a seafood feast in Popotla, BC

by foodhoe on May 1, 2015

popotla_boatload

Mr. K and I drove down to Baja California again last week, enjoying the beautiful coastline while hunting for more of the delicious seafood we sampled last year (in Ensenada and Rosarito Beach). One of the most exciting places we encountered was a tiny fishing village called Popotla, where you can feast on freshly caught seafood, cooked right on the beach.  This hidden gem is a short drive south of Rosarito Beach on the free road, just south of Baja Film Studios (formerly Fox Studios). Look for the dilapidated white arch (GPS: 32.282065, -117.034997), which is for some reason, easy to miss…

When you see this arch, drive down the unpaved road to the parking lot, which is free.  Don’t let anyone tell you where to park, they are likely trying to get you to go to their restaurant, or something…  Walk down the path past restaurants and curio shops to the beach.

popotla

The fishermen go out in the morning and come back in the early afternoon with their catch, displaying their bounty on tables lining the beach.  I had read Bill Esparza’s article about a particular delicacy, deep fried centollo or spider crab that I was hellbent to check out.  We followed his instructions to head for the first table to the left when you get to the beach.  Sure enough, there was a mountain of long legged crabs, some of them spinning their antennas and moving their legs morosely.

popotla_crabs

On the tables were piles of fish, mollusks, a variety of crustaceans and bottles of urchin.

popotla_creatures

We were extremely thankful that there was someone who was able to act as our translator who helped us make it happen.  They charged us $10 for the fish and crab which included cleaning and they also made arrangements for a nearby vendor across the road to cook it for us.

 

popotla_cleaning

We enjoyed a couple of beers and the view while we waited

popotla_view

and Mr. K procured a small cup of seafood cocktail made with urchin.

popotla_uni

The chef in action frying our crab.  He had a fine expertise and cooked everything to succulent perfection.

popotla_chef

Here are the fried crab legs, finished with garlic butter.  This preparation is known locally as Marciano.  It smelled amazing!

popotla_marciano

The meaty joints were surrounded with crispy caramelized bits that were so dang delicious .  The flesh was tender and sweet, the texture was a bit meatier than the dungeness crab that we’re used to.  Don’t you just want to gnaw on that knuckle?

popotla_closeup_crab

We each got a wooden plank and a big rock to use to whack open the shells, which were thick and required brute force to crack open. This was a particularly messy meal, so bring some wipes along!

popotla_crabshells_rocks

Here is the fried cod fish, along with bowls of rice and beans.

popotla_friedfish_ricebeans

We speak no spanish and clearly did not know what we were doing, but made sure to express our gratitude to all who helped us.  The bill was $17 for the beers, preparation, sides, table and view, a total of $27 for our fabulous alfresco seafood feast.  You could probably get it for less, but it was so easy and so delicious!

popotla_tableau

There were a couple of seals lounging around in hopes of getting scraps.  They were very comfortable with the scene and one taxi had to hold down and blare his horn repeatedly to get one to move out of the way.  There were many vendors walking around the tables trying to make a sale and lots of interesting people watching, it was a delightful and adventurous afternoon.

popotla_seal

I am sure that there are some who would be repelled by the rustic facilities and perceived lack of sanitary food handling practices, but we had no complaints and everything tasted fresh and wholesome.  It’s a locals spot where people have been going for fresh seafood for decades and can get quite crowded on the weekends, which is good enough testament for me…

More links on Popotla:

Life and food blog
Baja: the other California
A Gringo in Mexico: Feeding my mariscos madness

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda Ton May 3, 2015 at 9:12 am

Yes! I cannot wait for this in the next couple of weeks. Thank you for writing down the exact details. We are using this and the articles you sent over as a guide. That crab looks on unbelievable.

Reply

Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat May 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

Wow, I’ve never seen a crab like that, kind of like a monster. So makes sense to totally deep fry and kill it in oil. LOL. Sounds like a nice getaway. Always great to have fresh seafood on the streets.

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copep May 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Awesome. I’ll make this spot my first pit-stop, on my next trip to Ensenada. For a meal like that, including beer, you will spend, no less than a $100 at Ports Of call-San Pedro CA.

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foodhoe May 12, 2017 at 6:34 am

copep thanks for visiting and your comment, it makes me really want to go back, I love Baja!

Reply

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