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Fresh sea urchin, sliced open and topped with sauce and floral garnish
Fresh sea urchin
Bill Esparza

The 20 Essential Restaurants in Valle de Guadalupe

From smoky grilled quail at a roadside stand to fresh sea urchin plucked from the ocean to oysters and bone marrow with a vineyard view, here’s where to eat in the Baja wine country.

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Fresh sea urchin
| Bill Esparza

In the early 2000s, Mexico’s wine country was a charming destination for huevos rancheros, the odd Moroccan-Mexican restaurant, Molokan museums, a couple of nice bed-and-breakfasts, and a handful of boutique wineries. The Wednesday farmers market at Rancho El Mogor featured a half dozen baskets of produce and a gentleman selling the pizzas he cooked in a clay oven. In summer, especially during the annual Vendimias wine harvest festival, chefs brought out the campestres (country grills) to carry on the open-flame cooking traditions forged in northern Mexico in the aboriginal fires of the Kumiai.

But romantics like chef Jair Téllez (of Laja) and oenologist Hugo d’Acosta (of wineries like Casa de Piedra, Paralelo, and La Escuelita) conceived of something more for the region: garden-to-table, wine-driven, world-renowned kitchens. Meanwhile, the architects Alejandro D’Acosta and Claudia Turrent dreamed up distinctive, modern, recycled designs for wineries like Casa de Piedra, Vena Cava, Bruma, and Paralelo.

Today the area is home to well over 100 wineries and has become a favorite travel destination for people from both sides of the border. The wine, along with Baja seafood and produce, has also attracted the best chefs in Mexico, who cook on Santa Maria grills, in cajas chinas, and in wood-fired clay ovens. Local specialties like grilled quail, roasted pig, oven-roasted lamb, fresh-shucked oysters, and the ubiquitous fish of the day provide plenty of material for Valle de Guadalupe chefs, while the luxury seafood industry and restaurant gardens offer a wealth of ingredients. Those wineries are producing world-class wines to pair with sea urchin, abalone, Pismo clams, yellowtail, and geoduck, and everyone cooks with their own olive oil. Two decades after that transformation began, here are the essential places to eat in Valle de Guadalupe.

Update, June 2021:

Due to early, proactive safety measures and the widespread availability of outdoor dining in Mexico’s wine valley, Valle de Guadalupe was relatively well positioned to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The losses of Corazón de Tierra, Origen, Traslomita, and El Pinar de Tres Mujeres were blows to the area, but the majority of restaurants have remained strong. The growth of hotels and restaurants over the past few years has positioned the area for a rebound, and as the tourist season approaches, things are as busy as ever, even with mask mandates and temperature checks still in place at restaurants.

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)

For updated information on coronavirus cases in Mexico, please visit mx.usembassy.gov.

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. Fauna

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Carretera Ensenada - Tecate km #73, 22760 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

For years, Valle de Guadalupe was dominated by a small group of chef luminaries. Then David Castro Hussong opened Fauna at the chic Bruma winery in 2017, quickly establishing his own original voice among a chorus of modern Baja Californian chefs. The chef expresses his whimsical, lighthearted approach through humble ingredients. Scallops poached in butter, brilliantly enhanced by a viscous layer of rich, charred eggplant puree, are served with small flour tortillas, making for transcendent tacos. Meanwhile, the pork salpicón in tomatillo relish is beautifully balanced. The long, sturdy communal dining table is perfect for ordering up a feast, from fine shellfish, to duck sopes, to a tableside clay-baked chayote that highlights Hussong’s free-spirited cooking. [$$$]

Three abalone in shells on a bed of ice
Abalone at Fauna
Bill Esparza

2. Bruma Wine Garden

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Unnamed Road
B.C., Mexico

It’s cool under the shade of low-hanging olive trees at chef David Castro Hussong’s latest entry into the growing Valle de Guadalupe raw bar scene. Located at the Bruma winery, the restaurant offers abundant seafood towers layered with local oysters, umami-rich blood clams, and cooked shrimp, all of which pair beautifully with a chilled bottle of Bruma’s rosé or fresh, mineral chardonnay. Long, sturdy communal tables leave plenty of room for wood-grilled pizza or raw trout tostadas dressed in a green sauce that tastes like Hussong’s garden. Stop by for brunch on Sundays for waffles or a croque madame, which oozes with enough creamy mornay sauce to last you through an afternoon wine tasting. [$$$]

A hand carries a plate with two trout tostadas, topped with cubbed avocado, sauce, and seeds
Trout tostadas
Bruma [Facebook]

3. La Esperanza BajaMed

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km. 73.5 Carretera Ensenada Tecate 3 Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

On the turnoff to the L.A. Cetto winery, Miguel Ángel Guerrero —chef, forager, diver, and hunter — brought his trademark Baja-Med cuisine to wine country. The standard-bearer of this unique cuisine attracts a crowd with local surf and turf, cooked in olive oil, dressed with Asian condiments, and paired with Mexican wines. Guerrero’s signature classics — Sinaloa-inspired oyster shots with Clamato and vodka, heavily garnished beef tongue carpaccio full of contrasts, smoked marlin machaca sopes — remain fixtures in Baja California. The wine, beer, and cocktails flow in the dining room, which is reminiscent of a sportsman’s lodge and is great for large groups. [$$$]

A close-up on sopes topped with chorizo and abalone, and drizzled with various sauces
Abalone and chorizo sopes at La Esperanza BajaMed
Bill Esparza

4. Wa Kumiai Tabita

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Wa Kumiai Tabita is the newest breakfast destination in San Antonio Necua, a Kumiai village not far from the L.A. Cetto winery. Traditional Kumiai cook Tabita Dominguez serves up a delicious feast, which helps support the members of the indigenous community who work in her restaurant. Northern Mexican and indigenous flavors merge in dishes like machaca (beef jerky), mixed with eggs and served with beans, corn, and flour tortillas. Traditional Kumiai foods are also on the menu, like beef and lamb barbacoa cooked in a wood-fired oven, and a smoky white menudo that’s also cooked over fire and tastes like a cowboy cookout. Try the acorn coffee, a healthy alternative to your morning cup and a true taste of Valle de Guadalupe’s indigenous cuisine. [$$]

A table loaded with various meat and stew dishes, along with a row of condiments and a covered plate of tortillas
A full spread at Wa Kumiai Tabita
Wa Kumiai Tabita [Facebook]

5. Las Güeritas

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Guadalupe
Baja California, Mexico

The last roadside stand serving grilled Baja quail is a smoky outpost of nostalgia, reminiscent of a time when nascent Mexican wines made your eyes squint and lips pucker, when Baja cuisine was all grilled lobster, huevos rancheros, and fish tacos. Much has changed in recent decades, but Lucilla Padilla’s stand, named after her daughters, has maintained its fires. Quail and rabbit are marinated in oyster sauce and soy, then grilled over mesquite and served with hot corn tortillas, potato salad, and rice and beans. You can buy a $6 bottle of pruny homemade zinfandel that tastes like the Valle de Guadalupe in 2001, or bring a nice bottle of white wine you bought in a tasting room. [$]

Cuts of quail and rabbit on a small grill with grilling tools
Rabbit and quail
Bill Esparza

6. Taqueria La Principal

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Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

If you’re seeking genuine Baja-style tacos, head to this open-air taqueria at the edge of the Francisco Zarco pueblo for solid versions of popular roasted meats. Options include carne asada, vertical spit-roasted adobada (the regional name for al pastor), and crispy chitterlings, all served on corn tortillas with mild red salsa and a huge dollop of creamy guacamole. Along with tacos, there are also quesatacos, mulitas, tortas, and quesatortas. [$]

A garage-like restaurant, with a sign reading Taqueria La Principal, sits along a roadside in the sunshine beside palm trees
The open-air Taqueria La Principal
Taqueria La Principal / Facebook

7. Matilde del Valle

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Principal parcela 107 Ejido el porvenir valle de guadalupe, 22750 Tijuana
B.C., Mexico

Whether serving grilled striped bass with greens on a cutting board, or a cast-iron pan full of oven-roasted lamb barbacoa, chef Ángel Gutiérrez keeps dishes simple and flavorful on his long, open terrace at the Estancia hotel overlooking the Finca Tré vineyard. Guests love the raw tuna dishes like the tiradito, a small tower of cured tuna in umami-rich marinade, topped with sliced cucumber and sesame seeds. Grab a bottle of the fruity Ballena Tinta nebbiolo to enjoy with rare steak or a juicy hamburger. [$$$]

A covered stone patio, surrounded by low walls and looking out on green pastures and mountains in the distance. There are empty wood tables with midcentury wood and leather chairs and higher bar seating along one wall
On the patio at Matilde
Matilde del Valle [Official]

8. Envero en el Valle

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CALLEJON EMILIANO ZAPATA, 22750 El Porvenir
B.C., Mexico

After 10 years at Ensenada’s famed Baja cuisine institution Manzanilla under chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris, and most recently as chef de cuisine at their La Revolución Comedor in San José del Cabo, chef Alejandro Torres has opened a sunny spot at the Las Nubes winery with his wife, chef Fabiola Aceves. Their first restaurant, located on the stone terrace adjacent to Las Nubes’s spectacular tasting room, serves chilled oysters with ginger and rice vinegar, and a thick, grassy Sonoran steak that pairs well with oenologist Victor Segura’s young, fruity red blend, Selección de Parcelas. And don’t miss the smoky abalone chorizo tacos hot off the grill with a glass of Jaak, an easy-drinking rosé kissed by strawberry and melon, with a nice floral finish. [$$-$$$]

Mounds of spiced pulled fish on a corn tortilla with herbs, slices of tomato and radish, and a creamy sauce. The taco sits on a plate on a metal grate table
Abalone chorizo taco
Bill Esparza

9. Animalón

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México 3, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Chef Javier Plascencia has created a gastronomic amusement park of restaurants at his sizable property, but the best show takes place at a couple of dozen tables under a 200-year-old oak tree down the hill. Led by executive chef Oscar Torres, Animalon portrays a modern vision of Mexican wine country that celebrates the smoky flavors of the campestre with clay-baked lamb barbacoa and seared sea bass with sea urchin cream. The Mexican foie gras coulant is a decadent pleasure, and mussels served in false shells made from charred potatoes evoke a Baja seaside snack through a modernist lens. Plascencia celebrates the extreme pleasures of drinking wine, eating food cooked with fire, and indulging in opulent yet accessible products. That’s life in Valle de Guadalupe. [$$$ - $$$$]

From above, a soup bowl of aguachile with vegetables and herb garnish
Aguachile at Animalón
Bill Esparza

10. Finca Altozano

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Carretera Tecate - Ensenada Km 83 Ejido, Francisco Zarco, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

In perhaps the most picturesque setting in all of Mexican wine country, chef Javier Plascencia offers a grand campestre experience. Diners feast on local oysters, suckling pig and lamb roasted in cajas chinas, and seafood tostadas you can dress with an array of colorful salsas served in small jars. The bread and tortillas are made by artisans on the premises, and the produce comes plucked from the garden. Seating areas on top of massive old wine barrels, acquired from the Santo Tomás winery, act as amusement parks where visitors share Mexican wine, laughter, and selfies until the cows come home. [$$]

Diners fill wooden tables as servers move about in an outdoor, covered dining area on a dirt floor
The outdoor seating area at Finca Altozano
Bill Esparza

11. Restaurante Laja

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km 83, Tecate, Vivienda Popular, 22850 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

Jair Téllez’s trailblazing restaurant set the mold for all that would follow in Valle de Guadalupe, shaping and inventing a local cuisine that’s garden-to-table, seasonal, wine-driven, olive-oil-based, and minimalist. Today his Valle institution still delivers memorable four-course menus, cooked by a crew that’s been there since the beginning. Delicate, delicious greens, lightly dressed to start, are followed by a ceviche or tiradito garnished with sea urchin. And you can’t pass on the fish of the day, a filet with crispy skin and soft flesh resting on a puree of root vegetables. [$$$]

Fish filet with vegetables, beans and sauce
Fish of the day at Laja
Bill Esparza

12. Deckman’s en El Mogor

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Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km. 85.5 San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico
(619) 721-4820
Visit Website

Chef Drew Deckman is part of a group of chefs, winemakers, and hoteliers keeping Mexico’s wine valley sustainable. Outside a cozy barn on the Mogor Ranch, he and his team work on a dirt floor just a smoke trail away from an array of Santa Maria grills. The Kumiai oysters are fresh and local, as is the grilled fish, which is sourced from sustainable stocks and served with estate-grown produce and sea beans. The steak on the barbecue is Mexican, paired with estate wines and a drizzle of olive oil, also produced on the premises. It’s presented with colorful streaks, brushes, and dots of sauces and vegetable purees on the side, showing chef Deckman’s fine dining chops while staying true to the pastoral spirit of the wine valley. [$$$]

A cook works on an outdoor grill with many saucepans, with other cooks and grills in the background
The campestre at Deckman’s
Bill Esparza

13. Once Pueblos

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parcela ejido Camino Vecinal 182, Ensenada - Ejido El Porvenir, 21720 Valle de Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

Once Pueblos is named after a region in Michoacán known as the “ravine of the 11 towns.” The restaurant, located at the Sierra Vita winery, consists of a minimalist dining room brightened by leather chairs imprinted with colorful flowers and folkloric murals on the walls. On the plates, chef Sandra Vásquez blends her Michoacán roots with Baja ingredients in modern Mexican presentations. Her tasting menu can include a Tarascan pozole of black corn and beans, or her take on mixiote, a pre-Hispanic dish of meat cooked in parchment, in this case utilizing local quail in bitter orange. The honeyed flavor of Sierra Vita chenin blanc pairs nicely with suckling pig tacos, served on corn tortillas with a puree of ayocote beans. [$$$]

A table full of dishes, including hearty meat stew, mounds of fish, small sampler tacos, among others
A full spread
Once Pueblos [Facebook]

14. La Justina Valle

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México 3, El Porvenir
B.C., Mexico

With a menu of Valle de Guadalupe wines, Mexican craft beers, and refreshing, citrusy cocktails, this all-day bar has an alluring ambience that’s both young and romantic, like a taste of Tijuana in wine country. Elements of luxury — like an ornate duck confit tostada finished with edible flowers, or roasted bone marrow with microgreens — contrast with whimsical dishes like a glazed pork-belly bun. Finish the night with rounds of carajillos (coffee with Licor 43 liqueur), and pose for your selfie under the red neon sign proclaiming a potential motto of this hotspot: “You Look Good.” [$$]

Two tostadas loaded with fish topped with slices of avocado and radish on a wooden board outside beside a small metal cup with a lime wedge
Marlin tostadas
La Justina Valle [Facebook]

15. La Cocina de Doña Esthela

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Ranchos San Marcos, El Porvenir, Ejido San Marcos
B.C., Mexico

Sinaloan-born Doña Esthela set a picnic bench inside her kitchen years ago to cook breakfast and lunch for locals, offering sweet empanadas and locally sourced lamb roasted in a clay oven. As soon as word got around, the restaurant went from a single bench to seating for 150, the wait times stretched as long as two hours, and the kitchen expanded into a professional operation big enough to serve a banquet hall. No one minds the wait for corn flour pancakes, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, fresh corn and flour tortillas, and Esthela’s oven-roasted lamb, which has become an iconic dish in Valle de Guadalupe. [$]

Diced lamb on a decorative ceramic plate with a small ceramic bowl of sauce
Borrego tatemado at La Cocina de Doña Esthela
Bill Esparza

16. Lunario Restaurante

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Guadalupe
Baja California, Mexico

At one of the best new openings of 2019, chef Sheyla Alvarado offers six- and eight-course tasting menus that are stunning visual feasts but also deeply rooted in the popular and regional traditions of Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. The simple daily menu lists dishes by principal ingredient: duck, crab, mushrooms, clam with sea bass. Cryptic descriptions become clear once an Ensenada-inspired kanpachi tostada arrives with a spread of tomato confit, or a soft-shell crab taco with raw salsa verde hits the table. From fun antojitos to classics such as chile guajillo stuffed with mushrooms to expertly cooked beef rib with reduction sauce, Alvarado shows off an impressive range of cooking. [$$$]

Slices of fish on a tostada with thick sauce
Kanpachi tostada at Lunario
Bill Esparza

17. Conchas de Piedra

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Carretera Ensenada Tecate Kilometro 93.5, San Antonio de las Minas, 22761 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

The pairing of two Valle de Guadalupe greats seemed inevitable and the result is now required eating for visitors. Set atop the seminal Casa de Piedra winery, Conchas de Piedra serves local, seasonal shellfish by chef Drew Deckman paired with oenologist Hugo D’Acosta’s delicious bubbly, Espuma de Piedra. Free-flowing pours of blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs set the mood at long communal benches. Start with a dozen Kumamoto, Nautilus, or Kumiai oysters, plus sea urchin bruschettas, then follow with whatever clam is on the menu, especially if it’s the pristine chocolate clam adorned with edible flowers. This is one of the best places anywhere to indulge in shellfish. [$$]

Fresh sea urchin, sliced open and topped with sauce and floral garnish
Sea Urchin at Conchas de Piedra
Bill Esparza

18. Villa Torél

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Bodega de Santo Tomas
B.C., Mexico
646 267 6688

A recent arrival to Valle de Guadalupe, Monterrey-born chef Alfredo Villanueva has quickly established himself as a serious player for his clever takes on dishes and deft hand at making food that’s simple, beautiful, and delicious. Villanueva’s new space is a sunny, inviting patio attached to the Santo Tomás winery in San Antonio. Chocolate clams are prepared with baby vegetables and a light squeeze of lime, while sweet duck breast is grilled and sliced, then set in a garden of lettuces and a bouquet of wildflowers. For a taste of Villanueva’s northern pedigree, order a grilled medium-rare steak, served sliced on a board with salsa and tortillas. [$$]

A clam in shell topped with sliced vegetables and sauces
Chocolate clam at Villa Torél
Bill Esparza

19. Malva

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Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km 96, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico
646 155 3085

Malva is the first serious restaurant you’ll find as you round the sinusoid curve at kilometer 96, heading into Mexican wine country (no offense to Huevo Republic, located not far away). It’s worth the slight turn into chef Roberto Alcocer’s beachy palapa. Reward yourself for your trip with four, seven, or 10 oysters from Bahia Falsa, or an octopus sope with a glass of sauvignon blanc by oenologist Veronica Santiago of the Mina Penélope winery. If you’ve only got time for a quick snack before a day of wine tasting, order Alcocer’s juicy borrego birrioso (lamb birria) with refried beans. Or get one of the variations on the Valley classic, fish of the day, which comes either encircled by swirls of sweet compote and beet puree, or with roasted onions and mushrooms. [$$]

Five oysters on a plate of dark sand
Oysters at Malva
Bill Esparza

20. Paraíso Restaurant

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Calle Gómez Farías No.4, 22766 Villa de Juárez
B.C., Mexico

The view from this hilltop restaurant in San Antonio de Las Minas is one of the best-kept secrets in the Valle de Guadalupe. Among the contemporary versions of popular Michoacán dishes, you’ll find chavindecas, tacos of meat and melted cheese stuffed between two blue-corn tortillas, sliced into wedges, and garnished with thinly sliced watermelon radish and edible flowers. Or go for atápakua, a type of mole from the Indigenous Purépecha culture, which comes with grilled shrimp and local mushrooms. Pair anything with mezcal and sit back to enjoy the best view in the Valley. [$$]

An outdoor patio overlooking a valley below and mountains in the distance. There are empty tables, set with simple wood chairs, beneath string lights and a sign that reads “It’s all about the view”
The best view in the Valley
Paraíso Restaurant [Facebook]

1. Fauna

Carretera Ensenada - Tecate km #73, 22760 Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
Three abalone in shells on a bed of ice
Abalone at Fauna
Bill Esparza

For years, Valle de Guadalupe was dominated by a small group of chef luminaries. Then David Castro Hussong opened Fauna at the chic Bruma winery in 2017, quickly establishing his own original voice among a chorus of modern Baja Californian chefs. The chef expresses his whimsical, lighthearted approach through humble ingredients. Scallops poached in butter, brilliantly enhanced by a viscous layer of rich, charred eggplant puree, are served with small flour tortillas, making for transcendent tacos. Meanwhile, the pork salpicón in tomatillo relish is beautifully balanced. The long, sturdy communal dining table is perfect for ordering up a feast, from fine shellfish, to duck sopes, to a tableside clay-baked chayote that highlights Hussong’s free-spirited cooking. [$$$]

Carretera Ensenada - Tecate km #73, 22760 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

2. Bruma Wine Garden

Unnamed Road, B.C., Mexico
A hand carries a plate with two trout tostadas, topped with cubbed avocado, sauce, and seeds
Trout tostadas
Bruma [Facebook]

It’s cool under the shade of low-hanging olive trees at chef David Castro Hussong’s latest entry into the growing Valle de Guadalupe raw bar scene. Located at the Bruma winery, the restaurant offers abundant seafood towers layered with local oysters, umami-rich blood clams, and cooked shrimp, all of which pair beautifully with a chilled bottle of Bruma’s rosé or fresh, mineral chardonnay. Long, sturdy communal tables leave plenty of room for wood-grilled pizza or raw trout tostadas dressed in a green sauce that tastes like Hussong’s garden. Stop by for brunch on Sundays for waffles or a croque madame, which oozes with enough creamy mornay sauce to last you through an afternoon wine tasting. [$$$]

Unnamed Road
B.C., Mexico

3. La Esperanza BajaMed

km. 73.5 Carretera Ensenada Tecate 3 Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A close-up on sopes topped with chorizo and abalone, and drizzled with various sauces
Abalone and chorizo sopes at La Esperanza BajaMed
Bill Esparza

On the turnoff to the L.A. Cetto winery, Miguel Ángel Guerrero —chef, forager, diver, and hunter — brought his trademark Baja-Med cuisine to wine country. The standard-bearer of this unique cuisine attracts a crowd with local surf and turf, cooked in olive oil, dressed with Asian condiments, and paired with Mexican wines. Guerrero’s signature classics — Sinaloa-inspired oyster shots with Clamato and vodka, heavily garnished beef tongue carpaccio full of contrasts, smoked marlin machaca sopes — remain fixtures in Baja California. The wine, beer, and cocktails flow in the dining room, which is reminiscent of a sportsman’s lodge and is great for large groups. [$$$]

km. 73.5 Carretera Ensenada Tecate 3 Valle de Guadalupe, 22750 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

4. Wa Kumiai Tabita

Baja California, Mexico
A table loaded with various meat and stew dishes, along with a row of condiments and a covered plate of tortillas
A full spread at Wa Kumiai Tabita
Wa Kumiai Tabita [Facebook]

Wa Kumiai Tabita is the newest breakfast destination in San Antonio Necua, a Kumiai village not far from the L.A. Cetto winery. Traditional Kumiai cook Tabita Dominguez serves up a delicious feast, which helps support the members of the indigenous community who work in her restaurant. Northern Mexican and indigenous flavors merge in dishes like machaca (beef jerky), mixed with eggs and served with beans, corn, and flour tortillas. Traditional Kumiai foods are also on the menu, like beef and lamb barbacoa cooked in a wood-fired oven, and a smoky white menudo that’s also cooked over fire and tastes like a cowboy cookout. Try the acorn coffee, a healthy alternative to your morning cup and a true taste of Valle de Guadalupe’s indigenous cuisine. [$$]

5. Las Güeritas

Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico
Cuts of quail and rabbit on a small grill with grilling tools
Rabbit and quail
Bill Esparza

The last roadside stand serving grilled Baja quail is a smoky outpost of nostalgia, reminiscent of a time when nascent Mexican wines made your eyes squint and lips pucker, when Baja cuisine was all grilled lobster, huevos rancheros, and fish tacos. Much has changed in recent decades, but Lucilla Padilla’s stand, named after her daughters, has maintained its fires. Quail and rabbit are marinated in oyster sauce and soy, then grilled over mesquite and served with hot corn tortillas, potato salad, and rice and beans. You can buy a $6 bottle of pruny homemade zinfandel that tastes like the Valle de Guadalupe in 2001, or bring a nice bottle of white wine you bought in a tasting room. [$]

Guadalupe
Baja California, Mexico

6. Taqueria La Principal

Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
A garage-like restaurant, with a sign reading Taqueria La Principal, sits along a roadside in the sunshine beside palm trees
The open-air Taqueria La Principal
Taqueria La Principal / Facebook

If you’re seeking genuine Baja-style tacos, head to this open-air taqueria at the edge of the Francisco Zarco pueblo for solid versions of popular roasted meats. Options include carne asada, vertical spit-roasted adobada (the regional name for al pastor), and crispy chitterlings, all served on corn tortillas with mild red salsa and a huge dollop of creamy guacamole. Along with tacos, there are also quesatacos, mulitas, tortas, and quesatortas. [$]

Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

7. Matilde del Valle

Principal parcela 107 Ejido el porvenir valle de guadalupe, 22750 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
A covered stone patio, surrounded by low walls and looking out on green pastures and mountains in the distance. There are empty wood tables with midcentury wood and leather chairs and higher bar seating along one wall
On the patio at Matilde
Matilde del Valle [Official]

Whether serving grilled striped bass with greens on a cutting board, or a cast-iron pan full of oven-roasted lamb barbacoa, chef Ángel Gutiérrez keeps dishes simple and flavorful on his long, open terrace at the Estancia hotel overlooking the Finca Tré vineyard. Guests love the raw tuna dishes like the tiradito, a small tower of cured tuna in umami-rich marinade, topped with sliced cucumber and sesame seeds. Grab a bottle of the fruity Ballena Tinta nebbiolo to enjoy with rare steak or a juicy hamburger. [$$$]

Principal parcela 107 Ejido el porvenir valle de guadalupe, 22750 Tijuana
B.C., Mexico

8. Envero en el Valle

CALLEJON EMILIANO ZAPATA, 22750 El Porvenir, B.C., Mexico
Mounds of spiced pulled fish on a corn tortilla with herbs, slices of tomato and radish, and a creamy sauce. The taco sits on a plate on a metal grate table
Abalone chorizo taco
Bill Esparza

After 10 years at Ensenada’s famed Baja cuisine institution Manzanilla under chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris, and most recently as chef de cuisine at their La Revolución Comedor in San José del Cabo, chef Alejandro Torres has opened a sunny spot at the Las Nubes winery with his wife, chef Fabiola Aceves. Their first restaurant, located on the stone terrace adjacent to Las Nubes’s spectacular tasting room, serves chilled oysters with ginger and rice vinegar, and a thick, grassy Sonoran steak that pairs well with oenologist Victor Segura’s young, fruity red blend, Selección de Parcelas. And don’t miss the smoky abalone chorizo tacos hot off the grill with a glass of Jaak, an easy-drinking rosé kissed by strawberry and melon, with a nice floral finish. [$$-$$$]

CALLEJON EMILIANO ZAPATA, 22750 El Porvenir
B.C., Mexico

9. Animalón

México 3, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
From above, a soup bowl of aguachile with vegetables and herb garnish
Aguachile at Animalón
Bill Esparza

Chef Javier Plascencia has created a gastronomic amusement park of restaurants at his sizable property, but the best show takes place at a couple of dozen tables under a 200-year-old oak tree down the hill. Led by executive chef Oscar Torres, Animalon portrays a modern vision of Mexican wine country that celebrates the smoky flavors of the campestre with clay-baked lamb barbacoa and seared sea bass with sea urchin cream. The Mexican foie gras coulant is a decadent pleasure, and mussels served in false shells made from charred potatoes evoke a Baja seaside snack through a modernist lens. Plascencia celebrates the extreme pleasures of drinking wine, eating food cooked with fire, and indulging in opulent yet accessible products. That’s life in Valle de Guadalupe. [$$$ - $$$$]

México 3, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

10. Finca Altozano

Carretera Tecate - Ensenada Km 83 Ejido, Francisco Zarco, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
Diners fill wooden tables as servers move about in an outdoor, covered dining area on a dirt floor
The outdoor seating area at Finca Altozano
Bill Esparza

In perhaps the most picturesque setting in all of Mexican wine country, chef Javier Plascencia offers a grand campestre experience. Diners feast on local oysters, suckling pig and lamb roasted in cajas chinas, and seafood tostadas you can dress with an array of colorful salsas served in small jars. The bread and tortillas are made by artisans on the premises, and the produce comes plucked from the garden. Seating areas on top of massive old wine barrels, acquired from the Santo Tomás winery, act as amusement parks where visitors share Mexican wine, laughter, and selfies until the cows come home. [$$]

Carretera Tecate - Ensenada Km 83 Ejido, Francisco Zarco, 22750 Valle de Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

11. Restaurante Laja

km 83, Tecate, Vivienda Popular, 22850 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Fish filet with vegetables, beans and sauce
Fish of the day at Laja
Bill Esparza

Jair Téllez’s trailblazing restaurant set the mold for all that would follow in Valle de Guadalupe, shaping and inventing a local cuisine that’s garden-to-table, seasonal, wine-driven, olive-oil-based, and minimalist. Today his Valle institution still delivers memorable four-course menus, cooked by a crew that’s been there since the beginning. Delicate, delicious greens, lightly dressed to start, are followed by a ceviche or tiradito garnished with sea urchin. And you can’t pass on the fish of the day, a filet with crispy skin and soft flesh resting on a puree of root vegetables. [$$$]

km 83, Tecate, Vivienda Popular, 22850 Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

12. Deckman’s en El Mogor

Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km. 85.5 San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
A cook works on an outdoor grill with many saucepans, with other cooks and grills in the background
The campestre at Deckman’s
Bill Esparza

Chef Drew Deckman is part of a group of chefs, winemakers, and hoteliers keeping Mexico’s wine valley sustainable. Outside a cozy barn on the Mogor Ranch, he and his team work on a dirt floor just a smoke trail away from an array of Santa Maria grills. The Kumiai oysters are fresh and local, as is the grilled fish, which is sourced from sustainable stocks and served with estate-grown produce and sea beans. The steak on the barbecue is Mexican, paired with estate wines and a drizzle of olive oil, also produced on the premises. It’s presented with colorful streaks, brushes, and dots of sauces and vegetable purees on the side, showing chef Deckman’s fine dining chops while staying true to the pastoral spirit of the wine valley. [$$$]

Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km. 85.5 San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

13. Once Pueblos

parcela ejido Camino Vecinal 182, Ensenada - Ejido El Porvenir, 21720 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
A table full of dishes, including hearty meat stew, mounds of fish, small sampler tacos, among others
A full spread
Once Pueblos [Facebook]

Once Pueblos is named after a region in Michoacán known as the “ravine of the 11 towns.” The restaurant, located at the Sierra Vita winery, consists of a minimalist dining room brightened by leather chairs imprinted with colorful flowers and folkloric murals on the walls. On the plates, chef Sandra Vásquez blends her Michoacán roots with Baja ingredients in modern Mexican presentations. Her tasting menu can include a Tarascan pozole of black corn and beans, or her take on mixiote, a pre-Hispanic dish of meat cooked in parchment, in this case utilizing local quail in bitter orange. The honeyed flavor of Sierra Vita chenin blanc pairs nicely with suckling pig tacos, served on corn tortillas with a puree of ayocote beans. [$$$]

parcela ejido Camino Vecinal 182, Ensenada - Ejido El Porvenir, 21720 Valle de Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

14. La Justina Valle

México 3, El Porvenir, B.C., Mexico
Two tostadas loaded with fish topped with slices of avocado and radish on a wooden board outside beside a small metal cup with a lime wedge
Marlin tostadas
La Justina Valle [Facebook]

With a menu of Valle de Guadalupe wines, Mexican craft beers, and refreshing, citrusy cocktails, this all-day bar has an alluring ambience that’s both young and romantic, like a taste of Tijuana in wine country. Elements of luxury — like an ornate duck confit tostada finished with edible flowers, or roasted bone marrow with microgreens — contrast with whimsical dishes like a glazed pork-belly bun. Finish the night with rounds of carajillos (coffee with Licor 43 liqueur), and pose for your selfie under the red neon sign proclaiming a potential motto of this hotspot: “You Look Good.” [$$]

México 3, El Porvenir
B.C., Mexico

15. La Cocina de Doña Esthela

Ranchos San Marcos, El Porvenir, Ejido San Marcos, B.C., Mexico
Diced lamb on a decorative ceramic plate with a small ceramic bowl of sauce
Borrego tatemado at La Cocina de Doña Esthela
Bill Esparza

Sinaloan-born Doña Esthela set a picnic bench inside her kitchen years ago to cook breakfast and lunch for locals, offering sweet empanadas and locally sourced lamb roasted in a clay oven. As soon as word got around, the restaurant went from a single bench to seating for 150, the wait times stretched as long as two hours, and the kitchen expanded into a professional operation big enough to serve a banquet hall. No one minds the wait for corn flour pancakes, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, fresh corn and flour tortillas, and Esthela’s oven-roasted lamb, which has become an iconic dish in Valle de Guadalupe. [$]

Ranchos San Marcos, El Porvenir, Ejido San Marcos
B.C., Mexico

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16. Lunario Restaurante

Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico
Slices of fish on a tostada with thick sauce
Kanpachi tostada at Lunario
Bill Esparza

At one of the best new openings of 2019, chef Sheyla Alvarado offers six- and eight-course tasting menus that are stunning visual feasts but also deeply rooted in the popular and regional traditions of Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. The simple daily menu lists dishes by principal ingredient: duck, crab, mushrooms, clam with sea bass. Cryptic descriptions become clear once an Ensenada-inspired kanpachi tostada arrives with a spread of tomato confit, or a soft-shell crab taco with raw salsa verde hits the table. From fun antojitos to classics such as chile guajillo stuffed with mushrooms to expertly cooked beef rib with reduction sauce, Alvarado shows off an impressive range of cooking. [$$$]

Guadalupe
Baja California, Mexico

17. Conchas de Piedra

Carretera Ensenada Tecate Kilometro 93.5, San Antonio de las Minas, 22761 Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
Fresh sea urchin, sliced open and topped with sauce and floral garnish
Sea Urchin at Conchas de Piedra
Bill Esparza

The pairing of two Valle de Guadalupe greats seemed inevitable and the result is now required eating for visitors. Set atop the seminal Casa de Piedra winery, Conchas de Piedra serves local, seasonal shellfish by chef Drew Deckman paired with oenologist Hugo D’Acosta’s delicious bubbly, Espuma de Piedra. Free-flowing pours of blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs set the mood at long communal benches. Start with a dozen Kumamoto, Nautilus, or Kumiai oysters, plus sea urchin bruschettas, then follow with whatever clam is on the menu, especially if it’s the pristine chocolate clam adorned with edible flowers. This is one of the best places anywhere to indulge in shellfish. [$$]

Carretera Ensenada Tecate Kilometro 93.5, San Antonio de las Minas, 22761 Guadalupe
B.C., Mexico

18. Villa Torél

Bodega de Santo Tomas, B.C., Mexico
A clam in shell topped with sliced vegetables and sauces
Chocolate clam at Villa Torél
Bill Esparza

A recent arrival to Valle de Guadalupe, Monterrey-born chef Alfredo Villanueva has quickly established himself as a serious player for his clever takes on dishes and deft hand at making food that’s simple, beautiful, and delicious. Villanueva’s new space is a sunny, inviting patio attached to the Santo Tomás winery in San Antonio. Chocolate clams are prepared with baby vegetables and a light squeeze of lime, while sweet duck breast is grilled and sliced, then set in a garden of lettuces and a bouquet of wildflowers. For a taste of Villanueva’s northern pedigree, order a grilled medium-rare steak, served sliced on a board with salsa and tortillas. [$$]

Bodega de Santo Tomas
B.C., Mexico

19. Malva

Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km 96, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Five oysters on a plate of dark sand
Oysters at Malva
Bill Esparza

Malva is the first serious restaurant you’ll find as you round the sinusoid curve at kilometer 96, heading into Mexican wine country (no offense to Huevo Republic, located not far away). It’s worth the slight turn into chef Roberto Alcocer’s beachy palapa. Reward yourself for your trip with four, seven, or 10 oysters from Bahia Falsa, or an octopus sope with a glass of sauvignon blanc by oenologist Veronica Santiago of the Mina Penélope winery. If you’ve only got time for a quick snack before a day of wine tasting, order Alcocer’s juicy borrego birrioso (lamb birria) with refried beans. Or get one of the variations on the Valley classic, fish of the day, which comes either encircled by swirls of sweet compote and beet puree, or with roasted onions and mushrooms. [$$]

Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km 96, Ensenada
B.C., Mexico

20. Paraíso Restaurant

Calle Gómez Farías No.4, 22766 Villa de Juárez, B.C., Mexico
An outdoor patio overlooking a valley below and mountains in the distance. There are empty tables, set with simple wood chairs, beneath string lights and a sign that reads “It’s all about the view”
The best view in the Valley
Paraíso Restaurant [Facebook]

The view from this hilltop restaurant in San Antonio de Las Minas is one of the best-kept secrets in the Valle de Guadalupe. Among the contemporary versions of popular Michoacán dishes, you’ll find chavindecas, tacos of meat and melted cheese stuffed between two blue-corn tortillas, sliced into wedges, and garnished with thinly sliced watermelon radish and edible flowers. Or go for atápakua, a type of mole from the Indigenous Purépecha culture, which comes with grilled shrimp and local mushrooms. Pair anything with mezcal and sit back to enjoy the best view in the Valley. [$$]

Calle Gómez Farías No.4, 22766 Villa de Juárez
B.C., Mexico

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