Street Food

Tijuana Street Food

Street food is iconic in Mexico and when  you’re in town, you’ll never go hungry no matter what time of day or night it is!  The first thing that probably pops into your head is tacos. And yes, that is by far the majority of the street food, but there’s a few other options as well. Tijuana street food here we come!

Hotdogs

If you grow up in the mid-west like I did, you probably had a cookout with some grilled hotdogs that you wrapped in a cold bun and slathered some ketchup, mustard, and onion on it.

If you grow up in Mexico a hotdog is something you can find in any neighborhood in the afternoon through to late night/early mornings.  Not only do you get a grilled hot dog…it could be wrapped in bacon, or bacon and cheese, topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, jalapeños, onion, grilled mushrooms, or beans all served on a hot steamed bun.

Gorditas

The word Gordita has a few different meanings in different Mexican states, but I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed.  They are just delicious in all forms. In Tijuana, gorditas are made from corn dough that is thicker than a corn tortilla, cooked up on a comal and then someone slices it open and stuffs cheese and butter in there to melt. Then, it’s stuffed with the meat of your choice, onions, cilantro and salsa.  To which you add lime, salt and more salsa to your liking.

There is one Tijuana stand in particular that is amazing, it’s called Tacos Puebla.  It’s located on the corner of 5th street (Emiliano Zapata) and Av. Francisco Madero (one block down from Revolution Ave).

TACOS

Tacos, Tacos, Tacos!! The second you hear the word you picture yourself gnawing on something tasty in a tortilla listening to a mariachi band…just me? OK, I kid, I don’t usually hear the mariachi band when I dream of tacos, I’m more of an Angeles Azules kinda lady.

Who created the taco?

According to the man who wrote the book about taco history, tacos started back in the 18th century in the silver mines of Mexico and have evolved ever since.  Over time, they have even been influenced by the large Lebanese migrants who first put that pork up on a vertical rotisserie and created tacos arabes (still sold in Puebla) and then adobada/al pastor.  The taco has been evolving ever since, in Baja California for example, the fish taco was created since there’s so much fish that is caught in the area.

What can you put in a taco?

These days…anything!  In Tijuana, you have all the traditional tacos – all meats and seafood, but then you have places that are experimenting and creating new flavors by fusing cultures, trying new recipes or going vegan.  What you can find in the street though is usually tacos varios and meat tacos.

Tacos Varios

These tacos are usually offered in the morning until they run out sometime in the afternoon.  Or they are set up near the nightlife for a midnight snack.

What makes them special is that they have about 10 different homemade dishes to choose from – chile relleno, chicharron in salsa verde, chicken in adobo, etc.  Then they put it together in a corn tortilla, refried beans and some rice.

Meat Tacos

There’s so many! You can find just taco carts of one type of meat to 4 or 5 types of meat.  What you’re craving or what’s close by will end up being the determining factor for this category.  The two that we frequent the most are located in our neighborhood and provide either an evening snack of taco/quesadilla de adobada or a weekend morning breakfast of birria.

This adobada stand though…hands down has the best quesadillas.  First they heat up a flour tortilla, then they throw on some cheese to melt, THEN they flip it over and fry the cheese a little bit before they throw in the adobada, salsa, onion and cilantro… gosh, I’m making myself hungry!

Don’t be afraid…

To try that street food!

Tijuana Breakfast Feasts

Tijuana Breakfast Huevos

Breakfast in Mexico can take many shapes and forms.  It could be tacos, quesadillas, seafood or cow intestine soup (menudo)! But for my purposes today, I’m going to highlight 3 breakfast restaurants in Tijuana where you can order a variety of egg delights, coffee and juice to stuff yourself silly.

Before we dive in, just FYI – I didn’t think my photos did any justice to these 3 places, so you’ll have to check out their Instagram accounts for that.  Proceed with Caution: It could make you really hungry…

Café de la Flor

Café de la Flor is my go-to and I was introduced to it by my friend Karla when we nestled into a booth at the Chapultepec location on a cold Sunday morning around 7 years ago for brunch.  I’ve been in love ever since.

Breakfast here is always delicious and they have quite a few options that include pancakes (hot cakes), crepes, french toast, egg plates, omelettes, chilaquiles and some specialty combos.

One of their combos on the menu is called the La Flor Slam, which for you cake for breakfast people like me, tops off the plate with a piece of either cake, cheesecake or a crepe! #sweetandsalty

Top that off with some fresh juice and smoothie options, cafe de la olla and lattes (my favorite is the Café de la Flor 🙂 made with cajeta) and you’ll be stuffed until dinner!

Average breakfast spend + coffee or juice = $7USD

Alma Verde

Alma Verde, what a great addition to Tijuana!  This new restaurant really brings home the farm to table atmosphere with a comfy, modern vibe.

Not only is their food amazing, which I’ll get to in a minute.  The most surprising was to find out that they have a nursing and changing room.  YES, you heard me!

Nursing mothers, listen up – they offer a comfortable room with plush chairs, changing table and they even have wipes and diaper cream to use.  Oh, and if you would like to order something to help milk production, there’s a special menu for that too. As a mother of a now toddler, I know this is a rarity in any restaurant.  I am usually crossing my fingers that there’s small flip down changing table in the bathroom!

Ok, back to the food. There’s an option for everyone!  And if you’re a vegan, this place caters to you too.  With choices from House Chilaquiles or with beet sauce, omelettes, french toast, pancakes to parfaits and sweet potato hash browns.  Nom nom nom…

Average breakfast spend + coffee or juice = $10USD

Los Chilaquiles

Los Chilaquiles is what you’d expect, a restaurant that offers a wide variety of Chilaquiles.  If you’re unfamiliar with this dish, all you need to know is that it’s a very traditional Mexican breakfast and great for hangovers too.  The simple version is that it’s tortilla chips with salsa! But yet, so much more than that.

This place offers about 30 different salsas to choose from.  And yea, you can get something else like pancakes or omelette…but why?  You have 30 salsas to try!

Check it out, you won’t be disappointed!

Average breakfast spend + coffee or juice = $7USD

Provecho! Bon Appetit!

Let’s talk Mexican Beers

Montezuma Mexican Beers

Contrary to popular belief, Corona is not the most popular or most liked Mexican beer among Mexicans living in Mexico.  It’s more like the Miller High Life in an icy cold variety pack – you know, the one you either drink first to get it out of the way or last because it’s not your favorite, but hey – it’s beer!

Mexican National Beer

For starters, I’d like to point out that this info is only about National Mexican beer.  Tijuana’s craft beer scene is also booming, but that deserves its own conversation.

There are two main breweries for national beer – Moctezuma and Modelo and I bet you’ve heard of a few of each.  But there’s a few that don’t make it too far over the border which are quite tasty if you’re stopping by.

Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery

This brewery is responsible for Dos Equis, Sol, Bohemia, Noche Buena, Indio, and Tecate.

  • Dos Equis – They have a pale lager and a Vienna-style amber lager called Amber 🙂
  • Sol – This is a light beer that’s good for hot summer days.
  • Bohemia – The original is a pale pilsner, but they also offer a wheat beer similar to Blue Moon and a dark Vienna beer.
  • Noche Buena (Poinsettia) – As you might guess, is a holiday beer and usually only available from Nov-Jan. The style is a delicious bock with a Christmasy taste.
  • Indio – One of my favorites and is the best lager they make!
  • Tecate – Which you’ve probably heard of (especially since it’s named after the town of Tecate not too far away), but it’s a light beer and at least in the north, Tecate Light is probably the most popular beer.  
  • Heineken/Coors Light – These obviously aren’t Mexican national beers, but they have partnered with Moctezuma and brew both of these on national soil.  You can usually find them in Tijuana for the same prices.
Mexican Beer Tijuana

Grupo Modelo

This brewery is responsible for Corona, Victoria, Pacífico, Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, Modelo Light, Estrella, and León.

  • Corona – maybe the most well known world wide, but definitely not a Mexican favorite 🙂
  • Victoria – Another favorite of mine, it’s a Vienna lager with a crisp taste.
  • Pacífico – This is a pale lager and comes in regular and light.  You can find baby sized bottles of these in some corner beer stores – they are great for the beach!
  • Modelo – Especial and Light are the lighter versions while Negra is a dark style lager.
  • Estrella – this one isn’t as common in bars and restaurants but can be found in grocery stores, it’s a pilsner beer.
  • León – This beer is a dark amber beer on the rise for popularity.
Grupo Modelo Mexican Beers

Buckets of Beer

Here is Tijuana, most of the bars will offer a bucket of 6, 10 or 20 beers for your table.  This is a great way to have your next beer handy and not having to ask the server for a new one every 30 min or so.  You can also mix it up and request a variety pack. Either way, it stays cold with the ice they provide and stays tasty with the lime, salt and chile they provide 🙂

Next time you hop on over, don’t forget to try a few new flavors!  ¡SALUD!

Un cafecito por favor – Coffee please!

Tijuana Mexico Coffee Shops

Coffee culture is booming!  Tijuana’s streets are popping up with so many coffee shops, it’s hard to know where to go!  My suggestion…all of them 🙂

Mexican Grown Beans

Mexico is one of the top 10 coffee producers in the world.  Most of the coffee is grown on smaller organic farms in the southern states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas.  

Climates throughout these states range from tropical with fertile volcanic soil to mountainous highland region providing excellent conditions for cultivating coffee.  Not only do these family farms export their coffee to the US and other parts of the world, but Mexico also consumes quite a bit!

Mexican Specialty: Café de la Olla

Café de la Olla is a traditional Mexican drink and was probably created in the colonial era.  If you like your coffee on the sweet side, you need to try this.

There are a few variations of the recipe, but the main ingredients include: clay pot, coffee grounds, piloncillo (a type of brown sugar), and cinnamon = DELISH

Coffee Shops in Tijuana

There are so many coffee shops in Tijuana that have popped up over the last few years!  It’s hard to do a top 3 here because there’s just too many that are too tasty. I’m just going to provide a list of ones that you might want to check out that are near the San Ysidro border.  And here’s a ready made Top 10 list for you.  

What I will say is that a 12oz coffee averages about $3USD versus the San Diego shops or Starbucks that averages $5USD.

P.S. This list doesn’t include all the various breakfast restaurants that have their own varieties of coffee drinks as well.

When in Mexico…Visit the Mercado!

Mercado Hidalgo Tijuana Mexico

What’s more Mexican than a mercado?  It’s full of colors, flavors and smells of Mexico!  Probably every city and town in Mexico has one and for Tijuana, Mercado Hidalgo has been around for over 60 years supplying all sorts of foods, crafts, pottery and natural remedies.

Getting there

Mercado Hidalgo is in Zona Río and is a 20 min walk from Revolution Ave or 10 min in car/Uber/taxi from the San Ysidro border. The map below shows walking options from Revolution/Sixth Street intersection.

Exploring the Mercado

Mercado hidalgo is about the equivalent of one block squared.  Within it, you can find spices, herbs, piñatas, candy, cheese, fruits, veggies, restaurants, dishware, souvenirs, clothes and many other things. If you’re feeling up to it, there’s plenty of new flavors to try!

Mexican Candy

Not everyone likes Mexican candy because of its sweet and spicy nature. 🙂  If you’re ok with that, then I highly recommend the Pollito Asados and Pulparindos to take home!  If you want to try something on the spot, then look for the big buckets of candy mixed with Chamoy or the sweeter caramelized fruits.

Cajeta is another Mexican favorite, it’s kind of like caramel but made with goat’s milk. You can buy candies made out of it or by it by the pound/kilogram.

Candied fruit and coconut sweets (cocadas) are also very popular and are easy to buy just a few to try.

Grabbing a Bite

Not only is a mercado a place to buy goods and candy, you can also eat there!  Mercado Hidalgo has at least 6 little restaurants and there’s even a few good tacos joints within a block. Here’s a few for starters:

  • La Oaxaqueña – Oaxacan style food including tamales, tlayudas, and quesadillas with blue corn tortillas.
  • Cuatro Etnias – Traditional plates with an upscale modern twist and a mixology bar!
  • El Rincón del Oso – Traditional Mexican soups, birria (beef soup/tacos) and guisados (dishes of the day).
  • Tacos el Gordo – This taco spot is just across the northwest corner of the mercado and they serve up a variety of meat tacos including Adobada and Carne Asada.

Bring it Home or Eat it there?

Just remember not everything is allowed back to California.  The government has quite a few restrictions on meat, fish, vegetables and fruits for personal use.  For the meat/cheese/fruit/veggie department it’s best to just buy enough to eat while you’re there and only bring home the packaged foods.

Here’s a few interesting fruits you can try:

  • Tuna – Tuna is Spanish for Prickly Pear and if they are in season, you can find them de-skinned and ready to eat.
  • Lychees – these are like big white grapes with a seed in the center, very sweet.
  • Granadilla – If you’ve ever tried boogers, the consistency is similar, but the taste is sweet, just crack it open and eat the gooey inside. 🙂
  • Coconut – You can get fresh coconut milk and meat in a baggie for the road!  Your choice if you want to add chile and lime. And don’t forget to try coconut candy!
  • Fruit Cup – Usually you can find vendors who sell fruit cups ready to eat and can include mango, cucumber, jicama or tunas. You can also request it with lime and chile!

Traveling Throughout Mexico Via Tijuana

Flying via Tijuana Mexico

Mexico is not all beaches and provides a lot of diversity in its landscape, food, music and people. There’s so many places to visit and you can get there fairly cheaply! Especially if you fly out if Tijuana versus San Diego.  Here’s how:

First, sign up for promotional emails

I know that’s probably not what you want to hear — more junk mail!  But unless you are going to monitor the website, sign up for promotional emails on Mexican airlines in order to get the best deals.  Promotions are the only way to go! Especially if you have an idea of where you’d like to go and when. Sometimes the deal is so good that you can justify getting away for a long weekend!  

To show you how good you can get it, I’ve bought tickets for less than $100 a person round trip!  You just need to be patient and open those junk emails!

Volaris | Aeromexico | Interjet | Viva Aerobus

Second, buy your ticket!

Once you find a ticket you like, make that purchase online.  A few things to keep in mind when purchasing:

  • You may want to make the purchase in pesos (MXN).  Depending on the airline, they charge you extra to buy in dollars, but your bank may charge you a conversion fee if you pay in pesos…
  • Usually there’s a few different kinds of tickets to determine what kind of baggage you want included.  Decide now or you’ll end up paying extra at the airport!
  • Keep your eye on the amount, sometimes there’s automatic add-ons and you just need to make sure you’re not purchasing more than you’d like.

Third, have an airport plan

If you live in Tijuana, you should just take an Uber!  Getting home is a different story, the Uber drivers can get a ticket for picking up passengers at the airport.  We had a few drivers cancel on us before we got one who agreed to pick us up outside of the airport and on the side of the road. Worth it because those taxis are way too expensive!  Our Uber ride home is $65mxn and the taxis charge over $200mxn!

For those of you in CA, the easiest way to get to the TJ airport is through the new Cross Border Xpress (CBX).  The CBX entrance is located off the 905 and you walk across the border through a skywalk and down into the TJ airport.  They will also process the Mexican visa you’ll need for your stay. On the way back you exit straight from baggage claim to the CBX! Easy Peasy.
Of course you need to pay to use this, but it’s the fastest and most convenient way to get to and from the airport.  

Fourth, pack your bags!

This should be obvious, but make sure you know what the weather is like and pack appropriately!  Not all locations are beach weather. 🙂

If you need help with where to go:

Travel via Food – Mexico has some amazing cuisine and each state prides themselves in their own dishes.  Lucky enough in Tijuana we have quite a good mix from all over. But if you want the real deal, here’s a list of the 7 culinary regions of Mexico.

Travel via Location – Mexico has some amazing locations with each state supplying their own charm.  Here’s a list of regions and what they offer. Personally, I think Oaxaca should be included with Chiapas or have its own listing, but I can’t say I’ve been to all these locations yet to make my own list.

Wherever you end up, I hope you enjoy the food, the scenery, the culture and the people.  

¡Buen Viaje!

Why do you live in Tijuana?!

Coffee time

For the food of course! Oh yea and the economic benefits.  

Welcome!  This blog is mostly about Tijuana – food, culture, visiting, vacation – and some about other travels around Mexico.  Join the fun!

But first…

Movin’ over the border

We crossed the border into Tijuana just like normal with a packed Expedition. We took a few trips over the next 3 days crossing the border back and forth to load up the Expedition and bring over our goodies.

Obviously, there’s a few things that won’t fit in an Expedition. So we paid a guy (a friend of a friend) with a truck to help us bring over the bed and sofas.  For that, we did have to stop and claim our stuff at the border on the Mexican side and pay about $20USD of taxes.

Settling into Tijuana

What a change!  You notice the difference as soon as you cross the border.  Houses are made out of concrete, streets are not well maintained, the town looks like it could use a paint job and there’s lots of people with black hair!

Settling in for me wasn’t too bad, it did take some time until I felt fully comfortable and knew how to get around.  But I already knew Spanish and had experience living for a short time in Mexico. So I wasn’t surprised when we’d get lost because there were no signs directing us to the right exit.  I wasn’t surprised when traffic didn’t follow the same rules as I was used to. And I wasn’t surprised at how TASTY Tijuana is!

I was surprised at how much I enjoy living here.  

Yes, here! In Tijuana!  Such a dangerous city!

And that is why I’m starting this blog after 9 years – to share with you my version of Tijuana.