I suggested to my wife that we should explore the various small Mexican cafes that dot Benito Juarez Boulevard. Our first stop was La Cocina de la Abuela or Grandma’s Kitchen. It is across the street and to the south from Cristalina, where we get our purified water, and across from Pemex, the one with the car wash or aqua tunnel.
The place is just charming. There might be other words to describe it, but charming comes immediately to mind. Brightly painted in orange, it leaves no doubt it is a Mexican cafe. Each table has a bright sarape cloth centered diagonally on a burlap tablecloth and covered with clear plastic for easy cleaning.
La Cocina de la Abuela is owned and operated by Maria Alfa, the grandmother and namesake of the restaurant. She is affectionately known to many customers and friends as simply Alfa. She has had several locations in Rosarito before moving to its present spot five years ago. She came to our table to make sure all was well. She is more fluent in English than I am in Spanish. Maria sets the tone for her restaurant: warm and friendly making us feel as if we were special guests in her home.
But, the food. Simply authentic and divine. You just know you’re eating the next best thing to home-cooking from her old family recipes. Susan had queso (cheese) enchiladas covered with mole. She also makes chicken and pork enchiladas. The mole is Maria’s special recipe, sweet, rich and savory with just the right amount of heat. I ordered tortilla soup, a savory chicken broth with crisp tortilla chips which made perfect warmer for a rainy, cool day.
I also ordered a drink I hadn’t tried before, tamerindo, made from tamarind seeds which are boiled, mashed and strained. This unique, tasty, and healthy drink is a combination of sweet and tart. Normally I order jamaica or chorchata, cinnamon flavored rice water, but this will be a new favorite.
On our second visit we brought friends. Susan again ordered queso enchiladas, a testament to how wonderful that dish is. I ordered chili rellenos, done to perfection and delectable. Our friends ordered chicken breast with mole and enchiladas verde. These were likewise delicious. On my next visit I plan to order albondigas, a meatball soup.
The restaurant features tamales and champurrado, a hot chocolate-type drink, plus daily specials for 45 pesos.
La Cocina de la Abuela is open 7:00 – 10:00 PM daily. I asked Maria when she takes a vacation and she replied, “This is my vacation.” With an attitude like that, is it any wonder her dishes are so special? Each is filled with love.
In Rosarito, on the west side of the Boulevard, a bit south of Smart and Final. 661 120 0118.