Northern Baja Restaurant Scene

El Portal
BY: CHUCK WAGON

I am the consummate terrible cook you can find in every family. My grey matter for some reason has no concept of what spice should be added or left out of every recipe and following recipes has never worked for me. Unfortunately for me I love food, all food from every region of the world. Fortunately I live in Baja Norte where it seems all foods from many regions of the world are presented, some brilliantly, for every pocketbook,  mine being on the mid/lower end but whose complaining.

Let me introduce El Portal at km 41 across from Gaviotas on the east side of the free road. I must have passed it a thousand times taking no notice of what appeared to be a tiny wooden shack with pretty flowers surrounding the entrance. One day I noticed many Federal police cars p1arked at the entrance and then again many times after that, also civilian cars.

My husband wandered in all by himself to try the breakfast. The report bordered on outstanding all the way to superlative and he said it was gorgeous inside. I let his review slide until one day some weeks later he literally dragged me there for breakfast. I was planning on very rustic to dilapidated until I set foot inside. There were beautiful Mexican country tables and chairs with fabulous photos. pictures and knick knacks on the walls. The very high ceilings were beautifully decorated as was the kitchen that could be seen from every table. The place was crowded with local folks because as I have been told by many of my expat friends, “I never heard of El Portal.”

Food was the next test and by the fragrant smells coming from the kitchen I figured this must be the hidden gem in Rosarito. The mushroom omelet that I had was fluffy and perfectly seasoned. Most  omelets I have tried never passed the light and fluffy test so food number one was rated “outstanding”.

 I ordered the chicken enchiladas and from my five years in Mexico and hundreds of enchiladas later they were among the best I have ever eaten. The true test of any restaurant is consistency and of the many subsequent visits paid to this establishment I have to say each visit was not only better than the last but different in texture and flavor.

The prices are more than reasonable and for what is presented I would say fantastic. I figured that if we ate there five nights a week it would cost less money than shopping for dinner in any supermarket.

El Portal is a family affair with all members of the family participating, but from what I have eaten I have to say  Grandma and Momma are the best at what they do.

The restaurant’s restrooms are spotless as is their restaurant, a condition I have not found in all the eateries I have tried. To the left of the restaurant sits their home and a large area devoted to some vegetable preparation. We were also introduced to two iguanas which are  part of the family I was told. The service is perfect, usually attended to by a young girl with a dazzling smile serving my favorite item on the menu; orange guava juice.

El Porton is open seven days a week from 9 to 5:30. They serve a children’s menu and hamburgers and fries at $4.95 for those who don’t want the local faire. Breakfast items are served all day as are all the Mexican dishes. This eatery does not disappoint and for the price you just can’t go wrong. Just go early. They close before dark.