For awhile now, I've been hearing that Tijuana has a lot to offer tourists these days above and beyond the usual traps along Avenida Revolución. There are several companies offering adventurous (i.e. not paranoid) explorers opportunities to see a side of the city that is more familiar to locals than to hordes of drunk Marines. Once such company is Club Tengo Hambre, which is focused on the food and drink of the region.
My dear friend Molly was visiting for the weekend, so in the interest of showing her a good time beyond our usual karaoke outings, I decided to finally go ahead and take one of these tours. (This was my first time in Tijuana since 2002! I am old.)
You meet with your group at the border and walk through the turnstiles together (yes, there is only a turnstile between you and Mexico. Crazy.) Our guides Violeta and Antonio ushered us to our chauffeured van and... gave us Tequila shots!
I couldn't get a decent pictures because the roads are super bumpy. At first the Tequila (Bracero Blanco) was a bit daunting because Molly and I were hungover from a night of karaoke and dive bars, but we soldiered on and got into the party spirit.
Our first stop was Mariscos Ruben, a truck serving Sonoran seafood dishes. The marlin tacos we had were excellent and my first exposure to marlin. They were very spicy and went well with the beer from local brewers Hellixer (no web presence). My only complaint about this stop is that I was attacked by vicious ants, who are no doubt PSYCHED that people just stand there on the street dropping crumbs from tasty tacos.
Next stop was Tacos Kokopelli, a funky hippieish restaurant with some more delicious tacos and more delicious craft beer. We tried the "Gringo en Vacaciones" taco, which was Adobo shrimp in red chile sauce.
The greatest thing about Tacos Kokopelli was definitely the sauce selection. LOOK AT IT.
The choices included pineapple, peanut, pumpkinseed, and LUCIFER'S TEARS, which was this Pepto Bismol-looking substance...
IT WAS SO HOT! Lately I've been having trouble find hot enough hot sauce, and this shit DELIVERED. The tiniest little droplets scorched my mouth but activated that sensor where you want more and more pain. Delicioso.
Next we went to Portland.
Not the actual Portland, but this little slice of Portland in the middle of Tijuana: Foodgarden, an outdoor food marketplace with art and a DJ.
I was particularly tickled by the name of the place below. "Veggie Veggie Veggie, can't you see? Sometimes your words just hypnotize me." It's something that doesn't quite work as a pun, but might seem like it would if English is not your native language.
We tried quite a few tasty things here. The first was a refreshing and light fruit cooler, which was welcome in the heat, and a steak quesadilla with queso fresco on top. We also had the most incredible taco of the entire trip, with crispy cheese, mushroom, and avocado (I don't know exactly what was in it, I was just drunkenly groaning at this point as I shoved it in my mouth). The beer we had here, a Saison, was also quite special. The brewer explained that he uses local herbs in his brews in order to make it more representative of Baja.
Our last stop was BCB, a craft beer tasting room in a dark nightclub-style space. The menu had many San Diego beers I recognized, as well as copious local offerings. A bigger beer nerd than I probably would have fainted with joy. It would be right at home across the border in North Park.
After our last stop and saying goodbye to our gracious hosts, there was nothing left to do but wait at the border. And wait. And wait. We opted for a shuttle that we were promised would take only 25 minutes. Nope. It took 2 hours.
So the worst thing about Tijuana was the American government? Sounds about right. Luckily there were churro vendors. One of our tour mates was rightfully super psyched about it.
Molly and I had a great time (border wait excepted) and felt very well taken care of by Antonio and Violeta. I was blown away by what Tijuana has to offer. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Club Tengo Hambre, and especially their Tacos and Craft Beer tour, to anyone who is curious but clueless about Tijuana. I mean, DID YOU SEE THE TACO PICS?!
(It sounds like they paid me to go, but no. I went like a regular schmo. I just loved it so much that I'm fawning anyways.)