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Make a blog-The Little Taco Cart That Could

By Derrik Chinn

Make a blog-The Little Taco Cart That Could

Make a blog-The Little Taco Cart That Could

When Sabina Bandera took over La Guerrerense, the mariscos cart her in-laws opened in 1960, chances are she never imagined the Ensenada eatery would one day rank among Newsweek’s list of 101 best places to eat on Earth. Or that Anthony Bourdain would track her down with his No Reservations crew and crown her array of 15 ceviches—which include sea urchin, bacalao, sea cucumber, and mussel piled heavily atop corn tostadas with any of her 16 homemade salsas—the best street food in the western hemisphere. 

In fact, when first arriving in Baja California from her home state of Guerrero, she apparently didn’t know much about seafood at all. Hard to believe for the tiny lady with the boy cut and big smile who’s now arguably the toast of Mexico’s northernmost port town and gastronomic mecca—at least as far as its sidewalk cuisine is concerned. Parked within view of colossal cruise ships at the corner of Alvarado and Adolfo Lopez Mateo, two blocks east of the Mexican flag that marks Ensenada’s port, you’ll find her all but buried by a thick swarm of foodie pilgrims, popped-collared locals, and flip-flopped cruise-goers alike. 

Lately it seems Bandera has been reeling in only good news. Her sea urchin ceviche tostada took first prize at the 2011 installment of the L.A. Street Food Fest, followed by her sea snail ceviche tostada in 2012 (both are a more-than-appropriate sampling for any first-timer). 

In early June, she will travel to Singapore to represent Mexico among some 40 street food vendors from around the globe at the World Street Food Congress 2013, a 10-day food jamboree and two-day conference that features a roster of speakers including Bourdain. Alongside daughter Mariana, Bandera will dish out some 1,500 servings daily, and while the ceviche will be crafted from local stock, she’ll pack the tostadas and an ample supply of salsa from home. 

Just how does it feel to be handpicked off the streets of Ensenada and flown 10,000 miles to southeast Asia to share her ceviche at a $750-a-head event? “Very happy, mijo,” she says. “Very happy.”

Avenida Adolfo Lopez Mateo and Alvarado, Ensenada. Open 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday-Monday.

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