Amazing roadside food is a given south of the border, and I'd be lying if I were to say some of my most memorable meals for better or worse hadn't been conceived within the belly of some four-wheeled steel beast. But Rosarito's flagship organic food truck was too tempting of a gimmick to pass by.
Enrique Murillo pulled the parking brake on La Pilita (The Little Trough) just over a month ago, and hasn't moved much aside from heading to Tijuana to make his big-city debut at the first Avenida Revolucion installment of the Baja Beer Fest in July.
Located on a side street between the beach and Boulevard Rosarito, the main road that runs through town, La Pilita's setup is clean and minimal but stylish nonetheless, with a few bar tables scattered around a wood deck, an orange canvas awning that stretches to the street and a sink rigged above the passenger-side front tire alongside the barrel grill. It's somewhat hidden; getting there involves navigating a series of one-ways until finally pulling onto Calle del Alamo. Large banners draped over the street denote where to turn off (and thankfully so, as it's easy to miss). Pass the Zeta Gas compound heading south and you've gone too far.
The name coincidentally elaborates on the logo, an Animal Farmish totem of a hen holding a giant spoon on top of a rabbit on top of a cow.
Fried fish and shrimp tacos are givens (this is Rosarito, after all), while deer, lamb and duck tacos are the mainstays. The rest of the menu changes regularly. In accordance with contemporary gourmet food truck protocol, Murillo baits his clientele with daily social media advisories. On this particular day the special was a yellowtail-clam ceviche tossed with chunks of avocado, jicama slivers, cucumber and corn that, aside from the juicy runoff perfect for sogging up bits of tostada, was more on par with sashimi.
On tap was La Bombera by Ensenada craft brewers Canneria, the red ale that just so happened to win best beer at the Baja Beer Fest. (Full disclosure: that beer, while delicious, happens to be brewed by the fest's organizer, Baja California Craft Beer Association president Francisco Talamante, who's also to thank for tipping us off about La Pilita in the first place.) The idea, Murillo says, is to reintroduce the concept of organic food to locals, by stocking his mobile kitchen with locally grown produce that's usually destined for export. He does his shopping at Rancho Reynoso, a farm on the free road to Ensenada at kilometer 53 whose crops usually sent abroad. It's not officially open to the general public, but Murillo says to just ask for Fabian and you're in.
The need to do reintroduce organic concepts to a setting as lush and fertile as Baja California may come as somewhat redundant. That is, until you remember this is a place where most of what comes out of the ground winds up not in the mouths of locals but on tables thousands of miles north of the border. Oft-wilted greens at the supermarket and canned veggies in the home pantry have become the colloquial norm as a result. Over at the next table was a small gathering of Puerto Nuevo restaurant owners enjoying their day off, whose mere presence at La Pilita remedied any doubt concerning authenticity or quality control. Even when the check came. Two orders of ceviche, nine tacos and seven 10 oz. cups of Bombera made for a grand total of 579 pesos, or $43 and some change. Not bad for a dose of organic, local surf-and-turf that happily fed five.
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