You're drunk. You're not quite falling-down drunk, but you find yourself in Rosarito in a state of advanced inebriation brought on by seemingly endless plastic cups full of dubious margaritas at Papas & Beer. It doesn't matter that it's only 3 p.m.; you're still just wasted, bro, and now you're hungry. Hungry, when you're young and going to Baja to drink, means tacos, and specifically dollar tacos.
Rosarito's not the gastronomic paradise that Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe are--yet--but one thing it can certainly furnish is tacos.
Walk up to the main drag--it's called Benito Juárez, in case you're sober enough to see street signs. Turn left. Walk up a block or two and, just as you pass the Rosarito Inn, the unmistakable scent of grilling meat will waft straight into your tequila-addled nostrils. Follow that scent to a building on the corner of Calle del Encino, a building open on two of its four sides. A utilitarian tile floor, plastic tables, two enormous soda coolers, and barely any decoration at all.
This is Tacos El Paisano, where Lorenzo has been assuaging partygoers' hunger with some of the best tacos in Rosarito for the last twelve years.
Walk in and you've got two options: along the wall, you can have asada, chicken, chorizo, and other grilled meats; in the middle, facing the boulevard, is a dish of boiling oil for fish tacos, a steam tray with banana leaf-wrapped cabeza, and an absolutely enormous trompo of al pastor, which in Baja is called carne adobada.
If you catch the fish--angelito, or angel shark--as they come out of the fryer, they're up there with all but the very best of Ensenada, though they're dressed with mayonnaise, not crema. Pass on them if they're pre-fried and the shell has started to droop; even a return trip to the fryer won't save them. The cabeza, though, is so tender it has to be picked up with tongs, because it falls off a fork; and the adobada is spicy and, in keeping with local tradition, only served with pineapple if you specifically request it.
What you really want--what every drunk really wants--is carne asada, and this is where Tacos El Paisano shines. Ten years ago, the first time I ever went to Rosarito, I was a Baja noob; I feared Tijuana and was stunned by the idea that tortillas didn't have to come out of a package marked "Guerrero" and beef could be grilled indoors (this is why it's open on two sides).
No, at El Paisano, tortillas are pressed by hand, and wafer-thin beef is grilled on an iron grill directly in front of you. Have it con todo, "all dressed" with excellent guacamole, onion, cilantro, and a loose tomato salsa. Watch as Lorenzo deftly flips just the perfect portion of salsa onto your taco; he's been doing it exactly the same way since the turn of the millennium.
As with all taco stands, you order, eat, order more, and then pay at the end; it's on the honor system. Tacos, regardless of type, are $1.10 each; if you pay with pesos, depending on the exchange rate, they can be just under a buck. Last weekend, a frat boy-sized meal of eight tacos and a bottle of Mexican Coke set me back 117 pesos, or about $9.
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"Dos más de asada con todo, porfas."
Tacos El Paisano is located on the east side of Bulevar Benito Juárez, at the corner of Del Encino, in Playas de Rosarito.