Homestyle Mexican cooking at a remarkably popular price in Rosarito
El Comedor del Pueblo a.k.a. Los Hijos Del Maiz (Guerrero 503-A, Constitución, Rosarito, Baja California) is more than a restaurant. Hints of what it really is lie in the place’s dual names: “dining room of the people” and “children of the corn.” Mexico is not exactly known for its robust social services. Places like El Comedor, with its soul-warming, classic home cooking, work to fill the gap.
The food at El Comedor is not even remotely adventurous or experimental; it’s the opposite of that. It’s the food of mothers and grandmothers, of the hearth and the home. It’s Mexican comfort food offered at a price that is an extremely good value for Rosarito locals and shockingly inexpensive for those paying in dollars. Every meal at El Comedor is 35 pesos. Not $35 nor $3.50; at current exchange rates that’s $1.79.
And for that $1.79 you get three courses. It starts with a soup for the first course. For the main course you get rice, beans and one of many stews or dishes of the day. You also get a dessert empanada (cajeta on two trips) and a drink (a remarkable fermented pineapple juice on two trips).
The menu at El Comedor changes on a daily basis but the essence of it changes not at all. The first main dish showed the way: pozole rojo to one side of the plate, a line of tomato-infused Mexican rice, and one of black beans cooked in a porky broth. Like all the best pozoles, that pork flavor married with the hominy and mild chiles yielding a sauce that beguilingly combined savory and sweet, both deeply and intensely.
The chicharonnes in salsa rojo at El Comedor are not remotely like the familiar convenience store snack. Rehydrated in water before simmering in a sauce rich in guajillo chiles and garlic, this version is—like so many of El Comedor’s dishes—deeply comforting.
Every dish at El Comedor comes with homemade tortillas that bear little resemblance to the supermarket things that go by the “tortilla” moniker north of the border. These are soft and supple and are utter treats unto themselves. Load them with the rice and beans and whatever dish you’ve ordered, and you’ll get tacos the likes of which San Diegans only want to pretend (or, against most evidence, believe) is prevalent in the 619.
El Comedor’s beef liver dish was a bit of an ask. While the flavor was there, the texture was a bit on the hard side and the overall result was, perhaps, not El Comedor’s best. The calabecita (zucchini) and cheese dish was far better: comforting, approachable, savory and rich.
But as good—and amazing value—as El Comedor may be as a restaurant, there is always another, more important way to look at it. El Comedor was an amazing value for me. But it’s an even more amazing value for those the place feeds for nothing. Not $1.79. Not $1. Not 1 cent. El Comedor offers meals free to those who are disabled or down on their luck.
Yes, El Comedor is more than a restaurant; it’s a social institution. But go there and enjoy it as a restaurant. And consider paying more than your $1.79.