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Cali-Baja Fresh Cuisine

San Diego's unique cross-border flavor

Daring chefs have created dining experiences that blend cross-border influences of San Diego and Baja California into the delicious Cali-Baja scene.

With a mild year-round climate, proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, rich agricultural resources and an unquestionable influence from its vicinity to México, it’s no wonder San Diego has become a nucleus of hot spots to dine, demonstrating it can offer more than sand and surf.

What is Cali-Baja?

San Diego stands in the middle of two very powerful influences: the California fare distinguished for its devotion of using fresh local ingredients and pursuit of constantly renovating its cooking techniques, and Mexico's Baja Med cuisine, a food revolution that began in Tijuana and is gaining worldwide recognition for combining traditional Mexican ingredients with those of the Mediterranean. Thanks to the daring chefs who have created a dining experience that speaks to locals, San Diego's culinary landscape blends these two influences into a delicious Cali-Baja scene.

California is a state loaded with resources, and San Diego is blessed with the virtues of its land and oceans. In fact, San Diego County has more small farms than any other local county in the nation. Local Organic farmers such as Chino Farms are the to-go places for many local restaurants that opt to use seasonal, local, organic ingredients. Is freshness the secret to a great recipe? San Diegans seem to think so, and are constantly demanding sustainable farm-to-table ingredients on their plates. 

Where to Find Cali-Baja

Sharing the same ocean, south of San Diego, Tijuana's Baja Med cuisine is turning heads and placing Baja on the culinary map. With such close proximity, San Diego and Baja can't help but complement each other. Restaurants such as Puesto in Seaport Village, Mission Valley and La Jolla, King & Queen Cantina in Little Italy and Blind Burro in Downtown's Gaslamp Quarter serve up fundamental Baja ingredients such as lobster, chicharrón (pork rinds) and cotija cheese. Even San Diego's own seafood fast-food chain, Rubio's, became famous nationally for bringing Baja fish tacos to this side of the border.

Another notable restaurant creating delicious, fresh Cali-Baja cuisine is Coasterra on Harbor Island, where fresh seafood and Mexican classics are served in a beautiful bayside setting. And Ortega's Mexican Bistro, a favorite in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood, brings the flavors of Puerto Nuevo — a Baja fishing village renowned for its lobster specialties — to delighted diners here.

When it comes to the national dining scene, there is no city that compares to San Diego, and there isn't a category fit for San Diego's gastronomy identity — one that has stopped trying to see what everyone else is doing and endorsed, and instead is doing what it does best: ride its own wave.

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