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Food: Baja California

You could be forgiven for thinking Tijuana is a low-budget Las Vegas. But beyond its seedy strip is Mexico’s fastest-growing gastronomic hub

Food: Baja California
Oysters in soy sauce at Encuentro Guadalupe. Image: Laura Price

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Best for food truck feasts
The hedonistic border town known to locals as ‘TJ’ is worth a stop en-route to Baja’s beaches. At food truck collective Telefonica Gastropark, head straight to Ta’costeño for crispy clam tostadas with prickly pear cactus. Next door, find modern takes on traditional dishes, such as chiles en nogada topped with a walnut-based cream sauce at La Carmelita, named after the grandmother of chef José Rodrigo Figueroa, who trained at Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the UK’s Lake District.

Meanwhile, American chef Chad White’s bar-restaurant La Justina keeps it cool on the main strip with tempura oysters and refreshing cocktails served in jam jars and glass tea cups.

Best for seafood
A 90-minute road trip south of TJ brings you to Ensenada, where you’ll find La Guerrerense — perhaps the best place to sink your teeth into Baja’s amazing seafood, such as crunchy sea urchin tostadas. Just down the road, Muelle 3 (Pier 3) serves classics such as seafood rice and almohaditas, pillow-shaped croquettes filled with cheesy prawns. laguerrerense.com

Best for tacos
On your way to Ensenada, stop off at Baja’s lobster capital, Puerto Nuevo, for the most incredible lobster tacos and the strange but tasty Pacific geoduck, an enormous sea mollusc.

Best for wine tasting
No trip to Baja is complete without a journey along the Ruta del Vino to the Valle de Guadalupe, where more than 90% of Mexico’s wine is produced. Chocolatey, berry-like wines such as La Lomita’s Pagano Grenache, are paired with Baja cuisine at trendy new restaurant Bracero, just across the border in San Diego. Plus, there’s exemplary sushi restaurant, Encuentro Guadalupe. bracerococina.com

Eat and stay
After a day of wine tasting along the Ruta del Vino, spend the evening at Corazón de Tierra, where chef Diego Hernández-Baquedano designs a six-course tasting menu each day. Stay overnight at La Villa del Valle, Corazón’s sister hotel, where the view of the stars in the night sky is second to none.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)