Keep Tijuana Tasty – A Weekend in TJ

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Tijuana, like Vegas, is one of those places I somehow had not been to despite being a Southern California native. Though now I’m hooked, I’m glad I didn’t go in my party days and saved it for now. Valentines day weekend also happened to land on a three day weekend, so my savvy self rented out my apartment on Air B&B, (If you haven’t used it, its amazing for both renting places or renting your own place- get $25 off your first time )

OK so back to it- Tijuana is a 2.5-3 hour drive South of LA, so Drew (and I- I actually got my drivers permit and helped!) headed down there early Saturday morning and came back midday Monday. To quote Drew who I overheard saying this as I swooned “we came here for the food.” The motto.

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We spent the first day getting settled in and doing a bit of exploring. Basically right after checking into our hotel, which was the Holiday Inn Zona Rio, which I got off Hotel Tonite with a dope ass discount (YO Use my code LABASCAL for $25 off). The hotel was nothing special, at all. Like they had a full pool yet only two pool chairs. But hey, it’s Tijuana. Actually no, that “Tijuana is bootleg” attitude is where everyone is wrong. Of course, Mexico has different laws than the US and much of Tijuana is impoverished, but it’s on the comeup, like any nice place once was. We headed to Food Garden, a super cute outdoor mini food court of independent mini-restaurants/stands.

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If you head to Tijuana or Baja in general. PLEASE check out Food Garden, it was so amazing we went twice and ended up getting food from all of the stands that had Mexican food (I didn’t go to Mexico for Thai or Burgers- though the locals were loving those stands.)

After downing agua frescas, the basically official non-alcoholic official drink of Tijuana, and SO much food, I took a nap and got ready for our amazing Valentines Day dinner, which was a surprise to me.

Drew told me he had chosen Verde y Crema, an awesome Baja California cusine spot he found on Trip Advisor. He’s not usually the planner- thats me- so I was really curious to see what it was like. I’m about to overload you with photos and let you decide for yourselves. Hint: IT WAS AMAZING.

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Us about to go to dinner

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Drew reviewing the menu- we went with the 4 course prefix 
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My first course: tomato soup
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His first course, a beet salad IMG_4852

My second course, an amazing raw fish tartar/ceviche with cucumber, jalepeno, and radish. WARNING THIS IS THE BEST THING I ATE THE ENTIRE TRIP 
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His second course, a tuna tartar with avocado crema
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Drew being amazed by his third course- grilled octopus with passion fruit sauce
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Octopus- PULPO en espanol- was the highlight of our tripIMG_4861

Drew beat me on this course- but this was my also very good third course of snapper filet and veggies
IMG_4862Drew looking unimpressed at these lava cakes with dulce de leche ice cream and berries that was AMAZING 

OKAY so I think you’re getting why I love Tijuana. Or if you’re not- let me tell you that that pre-fix was $25 american dollars each…….. YEP. Let’s all move there.

After dinner, we took a cab (there’s Uber in Tijuana btw and its way cheaper than their regular cabs, $3 or less anywhere) to La Sexta, Sixth Street, which is where most of the nightlife in Tijuana is. That and Revolucion, which is the more touristy aka tacky street. But let me tell you, La Sexta was no cutesy Melrose looking place. And I’m glad. In the midst of tourists and locals hobbling in heels and people trying to lure us in with shots, we walked with a purpose to Mustache Bar, a suggestion we had gotten from a friend.

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It was so cute. The “shot menu” is about 30 different types of mustache, each signifying a different shot recipe. Upstairs, there was a DJ playing chopped and screwed tracks, and outside there was a shoegaze band. Next door there was a punk show. If you’re in Tijuana, do not spend time in some scary sticky floor discoteca, or do if you’re into that. This bar had no Americans or English speakers, just the way I like it.

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The band outside and projected visuals were awesome.

We headed back and got ready for the next and first full day of our trip. We started the next morning, Sunday, at Erizo Baja, a cevicheria I read about in a blog. This place is awesome with really cute outdoor seating and walking distance to a really nice neighborhood full of houses I wanted to buy.

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IMG_4872Grilled pulpo taco was the second best thing I ate.

IMG_4869Yep this is the pic I chose to represent this entire blog. BEYOND FRESH oysters and a shrimp avocado ceviche.

From this brunch/lunch, we walked around and ended up taking a cab to Revolucion, the main tourist street in Tijuana to check it out during the day.

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Doratto was a really awesome store full of Tijuana based designers
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IMG_4882It was really awesome to see shops filled with local designs, moreso than I even see in LA. The shop workers were really nice and impressed to hear we were there to actually check out the local vibe, which lead to a lot more honest suggestions and not just places to get wasted on the low. Appreciate it. I got some cute sunglasses and Drew got some vintage t-shirts. Somehow again we were hungry and headed into another hip looking food court- it seemed like these were a big trend there.

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This cute lowkey entrance is easy to miss. Don’t.
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Def check out the empanada stand here. The ham and pineapple one was amazing.IMG_4879More agua frescas

So here is where we got an awesome suggestion from one of the chefs. Upon hearing that we were basically in this for the food, he suggested we drive to Puerto Nuevo, a small seaport and lobster town about 20 minutes South towards Ensenada for dinner. And we did. Let me tell you, it wasn’t 20 minutes, it was 40. Which felt insanely long on the Mexican highway where we had no GPS, the signage was minimal, but we made it. This definitely made me gain hope for our chances on The Amazing Race.

So we get to Puerto Nuevo, and you should go. I would highly emphasize going during the day and not for night like we did. Its a scenic oceanside drive and we saw NOTHING EXCEPT BLACK.

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The food was AWESOME. Don’t make fun of me, but I’ve only had lobster in sorta bootleg settings like in a grilled cheese or pasta. We had 7 lobster tails, beans, rice, salsa, and homemade tortillas. Cash only. Under $50 total. The chef wasn’t kidding, this town ONLY sells lobster, and all the restaurants appear the exact same, same menu. We chose the one that was the most crowded, and I think it was the move. It had some name like “The Original Puerto Nuevo.” We got there pretty late and some of the employees were off enjoying what looked like the lobster tails people had already eaten, using their nails and forks to take off even the most minuscule pieces of leftover lobster meat. Which made me even further appreciate my lobster privilege and dig in.

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Our last day brought us back to Food Garden. I had a few other suggestions, Tacos Aaron, Tacos Franc, and Mariscos El Manzateno, but they all opened after we had to leave. We got the chiliquiles again, but with different salsas, pulpo tacos, el pastor tacos, and seasoned fries with fancy sauces from the burger stand.

My last tip/comment, the ride out of Tijuana is not as easy as the ride in. Obviously, we’re dealin with the US gov again. The wildest part of the TWO HOURS we spent in standstill traffic exiting was the progression of items people were trying to sell us. Imagine it ranging from your standard ice cream and corn to huge religious artifacts, imitation Last Supper paintings, to a LIVE PUPPY. My tip would be grab some of the lime ice cream with chili on top, called El Diablo and keep your windows up and just move forward.

HMU for any tips and I’d love to hear your suggestions for Tijuana or experience. I want to go back ASAP!

 

  • Sam

    Pasaje Rodriquez
    Tortas washmobile
    Tacos kokopelli

  • Sam

    La mezcalera

  • Sam

    Another food garden location is opening in April at plaza río.
    Chocolatería y tienda
    Das Cortez

  • Sam

    La ciruela electrica

  • Sam

    Telefónica Gastro Park

    • Lina Abascal

      thank you so much for all of these recommendations. do you live in tijuana?