December 6, 2013 | 10:37pm
Before I ever visited San Felipe, I dismissed it as a Spring Break destination for those unwilling to pay for a flight to Cancun, or Cabo--in other words, the Laughlin of Spring Break in Mexico. And then there was that Rubio's connection. What I found in Baja's northernmost city on the Sea of Cortez was a quiet, relaxing fishing village that had many expat retirees, but wasn't over-developed.
San Felipe is very hot--it's part of the municipality of Mexicali, which is one of the hottest regions of Mexico, but during the months of October through March, San Felipe has excellent weather and beaches. It's a great place to pick up fresh seafood products right from the fisherman's wharf for grilling on the beach--it's the land of abundant shrimp and white clams. San Felipe is the perfect weekend getaway for relaxation, to take in the unique local attractions, maybe catch the Baja 500, and some solid Baja Cuisine--here's a guide to the best eats in San Felipe.
Camarones rancheros and yellow tail machaca at Rincon del Cheff
Fish tacos at Adriana's
San Felipe Cuisine
Despite being one of the two cities that claims to be the birthplace of the Baja fish taco, San Felipe doesn't have many specialty stands, but no worries, Taqueria Adriana's on the malecon is all you'll need to satisfy your craving.
Adriana serves her famous fish tacos with vibrant salsas on fresh corn tortillas at her colorful carnavalesque stand. You can also get a fine taste of the local white clams served with a side of melted butter here.
Fish tacos cooked over coals at La Vaquita Marina
No visit the host of Baja California's Shrimp Festival (November) and Clam Festival (June) would be complete without a stop at La Vaquita Marina for steamed crab, San Felipe shrimp in garlic butter sauce, or clams in white wine sauce--you won't tire of these excellent clams throughout your stay in San Felipe.
For breakfast, stop over at Rincon del Cheff and have Chef Marco Meza prepare shrimp ranchero style or fish machaca, one of the favored dishes of local fisherman.
Tacos de Guisado at Tino's
Tacos de Guisado Tino's serves Sonora--style tacos de guisado on handmade flour tortillas filled with steak in ranchero sauce, savory machaca, or a perfect taco of Sonoran refried beans, known as frijoles maneados.
Sonoran style chile relleno dog
Another Sonoran delight, the Sonoran hot dog at Dogos de Camaron estilo Obregon is offered as a standard hot dog, a chile relleno dog or as a bacon-wrapped shrimp dog--of course--made with better quality shrimp than any restaurant in the U.S. The wheat bun is imported from nearby Sonora, and the full array of traditional toppings are available.
El Porton de Pancho is a newcomer to San Felipe, and carries some products from Ensenada's Tacos Marco Antonio, like caguatun, or tuna stewed in vegetables, as well as other guisados like octopus, smoked marlin, and manta ray.
Beef birria tacos at Macapul
For a break from the seafood intensive cuisine, catch El Macapul for mouthwatering Baja California-style beef birria and braised beef head swimming in a crimson broth. You can get Mexicali-style carne asada tacos on flour tortillas at Taqueria El Filete and for Mexican comfort--go to Cenaduria Panchita for traditional Jaliscan flautas (rolled tacos), tostadas covered in beans and shredded beef, and empanadas filled with northern Mexican braises and stews.
The beaches are beautiful, and are equipped with grills for cooking your own seafood extravaganza. If you happen to be in town in early June, it's worth it to head to the outskirts of town to witness the spectacle of the Baja 250, where $100,000+ desert racers tear through flanking rows of spectators and racing enthusiasts. The Valle de los Gigantes at Rancho Ganadero Punta Estrella is a must to see the majestic, colossal cacti. I recommend staying at the Hotel Riviera Coral while in San Felipe.
You can get to San Felipe from Ensenada or you can enter Mexico through Mexicali for the best beach experience in Baja California, excellent seafood and regional Mexican cuisine, and a superb getaway, provided you don't go during Spring Break.
This trip was a part of a FAM hosted by San Felipe tourism, and Sal de San Felipe in which I curated many of the dining locations.
take Highway 3 heading east from Ensenada, or Highway 5 south from Mexicali