Enjoy a Baja Delicacy Right in the Heart of San Diego | Ortega's Bistro Brings Puerto Nuevo Tradition and History to Hillcrest

July 14, 2014

The quaint fishing village of Puerto Nuevo lies along the Pacific Coast in Baja California, Mexico, located about an hour south of downtown San Diego. The town, known as the "Lobster Capital of Baja," is famous for the dish of freshly caught, fried spiny tail lobster, traditionally served with beans, rice and house made tortillas. Each week three to four thousand people make the trip to Puerto Nuevo to enjoy lobster dinners! The Ortega family has 4 restaurants within the tiny port town, dating back to the 1970s, but San Diegans need not hop the border to Mexico to enjoy this Baja specialty. Ortega's Bistro offers the Puerto Nuevo experience right off of University Avenue in Hillcrest, as well as delicious margaritas and a diverse selection of Mexico cuisine.

Ortega's, A Mexican Bistro lies right in the heart of Hillcrest and features a pet friendly al fresco patio and hand selected décor that gives guests the rustic feel of true Mexican culture. Like the country itself, the design is welcoming and elegant and uses quintessentially Mexican accents to enhance the environment - from hand woven baskets, brightly colored stained glass, rural wood ceilings, candles, and pottery, to wood-carved doors, stained glass and a homey fireplace in the lounge area.

We began our meal with complimentary chips and salsa and two selections from the 13 different margaritas offered at Ortega's. The pomegranate margarita ($11) is a house favorite - a mix of fresh pomegranate juice, Cuervo Tradicional tequila, Grand Marnier and housemade sour mix, served on the rocks in a sugar rimmed glass. As spice lovers, the jalapeño margarita ($11) really hit the spot, mixing muddled fresh jalapeño, Cuervo Tradicional, sour mix and Grand Marnier, served on the rocks in a chili-rimmed glass. These were two of the the best margs we've had in recent memory - and we are no strangers to Mexico.
From the appetizers, we got our cheese on with the Queso Fundido ($10.95), a gluttonous portion of baked oaxaca cheese topped with chorizo, roasted poblano chiles, caramelized onions, Mexican crema, and cotija and fresco cheese blend, served with piping hot fresh hand made corn and flour tortillas. This is the perfect dish to share amongst a group. We ripped and dipped through this dish despite numerous attempts to restrain ourselves to save belly room.
After cheese overload, we thought we'd be somewhat healthy for a brief moment and ordered the Caesar and avocado salad ($4.95/8.95). Although there is nothing lacking with the original Mexican Caesar salad preparation, the addition of avocado is always welcomed and added a pleasant creaminess.
As a burrito addict, I knew before arriving what my main course would be. Ortega's beef burrito ($14.95) stuffs a pillowy handmade flour tortilla with perfectly seasoned flat iron steak, charro beans, jack cheese, avocado, and huitlacoche-portobello mushroom sauce and comes with a side of rice and charro beans. The steak was juicy, tender and plentiful, making for an upscale burrito experience that the traditionalist in me savored and appreciated. With that said, the San Diegan in me craved the addition of fries and sour cream. Oh how I adore California burritos!
Lady SanDiegoVille loves her lobster (although she may be getting a shellfish allergy from overindulgence), so of course we had to order the Puerto Nuevo style whole lobster (market price - $38 on our visit). The traditional way to cook Puerto Nuevo style lobster is deep frying in lard, slicing in half, then grilling, but Ortega’s chooses to go a bit healthier and prepares theirs steamed then grilled. The whole spiny lobster is served with rice, refried beans, drawn butter, grilled lime and a large flour tortilla. Remove the sweet lobster meat from its shell, wrap it up in a piece of tortilla with rice and beans, squeeze lime and dip in butter and you'll be transported to the sunny shores of Puerto Nuevo.
Typically, I'm not flan fan, but Ortega's may have converted me with its coconut flan ($6.95). Made with coconut milk and caramelized sugar and served with strawberries, powdered sugar and whipped cream, this dessert was sexy and delicious. Just look at it!
Satisfy your craving for Mexican deliciousness at Ortega's Bistro, and for added value be sure to stop by for the daily happy hour, offered twice a day from 3-6pm and 10pm to midnight.

 141 University Avenue, Hillcrest
(619) 692-4200

Open daily til midnight
11am - Midnight
9am - Midnight
Weekend Brunch:
9am - 2pm
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