Less than two hours from San Diego, down the Baja California peninsula, it’s one of the easiest and safest places to experience Mexico on a budget — which makes it easy to think of this small coastal city and cruise line layover as a sort of Mexico for Beginners. But dismissing northwest Baja is a mistake. Beyond the souvenir shops selling sombreros, knockoff artesanía (handicrafts) and tacky T-shirts, there’s a college town, a port town and a budding culinary capital that invite exploration. While Ensenada and the surrounding area can require a bit of patience, its pleasures are worth the time it takes to find them — and all the more so because they can be had so affordably.
The trio, with about 12 restaurants between them in San Diego, Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, are Baja’s Emissaries of Eating. While out promoting their own businesses and brands, these globe-trotting gastro ambassadors are at the same time shifting the narrative of a region once known more for kidnappings and cartels than quail and kumamotos.