Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cocteles Vallarta in Playas de Tijuana

Cocteles Vallarta in Playas de Tijuana

When we are in a new place and looking for something to eat, I'm notorious with my wife for questing to find that spot that just feels right. Sometimes the quest is difficult and fraught with tired feet and growling bellies. Other times everything rolls easy.

This was one of those easy-rolling times.

We had passed Cocteles Vallarta the day before while wandering along Avenida del Pacifico, and had noted that it looked nice and relaxed. We saw some gentlemen sitting in the corner seats with their view over the beach and I thought - those guys have the best seats in the house.

Cue the next afternoon and we are strolling around the beach looking for someplace to eat, and the best seats in the house ended up being ours:

Cocteles Vallarta in Playas de Tijuana

We spent several fantastic hours eating seafood, sometimes watching the scene at the beach and, more often than not, watching the chef of the mariscos stand do his thing.

It was a lot like watching a really good bartender go about his business. But while a refreshing drink was easily obtained, the business here was not drinks, but fresh seafood.

We started with a tostada mixta - a tostada of mixed seafood. This was definitely up there with the best I've ever had. Super fresh tasting, with lots of citrus. Really good.

Tostada mixta at Cocteles Vallarta

We followed that with some tacos - fish and shrimp. Both were lightly battered and fried - in what I think of as "Ensenada-style". They were great - we hoovered them up before I thought to take a picture.

Satiated for the moment, we sipped on our beers and enjoyed watching a host of orders being prepared for a happy and easy-going group of costumers - ceviches, plates of fried fish and shrimp, and substantive seafood cocktails (made with a fresh base, not the thickly sweet ketchupy stuff I don't like).

It was hard to miss the pile of huge clams sitting on the counter:

Clams at Cocteles Vallarta

We watched them be shucked, sliced and made into cocktails. They were also being made into a some sort of preparation in a bowl. We had been thinking about having another tostada mixta, but my eyes went from the bowl to "almeja preparada" (prepared clam) on the menu and we decided on that instead.

I'm glad we did:

Almeja preperada at Cocteles Vallarta

This was perhaps the single best thing we had on our visit to Playas. Fresh clam meat, elaborated much like a cerveza preparada - with lime juice, onion, cilanro, clamato, hot sauce and a hit of maggi. Much like making a bloody mary.

The result was perfect - bright, tangy, savory and altogether very pleasant to eat. Even amidst all of of the other strong flavors, the clam maintained a definite taste of its own. And its texture was great and varied - with some bits more firm and others softer.

Eating at Cocteles Vallarta was a great experience, and one I just can't imagine having north of the border. We hope to be back soon.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tacos Aaron in Playas de Tijuana

Tacos Aaron in Playas de Tijuana

While we didn't specifically plan for our hotel during our weekend stay in Playas de Tijuana to be right around the corner from Tacos Aaron, we were certainly very pleased about it.

Tacos Aaron is a great example of the "Tacos Varios" style in Tijuana. "Tacos Varios" isn't very descriptive, but in Tijuana it means what we learned as tacos de guisado (stew) in Mexico City. While there are a few elements of some tacos that are prepared on the flattop, the majority of the tacos are made from pre-prepared stews. And they are fantastic.

Tacos Aaron sets up shop in the morning, and slings a steady stream of food until they run out - usually around 2-3 in the afternoon. Their most popular offering is probably the birria taco:

Birria Taco at Tacos Aaron

Slow-braised beef in a wonderfully spiced chile sauce.

They also have a "Quesabirria" taco, which ups the ante with a layer of cheese. We were toward the end of service and they were out of cheese, but we got one on a previous visit to their other truck (outside the Calimax in Colonia Soler):

Quesabirria Taco at Tacos Aaron

I think I generally prefer the purity of the straight birria taco, but for pure indulgence it is hard to argue with the quesabirria.

We also had a few of their other tacos. This is the pollo adobado:

Pollo Adobado Taco at Tacos Aaron

It was served with a terrific rich and roasty sauce.

And the milanesa:

Milanesa Tacos at Tacos Aaron

This was probably our least favorite of their tacos, but it was still pretty damned good.

The next morning, we hit up the truck again - this time for breakfast. We got the chorizo con huevo enchilado:

Chorizo con Huevo Enchilado Taco at Tacos Aaron

Scrambled egg in a vibrant chile sauce, with large chunks of tasty chorizo. Really good.

Less attractive, but maybe even better tasting was the machaca con huevo:

Machaca con Huevo Taco at Tacos Aaron

The eggs were luxurious in a fantastic salsa verde. I could easily eat this for breakfast every day.

There are still a few taco varieties we have yet to try. We're looking forward to visiting them again and continuing to explore their menu. You should, too.

Tacos Aaron
Paseo Pedregel, just southwest of the Plaza Coronado shopping center
Playas de Tijuana
Baja California, Mexico

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mariscos Titos in Playas de Tijuana

Mariscos Titos in Playas de Tijuana

Within an hour of arriving for our weekend in Playas de Tijuana we were eating lunch at Mariscos Titos. We'd been there before on a Turista Libre trip, so it made for a comfortable first stop.

Mariscos Titos is located just east of the Plaza Coronado shopping center. Here is their menu:

Mariscos Titos Menu

We started with a fish ceviche tostada:

Ceviche Pescado Tostada at Mariscos Titos

Even though the base had some mayo in it, which I'm not very fond of, it was very tasty.

We also had a few tacos - the camarón enchilado:

Camarón Enchilado at Mariscos Titos

and the pulpo enchilado:

Pulpo Enchilado at Mariscos Titos

Both were good, but a bit more "goopy" than I would like. I think we would have done better to order the simpler tacos.

As I mentioned earlier, we stopped here on an earlier trip with Turista Libre.

Mariscos Titos in Playas de Tijuana

That time we had the "New York Camarón" taco:

New York Camarón at Mariscos Titos

This was a beast of a taco - a bunch of shrimp scattered on top of a thin steak, with a healthy dose of cheese underneath. Pretty much a meal in itself.

Mariscos Titos certainly wasn't the best food we had during our visit, but it was good. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is active and pleasant.

Mariscos Titos
Corales 107
Playas de Tijuana
22000 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Weekend in Playas de Tijuana

Playas de Tijuana

We spent last weekend at the beach in Mexico. Not in Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, or even Cabo, Ensenada or Rosarito. We were in Tijuana.

The fact that, of course, Tijuana has a beach doesn't seem to even occur to most visitors from the US. I'll admit that we had never been there until last year. The beach neighborhood is called Playas de Tijuana, and it is both similar to and different from the beaches north of the border.

Playas de Tijuana

Playas juts right up against the border with the United States. And by "juts right up against", I really mean it - here is the border fence:

Border at Playas de Tijuana

A wooden boardwalk runs south from the border, along a beach filled with people enjoying the weather and the waves. Vendors abound selling corn on the cob and in a cup ("vasitos"), chicharrones, ice cream and other snacks.

Just ing from the boardwalk is a steep cliff that leads up to Avenida del Pacifico, a seaside street lined with mariscos stands and restaurants. And a fancy new 7-Eleven:

7-Eleven in Playas de Tijuana

If there is a 7-Eleven with a better view, I'm not aware of it...

We stayed a few blocks from the beach at the Dali Suites, which we really enjoyed:

Dali Suites

And, of course, we ate very well. Here are some additional posts on some of the great food we ate while in Playas:

Tacos Aaron in Playas de TijuanaTacos Aaron

Fantastic "Tacos Varios" - birria and much more.
Cocteles Vallarta in Playas de TijuanaCocteles Vallarta

Fantastic seafood right by the beach.
Mariscos Titos in Playas de TijuanaMariscos Titos

Solid seafood offerings in a relaxed atmosphere.