The world’s busiest land border crossing has long been a gateway to storied Mexican culinary delights, even before Tijuana’s golden age during Prohibition when Hollywood notables, and mobsters, traveled across to indulge in legal booze and gambling along with showy Caesar’s salads tossed tableside. But in the post-WWII era, Tijuana became even more of a hub, attracting Mexicans from around the country, including taqueros from Izúcar de Matamoros in the state of Puebla, who would help lay the foundation for Tijuana’s exceptional tacos, which range from carne asada and al pastor tacos to tacos de mariscos and Tijuana-style birria de res, which has become a certifiable cross-border sensation. Its unparalleled street food culture, spanning seafood carts and shacks selling other delicious antojitos, is just one aspect that thrills locals and draws day trippers to the bustling border town.
In the late 1980s and 90s, on the eve of Mexico’s modern cuisine revolution, Tijuana’s newest commercial center, Zona Rio, added fine dining restaurants like Villa Saverios, Tour de France, Cien Años, and La Diferencia, and Tijuana-based chefs like Javier Plascencia and Miguel Angel Guerrero, following contemporary chefs in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Ensenada, joined a budding Baja movement begun in Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, with Baja California tourism touting the rise of “Baja-Med” cuisine, a term copyrighted by Guerrero.
International and Mexican press were finally catching on to Tijuana’s talented chefs and street food vendors while modern Baja cuisine restaurants like Misión 19, opened by chef Javier Plascencia (who is no longer involved in the restaurant), El Taller, and Uno, were staffing their kitchens with an emerging group of young graduates from Tijuana’s Culinary Art School, who are now leading a new renaissance of Tijuana restaurants.
Present-day Tijuana is an endless buffet, offering seafood-topped tostadas, steak-filled tortas, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs alongside local fish or lamb from the Valle de Guadalupe grilled over mesquite, paired with wine from the municipality or craft beers made in Tijuana.
Tijuana has never been a more interesting place to dine than it is today. Here’s our list of the best in the city, from fine dining to street food and everything in between.Read More