In 2012, two of the best meals of my trip were enjoyed at Taperia Criollo operated by Chef Tania Livier and at El Sarmiento owned by Chef Guillermo "Memo" Barreto. The two are partners in love as well as work and currently run Taqueria Criollo, making it a high priority for me to check out when I returned to Ensenada in June 2017. I liked Criollo so much for breakfast, I returned for lunch a couple days later before heading home, and again on my August visit.
Taqueria Criollo serves breakfast and lunch by counter service. Seating is outdoors, mostly under a canopy. It&#39;s away from the port and tourist scene, causing some grumbling among visitors. For me, that’s an advantage because parking is so much easier.
Chef Tania is the queen of salsas. Though they have a full line of cooks, she makes the colorful and distinctive condiments herself each day. They&#39;re available on a self-serve bar for customers to help themselves.
I helped myself to a dab of each, creating a jewel box of condiments to sample with our order. Taco de borrego tatemado blew me away. Braised heritage lamb was unbelievably intense and deeply flavored with juicy shreds of tender meat and crispy seared edges, garnished with shaved radish, slivers of red onion, cherry tomato and cilantro leaves.
When I commented on how good the corn tortilla tasted, Chef Memo handed me a fresh and warm one, just delivered from his purveyor. Deeply corny, thin, tender and pliable, so wonderful a base for the taco menu here.
Behold the Chilaquirrito! The creative chefs have dubbed their style of cuisine &quot;Mexa-pop&quot;, taking back the popular standards from Americanization by infusing traditional elements with a new twist. This mash-up of a burrito and chilaquiles was a deliciously successful reconquista, putting the two together in a chewy flour tortilla with a runny egg. I loved the noisy crunch of the chips and slathering with each salsa one by one for change up in flavors.
A few days later I returned to try the Chilaquiles on their own. A small size turned out to be quite generous, a serving of ultra crunchy tortilla chips napped with half red and half green salsas, guacatillo (avocado/tomatillo sauce), queso fresco, black beans, and guiso of your choice. Machaca, for us this morning. Egg, cooked as you like, is also an option.
i wanted to dig into the Tacos Chulos side of the menu. The &quot;Sarmiento&quot; reprised the finest tongue taco on the planet tasted five years earlier at the restaurant of that name. Tender beef tongue slices garnished with Persian cucumber rounds, guacatillo, a signature savory-tart relish, radish and cilantro leaves arrayed on a single ply corn tortilla. A masterpiece.
&quot;Pesca del dia&quot; was an homage to Ensenada&#39;s fish tacos fried in lard, evoking the flavors and textures. Fish grilled on the plancha with crisp pork chicharron, lemony aioli, guacatillo, cured onions and cucumbers will not replace the classic taco de pescado in my heart, but was enjoyable on its own terms.
&quot;El Campechano&quot; was a surf and turf of grilled octopus with crispy fried tripa on a smear of red beet puree and garnished with guacatillo and lemony aioli.
Then in August I convinced my traveling companions to take breakfast here before we left town. Cafe Chata, a cold brew coffee plus horchata hit the spot alongside the refreshing Green juice.
My previous visit I noticed a staffer lighting a wood fire in a small smoker. He explained that its used to smoke filet mignon. Well, I had to try that. The &quot;Tostada Catrina&quot;, a crunchy blue corn tostada, layered cold smoked filet mignon, frijoles and cheese was incredible with the rich yolk of the sunny side egg saucing the composition. We repeated the excellent taco de borrego tatemada, and expanded to a most delectable trio of vegan tacos (soy chorizo, achiote stained refritos, rajas asadas).
Taqueria Criollo has dice cups available to shake over who gets the bill. No matter who winds up paying the tab, I&#39;ve been grateful to eat so well for so little at this chef-driven taco stand.
Calle segunda #1380, entre Floresta y Espinoza
Ensenada, Baja California
+52 646 206 6290