The 7 best Cali-Baja experiences in San Diego

San Diego is “Cali-Baja” culture, a blend of Mexico and California. From experiences to restaurants, San Diego gives you a chance to try this historical mix in a region rich with both old and new cultural direction. Yes, San Diego is water, whales, golf and history. Under it all is this different cultural melt that has been going since the area transferred from being part of Mexico to the U.S. in 1850.

Turista Libre

In downtown S.D., you are only 20 minutes away from Tijuana, the gateway to the Mexican Baja. And, by far the best way to see it through Turista Libre. Started by an American who now lives in Tijuana, you board his renovated school bus. Let the tequila flow as you get carted to the best shopping, bars, wineries, museums and even sporting events. See it like a local with a local.

Turista Libre

Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen

Next to downtown is Little Italy, home to the hottest restaurant area in San Diego. The site of a former fishing operation from the 1890s, The Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen, adds a new twist to the rustic food that fed the early inhabitants. You can eat these dishes every day, but the surprise is the care and creativity applied. Try the fried chicken, twice-cooked red skin potato and charred green beans with mint. They make their own Brioche to a level that would make a proper Parisian drool.

Giselle Wellman

Bracero Cocina

Chef Javier Plascencia started cooking in Tijuana, perfected unique seafood dishes, and then opened Bracero Cocina in Little Italy. The interior can only be described as artistically chic, while the food can be defined as off the charts Baja-inspired gourmet. A Mexican take on the tapas (both hot and cold plates) concept for sharing as well as regular entrees. If meat is calling, then get a taste of an old Mexican hacienda with the Ranchero Style Ribeye with jalapeno potato puree’ and blistered shishito peppers.

Bracero Cocina

Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Chase the piglet all the way to the Carnitas’ Snack Shack, with a unique dining experience right by the pier. The outdoor dining is under a large roof so you can see the city and the waterway action. It might be technically relatively quick food, but the proprietors are trained culinary chefs that produce dishes found only at the Shack. A must consume is the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich combining pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, pepperoncini relish and shack aioli.

Carnitas Snack Shack

Casa Guadalajara

Venture south for history and shopping to Old Town (the original San Diego), and Casa Guadalajara is the Mexican restaurant of choice. A little bit old school, but enough new twists to give favorites some bite. Tradition with care is the Carnitas Michoacán. A modern combination of seasoned pork served with hot handmade tortillas, guacamole, Pico de gallo salsa, and beans. Also, Old Town features the oldest cigar and tobacco shop in California, Racine & Laramie, started in 1868.

Casa Guadalajara

Galaxy Taco

In La Jolla, Galaxy Taco is the artistic realization of chef Trey Foshee. Part bar, part lounge, and all fun. Creations include the Mahi Ceviche Tostada and the Carne Asada Ribeye with avocado. Modern Mexican food that pushes the boundaries of superb.

Galaxy Tacos

The Hake

If you have to go a little more formal with your take on this culinary blend, then The Hake in La Jolla gives an ocean view with Mexico City roots. Dishes are south of the border creations with a small dose of Asian and Indian influence, just enough to make the palate take notice. The Grilled Octopus combines arugula, fennel root, grilled tomatoes, and tzatziki.


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