At last count, there were just under 100 Chinese restaurants in Mexicali. The cooking is mostly Cantonese, but Mexicali-Chinese has evolved into a unique cuisine. For example, a bowl of ketchup-like sauce is commonly served as a condiment. You may also be served a bowl of jalapeños with soy sauce, limes, and salt.
Dragón (Libertad 990, tel. 686/557-4425, lunch and dinner daily, mains US$10) is an upscale Cantonese restaurant that can hold several hundred diners. The signature dish here is duck with mushrooms.
Another good choice is Fortune House (Lázaro Cárdenas 1153, tel. 686/555-8848, 11 A.M.–11 P.M. daily, mains US$10), near the exit to Mexico 2 and Tijuana.
Close to downtown, Restaurant-Bar Heidelberg (Madero at Calle H, tel. 686/554-2022, http://restauranteheidelberg.com/, noon–1 A.M. Mon.–Sat., mains US$15–25) offers German and Continental fare. The atmosphere is pleasant, but prices are high.
With an attached piano bar, Restaurant Italiano Mandolino (Reforma 1070, tel. 686/552-9544, lunch and dinner daily, mains US$10–15) has long been popular for Italian cuisine.
Mexicali has a good option for sushi as well: Sakura Restaurant (Lázaro Cárdenas 2004 at Montejano, tel. 686/566-0514 or -4848, 8 A.M.–midnight Tues–Sun., mains US$10–15) serves teppanyaki and sushi with the Karaoke Video Bar upstairs.
Tatoro (Calle D 126, Col. Nueva, tel. 686/552-4590) brings a taste of Spain to Baja California. Popular dishes include paella and roast pork.
In a former American-style drive-in, Merendero Manuet’s (Calle L at Pino Suárez, tel. 686/552-5694, 10 A.M.–1 A.M. daily, mains US$5–10) has a full menu of antojitos and a full bar occupied by local ranchers and farmers in cowboy hats. The waitresses waited on the parents of some of the younger patrons who drink beer and smoke in the parking lots on weekends.
Another option for antojitos was brand-new at press time: Mr. Choby’s (Juárez 1199 at Carranza, no tel., noon–10 P.M. Sun.–Thurs., 10 A.M.–1 A.M. Fri.–Sat.), in the Las Villas food court. Full botana platters go for US$22, while individual mains start at US$5.
Fonda de Mexicali (Juárez 2220, tel. 686/564-1100, ext. 721, mains US$15 and up) in the Hotel Araiza does a huge brunch buffet on Sundays for US$15. The food is a notch above the typical hotel restaurant fare.
In business since 1945, La Cenaduría Selecta (Arista 1510 at Calle G, Col. Nueva, tel. 686/552-4047, 7 A.M.–5 P.M. Mon., 8 A.M.–11 P.M. Tues.–Sun., mains US$12 and up) is best known for its mole dishes.
La Carnicería (Panamá 190 at Justo Sierra, Col. Cuauhtémoc, tel. 686/568-1011, lunch and dinner daily, mains US$18) is an elegant steakhouse that features an indoor grill and brick oven behind glass. Try the mini al pastor tacos to start and the very good Queso Fondido (fondue platter). There is a bar attached to the restaurant with modern decor and live music occasionally on the weekends.
Los Arcos Restaurant/Bar (Calafía 454, tel. 686/556-0903, www.restaurantlosarcos.com.mx, 11 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Thurs., 11 A.M.–11 P.M. Fri.–Sun., mains US$10–15) is part of a chain of 14 restaurants scattered throughout Mexico. Located in the Centro Cívico district, it is the best place in town for fresh seafood.
The warehouse-style Soriana (three locations, López Mateos 1100, tel. 686/557-2428, Calzada Anáhuac 1301, tel. 686/838-2239, Universidad 1700, tel. 686/556-2203 ), and 24-hour Ley, at Plaza Fiesta on Calzada López Mateos (tel. 686/561-6282), are your best options for stocking up on food and supplies.
There is a Costco (Km. 7.5, Carr. San Luis-Río Colorado, tel. 686/580-4530, 9 A.M.–9 P.M. daily) on the road out of town as you drive on Mexico 5 toward San Felipe.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition