Mexicali is the largest border town in Baja and before my visit there last month I had no idea about the cultural identity of the town, assuming of course mostly Mexican. However it was the Chinese that virtually founded this bustling city and today their influence is everywhere, not least of all the 350 Chinese restaurants to be found.
When it comes to food there is an abundance of choices aside from Chinese with Thai, Japanese and even Italian pushing for more of the dining dollar. There are of course taco stands and restaurants virtually on every street corner, and the quality I have been told is outstanding. American fast food giants have a foothold here as well and the Mexican breakfast is very popular with the locals.
We tried two breakfast places, Chavs and Chalet, and both were quite busy both days and were serving all of the traditional breakfast items where omelets, pancakes and breakfast burritos remain the mainstay. When it came to Chinese food, the City Oriental Buffet remains one of the most popular and quite frankly was very similar to a few I have tried in Los Angeles. We sampled an array of their best dishes such as the garlic shrimp and shredded beef, and as buffets go, it was a very good value.
However if you are into fine dining, then Sibarita is a must visit. Owned by a police officer out of El Centro and open for just a couple of years, this minimalist restaurant is small with only 50 seats, but easily could have been in Venice or West Hollywood, as local artist Pedro Romero is featured and his stunning art really gives the space an edgy atmosphere. Highlights of the five-course meal we enjoyed were a salmon ceviche w/crispy corn tortilla, a balsamic vinaigrette salad w/berries and blue cheese and short ribs in a dark beer sauce served with a green risotto.
If you want to check out a place where artists, bohemians, musicians and poets hang out in Mexicali, then the Slow Down Café is the place to go for a late night cocktail or coffee. This outside patio is a regular hangout for the aforementioned where they can sell their art, and where musicians perform on most nights. Music on offer seems to be New World or Euro Disco style, and don’t forget to try the world famous Mexicali Rose cocktail.
Finally the guys at El Sume Bar served up some great British beers and were quite the Anglophiles. A great night was had by all, and El Sume will be one of my first stops on my return to Mexicali next winter for another fun weekend break.