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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Fajitas & Rita's: A Long Weekend in Baja - Page 2

Written by Elizabeth Hooper
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Far from the polished resorts, white sand beaches, and all night partying of Cancun and Playa del Carmen lies another side of Mexico. Beachfront, colorful, and with a devotion to tequila that rivals any Spring Break destination, the northern Baja peninsula offers the budget traveler a perfect weekend getaway.

The Best Value Inn Posada El Rey Sol Hotel is an excellent choice; rooms’ run around $80 and the hotel is centrally located just off the main avenida. hotel The rooms are comfortable, and have free high-speed Internet access and a great little pool area. Ensenada is not a town to spend a lot of time in the hotel – prepare to head out and explore. Make time for a meal at the El Rey Sol Restaurant – upscale but not overpriced. The lime chicken dish from the “light” section was delicious, and very reasonably priced.

Legend has it that the first Margarita was mixed in Ensenada. Hussong’s Cantina was established in 1892 and the place hasn’t been updated much since then. With a long bar to slide beer down and wood shavings on the floor, the only modern touch is two large flat screen TVs playing sports and reality television at intervals. At 11 o’clock on a Friday morning, you’ll find the place quiet but just about any other time it’s packed to the gills with both locals and Americans. Try the Margarita on the rocks, with a touch of salt and experience the drink’s true origins. Then head out and explore the Margarita landscape of Ensenada – you can get them flavored, frozen, traditional Mexican style with Controy and lime, or sugary with mix from a bottle. Best of all, they are plentiful and cheap – some as inexpensive as $2.50 a glass.

The nightlife here is vibrant and varied. Every other building seems to be a bar (interspersed strategically with tourist souvenir shops). The drinks are plentiful, variable in quality, but inexpensive. A few locations, such as Papas and Beer, offer music and dancing after dark. The street culture comes alive at night as well – the number of panhandlers and peddlers doubles and they can be very aggressive.

Ensenada is probably most famous for its fish tacos. Guidebooks, locals, and anyone you meet who has ever visited Baja will confirm this. The best place to have a taco is at the local fish market, located down by the docks. Ask for directions, or just follow your nose. One side of the market is open-air stalls selling whole, fresh fish, including exotic specimens such as barracuda. I don’t recommend visiting this before stopping at one of the little cafes on the other side, however, as the sights and smells can turn your appetite. The fish for tacos is breaded and deep fried – traditional presentation is with mayo, chopped cabbage and a little hot sauce served in a flour tortilla. For those who are not pescado aficionados, try beef tacos instead – the meat is seasoned and tender. Plan to have a feast – each taco will run about a

Another must-try restaurant is hidden gem Bronco’s Steakhouse. Although it’s off the beaten track, it’s a five-minute walk from the downtown and the food and service are outstanding. The prices are also reasonable. Try the butterflied steak with avocado, cheese and red sauce and save room for dessert. The flan is rich and stands on its own as a real treat.

Spa services are also inexpensive, and located periodically along the streets. If you’re in the mood to indulge, I recommend Essence Spa. One of the most relaxing deep tissue massages I’ve ever had, for a full hour, ran just $60.00 including tip. They offered a range of other services including manicures and facials at bargain prices.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012
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