a touch of soy sauce, creamy seafood risottos, and steaks cooked over an open flame. Share your feast with friends, along with several bottles of Mexican wine, and you’ll feel like you’re throwing a party on your own deck at home. If you’re any good at petanque (boules), grab your wineglass and head to the court for a toss. Maybe you can join the Mexican national team, because this is their headquarters. [$$]

Av Moctezuma 623, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

7. Casa Marcelo

Av Riveroll 771, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, a plate of hotcakes topped with slices of fig and a sunny-side-up egg
Buttermilk hotcakes with fig and pineapple at Casa Marcelo
Casa Marcelo / official

If you’re not able to make it over to La Cava de Marcelo in Ojos Negros for a cheese tasting at the largest cheese cave in Latin America, Casa Marcelo offers an easier way to try the brand’s fresh, aged, and snacking cheeses. The breakfast menu features Mexican classics — chilaquiles, a variety of egg dishes, and machaca (beef jerky) — and for lunch there are Ensenada-style ceviches, tiraditos, and roasted fish. Or just grab a glass of wine and order a cheese board of Casa Marcelo’s signature Ramonetti cheeses, made from the milk of Holstein cows on its ranch. [$$]

Av Riveroll 771, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

8. La Concheria

Miramar 637-9, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A long dish of ceviche beside a wood board loaded with tortillas and a bottle of beer
Octopus ceviche at La Concheria
La Concheria / Facebook

As opposed to niche specialists, you’ll find an unusually wide variety of local clams, mussels, and oysters in this contemporary shellfish bar located near the jello shots end of the tourist zone. One of Ensenada’s elevated seafood eateries, La Concheria also features a short list of craft beers (and national beers), and young, acidic, mineral white wines and light rosés. Try the delightfully salty oysters, chocolate and Pismo clams, and Manila clams or mussels steamed in local wine and herbs. Round out your order with a cool, crisp ceviche dressed with Persian cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and purple onions. [$$]

Miramar 637-9, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

9. La Bête Noire

Miramar #666, Centro Comercial Santo Tomás, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico

For a decade, chef Diego Hernandez earned accolades for his daily tasting menus at the acclaimed Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Corazon de Tierra, including a spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Now he just wants to jam. La Bête Noir is the place to chill, drink, and enjoy a menu of rotating bar bites made with local ingredients. The motto here is, ironically, “keep Ensenada boring.” Inhale powerful, ferocious background tunes from Miles Davis’s revolutionary Bitches Brew album while sipping on inspired cocktails created by Alexandra Pucaru and snacking on local yellowfin tuna crudo with harissa, rich spider crab salad, or beef tongue spiced with Yemeni hot sauce. [$$]

Miramar #666, Centro Comercial Santo Tomás, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

10. Hussong’s Cantina

Av. Ruiz 113, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico

Beer and peanuts aren’t exactly a gastronomic experience worth seeking out. Still, you’ll never forget you left your footprint in sawdust and peanut shells on these hallowed saloon floors. Not much has changed since German immigrant John Hussong took over this bar in 1892. Hussong’s is one of the bars claiming to have invented the margarita, though you’d never know it after ordering one. The margaritas are okay, the beer is cold, and the bandera — a trio of lime juice, sangrita, and tequila — helps the mass-produced tequila go down. But once the bassist in the ranchera band snaps his noisy, nylon strings to kick off Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” you can’t help but smile while sipping the night away. [$]

Av. Ruiz 113, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

11. Tacos El Fenix Puesto

22830, Espinoza 451, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, A taco with a long strip of fried fish on one side, beside a long mound of chopped vegetables and multiple sauces
Fish Taco at El Fenix
Bill Esparza

This taco stand always has a crowd. It has long been the benchmark for Ensenada’s most famous export, Baja fish and shrimp tacos cooked in a flavorful tempura batter. Like the best stands in Ensenada, the dogfish and shrimp are fresh and high quality, and the double-fried, golden-brown batter is light and crispy around the thick-cut filets. The condiments are standard: chipotle mayo, shredded cabbage, red and green salsas, ketchup for the sweet-toothed locals, cream and mayo, pico de gallo, and mustard. Fans will tell you there is no better fish taco stand in Ensenada. [$]

22830, Espinoza 451, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

12. Carreta de Mariscos el Gordito

Av. Ryerson 44, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A huge clam, split open, fills a paper plate a hand holds above a concrete floor. The clam is topped with slices of avocado, red onion, and red sauce, with a plastic fork sticking out
Prepared clam at El Gordito
Bill Esparza

Every seafood cart in Ensenada has a specialty. At this tiny stand, you’ll never go wrong with an order of campechana (mixed seafood cocktail) or local fish ceviche made from ground tuna. But in Mexico’s seafood capital, it’s all about luxurious shellfish from nearby waters. Find Mariscos El Gordito on a quiet corner at the edge of the tourist zone, then order a prepared clam, dressed with diced tomato, cucumber, and purple onion, topped with sliced avocado. Whether you get a white, Pismo, reyna, or chocolate clam, ask for it without ketchup (a common local topping) to enjoy the delicate flavors of the exquisite shellfish. [$]

Av. Ryerson 44, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

13. La Cocedora de Langosta

La Marina, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Cooked lobster, split in half and topped with sauce, beside a pile of cheesy beans on a plate
Puerto Nuevo-style lobster at La Cocedora de Langosta
Bill Esparza

Get your Puerto Nuevo-style lobster fix away from the barkers and touristic town where the dish gets its name. One of a pair of hidden gems in the Black Market (along with Muelle Tres), La Cocedora de Langosta only serves the dish when the lobster is fresh and in season. You’ll also find modern Baja-style ceviches, aguachiles (seafood in spicy lime juice), and soy-sauce-dressed sashimi and tiraditos (Peruvian-style raw seafood in spicy lime juice) made with fine seafood like abalone, geoduck, or Pismo clams sourced from local estuaries, farms, and divers. [$$]

La Marina, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

14. Wendlandt Brewery

Blvd. Costero #248, Zona Centro, 22870 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A tall sandwich overloaded with meat and fixings, sits on branded waxpaper with a pile of garnished fries beside a pint of dark beer
Sandwich, fries, and beer at Wendlandt Brewery
Wendlandt Brewery / Facebook

The beers are superb, notably the saison called Hann Zomer, the lighter Baja-style IPA titled Perro del Mar, and the personal favorite of chef Krista Velasco, Vaquita Marina — an American pale ale named after the endangered porpoise. The chef’s playful gastropub menu includes fine versions of American fast-food snacks like onion rings, deep-fried pickles, and a variety of chicken wings, as well as Baja-style ceviche, seafood tostadas, and tempura-battered oysters. Order some LA-style Korean tacos and wash it down with a glass of Harry Polanco, a red ale full of herbs and citrus. [$$]

Blvd. Costero #248, Zona Centro, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

15. La Guerrerense

Av Adolfo López Mateos 917, Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A tostada topped with slices of crab and clam, as well as avocado and red sauce spotted with clumps of ground chiles, on a paper plate beside a plastic spoon
Crab salad with pen shell clam tostada at La Guerrerense
Bill Esparza

No stop in 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. Everyone knows the protocol: Get a cooked-and-cooled sea urchin tostada and a salt cod tostada to start. For toppings, ask for Pismo clam or splurge on callo de hacha (pen shell clam). Then dress the tostadas with guacachile (spicy guacamole) and chiles de mi jardin (toasted chiles in vegetable oil with peanuts), or take a chance on one of the countless jars of proprietary salsas. [$]

Av Adolfo López Mateos 917, Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

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16. Sabina Restaurante

Av Adolfo López Mateos 993, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Two plates with tostadas topped with fresh seafood, vegetables, guacamole, and salsas on a bright wooden table
Seafood tostadas at Sabina Restaurante
Bill Esparza

Sabina Bandera’s first brick-and-mortar spot isn’t just a sit-down version of her tostada, shellfish, and seafood cocktail stand. Here you’ll find an expanded menu of barra caliente (hot bar) classics like shrimp albondigas, seafood pozole from the cook’s home state of Guerrero, and a smoked oyster-stuffed chile guero taco. Slide along the counter cafeteria-style, order some ceviche tostadas, a Baja fish taco made with Bandera’s family recipe, and a bowl of clam chowder brewed with local mollusks. Pair your meal with local craft beer from Wendlandt or house wines made by the Mexican wine master Hugo D’ Acosta. [$]

Av Adolfo López Mateos 993, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

17. Muelle Tres

Paseo del Náutico, Centro, 22870 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A pile of ceviche, with shrimp and slices of avocado sticking out, in a shallow bowl on a wood table with condiments and a bowl of tortillas blurred in the background
Ceviche mixto at Muelle Tres
Bill Esparza

After a walk through the Black Market (Ensenada’s fish market), turn the corner for a delightful lunch of contemporary Baja cuisine paired with local wines, Mexican craft beers, and fine mezcal. The tuna ceviche highlights the kitchen’s regional approach to seafood with quality local fish, citrus, ginger, and soy sauce — one of several Asian condiments used in Baja California cuisine. Enjoy the quiet retreat from the nearby tourist throng as you snack on seafood rice, pescadillas (fish quesadillas), and local mussels steamed in a mix of green chiles, along with one of the tasty white wines sold by the glass. [$$]

Paseo del Náutico, Centro, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

18. Mariscos El Guero

Alvarado, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A tostada layered with shrimp, diced vegetables and other seafood
Cured shrimp at Mariscos El Güero
Bill Esparza

One of the busiest street carts among the scattered seafood stands flanking the tourist zone’s main road, Mariscos El Guero is popular for fresh clams, seafood cocktails, and ceviche tostadas. Order a prepared chocolate clam dressed with diced tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and cucumbers, finished with a splash of lime juice and sliced avocado. Ketchup is standard too, but you might want to skip it to enjoy the natural flavors of the rare clam. Then start a tostada with a base of chopped tuna ceviche and have the stand build it up with squid, octopus, pen shell clams, or raw shrimp lightly cooked in lime. Brace yourself for the bright and fruity (but very hot) salsa marinating in the molcajete. [$]

Alvarado, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

19. Tacos de Pescado Marco Antonio

Av Rayon 351, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A taco covered in three sauces and fixings lying on a napkin on top of a colorfully dotted paper plate
Fish adobada taco at Marco Antonio
Bill Esparza

When his cannery business began to wane, thick-mustached Marco Antonio transformed his industrial plant into a restaurant. This unique Baja seafood taco destination is now known for its variety of seafood stew tacos and creative salsas. There are almost 20 different tacos, including a shrimp chile relleno taco, shrimp in chipotle, tuna machaca, salmon belly, and of course, very fine versions of regional beer-battered fish and shrimp tacos. Make haste and head to the condiment bar to finish your tacos with tempting salsas, including fiery toasted chiles in vegetable oil, creamy cilantro and chipotle dressings, cured habaneros and onions, and simple, colorful salsas of pureed chiles with touches of salt and water. [$]

Av Rayon 351, Obrera, 22830 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

20. Manzanilla

Av. Teniente José Azueta 139, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, four clams and oysters of various sizes and shapes, topped with sauces and ground toppings, sit on a long plate atop small black rocks
Oysters and clams at Manzanilla
Bill Esparza

Slide along the antique wooden bar at this former warehouse tucked away across from Ensenada’s shipyard, and order one of the best gin and tonics you’ll ever have, made with citrus, Japanese cucumber, wild fennel, and Hendrick’s gin. Then ask for locally farmed Kumamoto oysters, both fresh, and grilled with Ramonetti cheese and tarragon, followed by fried abalone and seaweed, an ode to fish and chips. Either pairs well with a glass of local white wine selected by chef Benito Molina, who’s a pioneer of modern Mexican food, a visionary of contemporary Baja California cuisine, and a damned good sommelier. Once you make your way to a table, continue to imbibe with iconic dishes: a taco of the day, which might consist of octopus, chicharron, and refried black beans; fish of the day, that Baja classic, made with rockfish; or Molina’s riffs on traditional Baja California quail, a plate of tender breasts with poached quail eggs. [$$$]

Av. Teniente José Azueta 139, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

21. Mariscos El Pizón

y, Av Dr Pedro Loyola & Guaymas, Acapulco, 22890 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A paper plate covered in a layer of sliced fish topped with lots of bright sea urchin, a drizzle of thick yellow sauce, oil, and a dusting of spices
Yellowtail with sea urchin at El Pizon
Bill Esparza

Alan Pasiano is one of Ensenada’s ceviche masters. He’s a former skin diver and seafood purveyor, and he worked the sea urchin market at the old Tsukiji market in Tokyo for a Japanese seafood exporter based in Ensenada. No one does a better geoduck ceviche in the area, but don’t miss the restaurant’s masterpiece, a plate of raw yellowtail topped with a strip of sea urchin, flash-cooked in lime and dressed with squirts of yellow mustard. Pasiano, a natural storyteller, prepares dishes slowly, allowing himself enough time to share tales of the Tsukiji market or diving adventures. As he nonchalantly dices vegetables and exotic seafood, he might even provide waiting customers with a snack of cooked and cooled sea urchin ceviche spread on a tostada. [$]

y, Av Dr Pedro Loyola & Guaymas, Acapulco, 22890 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

22. Raw Oyster Bar

Carr Tijuana-Ensenada Km 108, Zona Playitas, 22870 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, a tray of six dressed oysters on a bed of ice sits on top of a wooden-backed menu, alongside a plank of more oysters on salt
Oysters at Raw Oyster Bar
Raw Oyster Bar / official

Chef Melissa Navarro offers her take on the traditional barra fria and barra caliente (cold and hot bars). That means fresh Baja oysters and clams with simple garnishes, but also battered oysters stained by squid ink, oyster croquettes, and kumamoto oyster shots. Order 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. Then order the grilled octopus quesatacos with a sauvignon blanc, along with the fruity ceviche tropical for the table, paired with a light Mexican rosé. Slurp oysters in the sunny, industrial dining space, and toast the chef for this perfect late-afternoon break. [$$$]

Carr Tijuana-Ensenada Km 108, Zona Playitas, 22870 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

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