A humble food cart -- and its mouth-watering offerings

02/17/2014 6:36 PM

02/17/2014 6:49 PM

What’s wonderful about Mexico is that some of the greatest stuff isn’t expensive. Take street food. And there’s one food cart that lives up to its fabulous reputation.

I mean the La Guerrerense seafood cart in the seaside town of Ensenada in Baja California. If you are ever in the area, you must go. The cart has been an institution since 1960.

I was there on Saturday, and I had the freshest, best seafood of anywhere I’ve been outside a sushi restaurant next to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

Mind you, the Guerrerense is nothing special to look out – just a simple street cart on the corner of First and Alameda. The giveaway is the crowd of people crowded outside. It’s drawn a lot of attention. TV food show host and chef Anthony Bourdain has been there (here’s a YouTube clip of a segment of the show), and so has celebrity chef Rick Bayless (here's a clip of his visit). They both rave about the place.

I’d heard about it from colleagues who visit Baja a lot. So when I had to pop down there from Tijuana for an unrelated story, I went with hunger pangs. I was not disappointed. I started with tostadas – a fish one, then a crab salad one. I couldn’t stop there. So I had a shrimp one and a fish pate one. I tried one with a mango salsa and another with a peanut sauce. Yumm!

That was about $5.50 worth of food. But I was still hungry. So I had what looked like the piece de resistance – a campechano cocktail. This is a large mixed seafood cebiche. As best as I could tell, it contained fresh octopus, scallops, sea snails, clams, shrimp, sea urchins, a mussel or two and a couple of unrecognizable things. All in brine, a sprinkle of salt, slices of avocada on top, then bathed in the juice of fresh lime. It tasted like a reduction of all the best coming out of the Pacific Ocean, two blocks away.

I went to heaven. And in the future, I will drive far out of my way to go back. You don't get seafood fresher than at La Guerrerense unless you are on the high seas with a fishing pole in your hand.

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