After crossing the finish line for the 50 mile fun ride down the Baja coast, I already knew my next move. Fish tacos. A mandatory of the Rosarito-Ensenada fun ride experience.
You could blindfold yourself and stumble in any direction for a mile, rip off the blindfold and see several taco stands in Ensenada. It’s a fishing town among other things — tourist trap, cruise ship drop zone, strip club extravaganza — but I’m talking about the queen of fish tacos, on the corner of Adolfo López Mateos and Riveroll.
My guess is she’s been on that corner almost every day for 10 years, a small cart with table, turning out battered fish tacos by the million. They are extraordinary and her sudden disappearance would throw the whole Ensenada ride open for review.
Like the promise of gold or chickas in go-go boots (that was before and later), I led my three friends Doug, Buzz and Paul back to taco heaven and yes, there she was, the operation unchanged and the results without question. I downed two immediately and watched my friends experience their moment of pescado perfection. We made a point to immortalize the fish taco lady with a photo.
Then it was fiesta time out at the Hotel Corona. It’s not the best recovery drink after a hard 3 hour ride, but three Tecates later I was heavily relaxed. The latin party music was booming on stage as the Sol beer girls, resplendent in their short yellow hot pants, tube top and thigh high black boots did their back and forth beauty sway.
Moments later, they were joined by the almost-as-sassy Powerade girls (it was the white sneakers that wrecked the otherwise beautiful attire.) But that was only the beginning of the entertainment, the kind you just can’t get up North where tacky yet charming displays of soft porn are frowned on. Our loss as always and why men end up in Mexico looking for many things. Cheap Viagra being another one.
After the Latin go-go boot dance routine it was time for the audience talent show. I wasn’t clairvoyant; I’d seen it two years ago with the same hyper MC. The twist this year was six men and women from the audience, mixed and matched as couples then challenged with taking turns giving each other a lap dance on stage. I joketh not.
Now maybe this might happen on a Spring break in Daytona Florida after a dozen shots of jagermeister but it’s just not the same here in Mexico. There’s a naive charm, an element of silly burlesque and a tacky, playful sexuality to it. Somehow it doesn’t turn competitive or mercenary like up Uncle Sam way. Besides hundreds of exhausted and inebriated bikers, there are moms, pops and kids in the audience. There’s no outrage or morality police or special interest group grinding axes and killing good times. Score another win for Mexico. And by the way, the chubby girl won.
After all this fine entertainment, it was time for — what else — a damn nap. We hit the mattress hard for an hour before crawling upright again, looking for fuel, which happily, was right around the corner at fish taco paradise. Another dollar, another delight. We actually bowed our thanks, and saluted her skills with hands held in prayer. She smiled at the silly gringos.
That however was simply the appetiser. Two years ago we’d discovered the only good restaurant in Ensenada (we did later discover a 2nd one.) But time had passed, the restaurant had moved and who knows what had happened since we’d eaten there. We tracked the address down and set out on foot, with some mild grumbling about just grabbing something easy in town. What? Twisted Spoke lives in just north of San Francisco with a sassy chef and I did not check my palette at the border.
We headed down a street with little sign of a restaurant, just low warehouse style buildings closed up for the night. More grumbling and questioning of my navigation skills. Yet lo and behold, a red light in the near distance. Manzanita restaurant re-discovered. The wide, heavy wooden doors opened to a beautiful bar and restaurant lit by chandeliers with red lights. The wall behind the bar was one entire carved wooden structure, like it had been lifted from an old church. Beautiful and once again, Mexico comes through. We couldn’t even read the menus but the women at the table beside us gave us the plate-by-plate. We dined well.
No trip to Ensenada would be complete without a visit to the supposed birthplace of the margarita. The bar is named Hussongs and it is the margarita mecca, a must see and drink, a place that reeks of history, bar fights, failed marriages, hard luck, drunken college students from San Diego who soon regret their excess.
But let’s not dampen the fun. We walked into Hussongs with the place going full blast. An eight piece mariachi band, resplendent in their green suits, was playing and two older, drunk Mexican guys had paid them a hundred to act as their personal jukebox. It was two-for-one margs so pretty soon we were singing, too.
We had reached that hazy glazed smile state, part physical exhaustion, part tequila. where you don’t say much, you just grin at your buddies with a look that says, yeah, we’re in the right place, baby. We had another round, the edges of the world softening and the music embracing us. I might have paid for a cot and just curled up in the corner. In that moment I was done with techno and alt rock, I wanted mariachi music on heavy rotation.
We stumbled out of Hussongs with a decision to make. We’d crossed over now and considered a number of scenarios guaranteed to anger wives and girlfriend. Should we hit the Hot Fox or Paris de Noche strip clubs? The “rateros,” street corner hustlers, yelled us promises — girls, viagra, drugs, you name it.
The bad good times that seem like a really great idea after a dozen drinks. The three police cars parked outside the Hot Fox convinced us the most thrilling thing was the head back at our Villa Fontana motel. However, we chose the third option, the middle ground between madness, possible STD’s and broken marriage and going to bed like nice, responsible trained adult mice.
Hey, we drank more tequila until we could barely walk. That’s always fun. P.S. The Twisted Spoke Flickr gallery at the bottom of the homepage has more photos and will will be added shortly.