Welcome to Tijuana: The Wild Wild West of the Northern Hemisphere.
There is a lot to see and do in Tijuana which can be overwhelming for first-time visitors and even some of us regulars.
As you continue on your adventure, no matter how long you are staying, ample rest and nutrition become a deciding factor in how well you maintain your stamina. If you are staying for longer than two days, then you really need to pace yourself in order to remain vibrant and physically active for your next adventures.
This article is meant to aid you in your search for food and a fun dining experience. I also hope that it inspires you to venture out for yourself and see all that Tijuana (TJ) has to offer.
Those willing to skirt the fringe parameters will reap rewards.
Who am I and why do I feel that I am qualified to assist you with this endeavor ?
For starters, I weigh a good 225 lbs. Fat yet not obese. Although right there it proves that I like food. Who else would you ask for food recommendations….an anorexic?
I am a Native New Yawker and I was fortunate enough to grow up around a lot of ethnic foods and good food in general. Living in NYC gives you access to a lot of different cuisines not easily found in other parts of the country. My personal favorites are Thai, Jamaican, and authentic Italian cuisine. My bloodline traces back to Mediterranean roots so I was raised on foods like falafel, hummus, feta cheese, olives, baklava, etc. I still admire and eat those foods today.
Eating out in Tijuana can be a great experience or it can be downright lousy. There are sanitary issues to deal with as well as inconsistencies between the same plate one day after another. A restaurant may be running low on certain items but the menu won’t reflect it. You can crave a certain plate of food then when you show up at the restaurant, it will be closed.
There ain’t no rhyme or reason to any of this. You just go with the flow and keep your expectations in check. We aren’t in America. This is Mexico.
Having said that you can still have some amazing dining experiences here for the price of a burger and fries stateside. You just need to know where to go and what to look out for.
This guide is by no means exhaustive of all the dining options in Tijuana.
It is only meant to start you off on what I think is the right foot.
Prices at most of these places are relatively cheap so I have refrained from listing costs. Be prepared to spend on an average $12USD to sit down at a mid-range place and up to $20/30USD for the higher end places. Tipping is at your discretion. Do not feel obligated to tip at American standards. Locals usually leave somewhere around 10% of the bill. If you feel a waiter has gone out of their way for you, then it is up to you to decide how to reward their behavior.
I hope that this guide serves you well and that your dining experiences are as positive as your sessions in the bedroom.
Avenida Revolucion (Calle 1 – Calle 11)
Standing under the arch facing “uptown”, we will start with Hotel Nelson on the right hand side of the street.
The Nelson is probably the best known landmark in the downtown area besides the arch (El Arco). It is a great place to have a drink or use as a meeting place when you want to connect with someone. Everybody knows the Hotel Nelson.
I only eat the breakfast here. The quality of food for their lunch and dinner menu is subpar IMO. The breakfast however is fairly decent. After all, how many ways can you ruin eggs, pancakes, and toast?
I usually order the Desayuno Nelson (Spanish for breakfast), which is basically a Grand Slam that you would get at Denny’s. The star of the show is THE BACON. Make sure you ask for it crispy (crocante). The Nelson has really a good quality bacon from my experience.
Take advantage of the outdoor seating during warmer weather. The entire world passes through that slice of TJ on Calle Primera and Revolucion. Don’t be surprised if an ambulante (trinket seller) invites himself to sit down for a few seconds. Interactive eating can be fun. If you don’t like to be social when you dine, then sit inside.
Across the street but just slightly to the left is EL MUSEO. It is owned and operated by the same owners as Hotel Nelson. However the menu is very different. They pride themselves as being a seafood restaurant, but from my experience they excel more in their sauces, namely chipotle and mole sauce.
Besides the free and wonderful warm bean dip and tortilla chips appetizer they serve, there are three main dishes that I would recommend: Pollo con mole, Pechuga (pollo) con Chipotle, and Enchiladas de Camarones (shrimp) con Salsa Chipotle.
These dishes usually come with a side order of rice and salad. I would recommend substituting the salad for sauteed vegetables. You may have to pay a few dollars extra ($2 ?)
Continuing uptown on the left side of the street between Calle 2 and 3, we will see a huge green sign up above that says SORIANA. That is one of the local supermarket chains in Tijuana. This location is open 24 hours which is a great thing to have. Besides having your standard supermarket amenities they offer an over-the-top assortment of baked goods ranging from breads and donuts to croissants and cakes to cookies and cupcakes. If you arrive early in the morning, you will have first dibs on fresh out of the oven baked goods. Don’t be surprised if you have to compete with restaurant employees buying several bags of bread or other baked goods for their business. First come, first serve.
During the warmer seasons, I often like to purchase a yogurt some fruit and a few breads and sit outside in the little plaza that divides the supermarket from Giuseppis Italian Restaurant. Be prepared to share a bench with an old man feeding pigeons or someone else that might want to strike up a conversation….early in the morning. 🙂
Soriana offers a very favorable exchange rate if you pay with dollars, although I believe that there is a limit to the dollar amount you can change. My advice would be to use a $20 bill if you want to gain a few extra pesos at a more favorable exchange rate than you would receive at a cambio.
As you exit Soriana (hopefully with a box of yummy donuts and pastries), you will notice a large glass window to the left that looks into a restaurant. The restaurant is called “58”. Nothing more, nothing less.
58 is often overlooked due to the non-descript decor and odd location, but don’t be fooled! There are some really good homestyle Mexican dishes served here. One of my favorite dishes is Torta Espanola. It is basically a deep dish omelette stuffed with potatoes, onion, ham, and bacon. You can choose a few variations of it if you like by adding or submitting ingredients.
The Enchiladas de Camarones con Salsa Chipotle is also something I tend to order here.
Right next door to 58, you will see an Italian restaurant called Giuseppis. This belongs to a chain of restaurants by the same name owned by the Plascencia Family. More about them later.
Giuseppis offers decent Italian food for a very fair price in a pleasant environment, just blocks away from the grit and chaos of the Zona Norte. This is a great place to take a date without breaking the bank.
They offer lunch specials which includes a minestrone soup and salad. I tend to go for the Lasagna Florentina, Raviolis Stroganoff, or the Pescado con Crema de Ajo. I would not advise eating pizza here. It’s okay, but nothing compares to Tony’s NY Style Pizza, which I will direct you to much later …. down the road. Also: skip the dessert here. You won’t find anything worth the calories here. Wait to see what I have in store for you…down the road.
We are still on the left hand side of Revolucion crossing 3rd Street (looking out for traffic hopefully) and we eventually see the Caliente Casino on the right side of the avenue between Calle 3 and 4. To the right of the casino, you will see an entrance to a passageway called Pasaje Rodriguez. This is a hipster hangout with tiny art galleries, coffee shops, and boutique /vintage shops. There is a lady somewhere in the middle of the passageway on the left side who sells small vegetarian fare like bean burritos and bean burgers. For a pittance, you can walk away with some really tasty vegetarian food. Don’t be turned off by the little cooler she brings from home. She makes her food there and re-heats it for you in the toaster oven. Welcome to TJ!
So continuing on the right side of Revolucion, we will continue moving uptown. On the middle of the next block you will run into La Galleria Pizza. This is probably the only pizza restaurant I recommend in the Avenida Revolucion area. The owners were previously managers of Da Salvatore, an authentic Italian restaurant which I will discuss later. I mention this because the owners were trained in a good restaurant prior to opening up their own. Training goes a long way.
Here you can order a slice and have whatever you want put on top of it. I think this is a neat gimmick for the 25 pesos asking price. Very different than what you would experience on the American side of the border. My only complaint would be that they sometimes add too much cheese on the pizza. If you are like me and prefer less cheese, do specify that they don’t add anymore than what is already on the pizza. La Galleria also offers pasta dishes and a few other items but from my experience the pizza and the on-tap beer is where it’s at.
On the next block still staying on the right hand side of the street, just before Calle 5 is the one and only CAESARS…HOME OF THE CAESAR SALAD. They say the Caesar Salad was invented right here, but that remains to be proven IMO. Regardless, this is hands-down the swankiest restaurant on Avenida Revolucion. Valet parking and a well-dressed maitre d’ await your arrival. Once inside, you would think that you were in a high-end restaurant somewhere in LA or NYC. The decor is over the top. This is where the bigwigs of TJ come to dine or celebrate important family birthdays. People are well dressed and there is a sense of privilege within the room. My advice would be to come dressed in at least a button-down shirt with a collar. Shorts would be frowned upon.
I have a love/hate relationship with Caesars. Although the food is good and affordably priced, the portion sizes leave much to be desired. Nouvelle Cuisine it is not, but somehow they want you to believe that it is.
Besides eating the entire bread basket and olive dip (to fill up!), I enjoy the Stuffed Peppers with Real Crab Meat, Raviolis de Pato (duck), and the Chuletas de Borrego (lamb chops). They also have a great Shrimp Newburg.
The Caesar Salad is fantastic. They make it in front of you which becomes a form of entertainment for all to see. Warning though: I have gotten sick from the salad here the both times I had it. Some people don’t get sick at all. Apparently, they soak the lettuce in an antibacterial wash for 30 minutes to disinfect it, but as always in TJ….YMMV.
Several items on the menu are worth checking out so don’t stop where I left off.
The desserts here are superb. The Creme Brulee and Crepes de Cajeta are two of my favorite choices, but once again don’t let that stop you from trying other menu items.
Live music with space heaters entertain a patio crowd on late nights during the later part of the week and weekends. Don’t forget to check out the amazing mural in the side dining room, too!
*Remember Giuseppis? The people that own Caesars are the owners of Giuseppis as well.
Directly across the street from Caesars on the left side of Revolucion is a Cafe with outdoor seating called PRAGA. It is also owned by the Plasencia Family. Now you must feel like you are a part of the clan or at least an honorary family member. Who wouldn’t, right?
Praga offers really nice pastries and probably the tastiest sandwiches that I have had in TJ, which isn’t saying much because TJ seriously lacks a good Jewish deli. However, the chicken pesto sandwich on a toasted ciabatta bread is a strong contender compared to what constitutes a good sandwich in TJ. There are a few other sandwich options worth investigating along with other light snacks on their limited menu.
Praga offers a chocolate mousse made with cherry liquor and bananas and I must say it is the BEST mousse that I have freaking tasted ANYWHERE besides maybe the world famous Serendipity in NYC. That’s saying a lot, I know, but this is perfection to me. This mousse it NOT to be missed.
During some evenings later in the week, you can sit outside with space heaters while listening to a live jazz band playing in the background.
Keep walking uptown from PRAGA and eventually you will hit Calle 6 (Sexta) AKA Hipster Central. If you like the young 20-something bar scene, this is the place to go. I don’t do the civvie scene, but I do frequent ZEBRA BAR, which is located right below PORKYS on the corner of Calle 6 and Revolucion. ZEBRAS is a stoner hang out. This is where the local dude crowd congregates with dreadlocks, skateboards, sketch books, and homemade jewelry to sell. The attraction here besides the cheap beer is the BAR FOOD. For a little dive bar, they have some really good munchies like Veggie Burgers, Fries, Pesto Pasta, and Burgers. If you can handle the music and the crowd, this open-air stoner tapas bar offers decent food at cheap prices with great views of the young attractive crowd parading around Calle Sexta. I recommend that you come here on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to get the full experience.
Now walk diagonally across the street and look for a passageway similar to Pasaje Rodriguez called Colectivo 9. At the very end of the passageway is a food collective surrounding a courtyard. C9 is several independently owned food stands. You can find anything from falafel, gyros, teriyaki bowls, sushi, hamburgers with steak fries, cheese platters, gourmet tacos, and empanadas. You must sample something from each business, whether it be a large or small item. They all deserve a taste.
Chiki Jai (Spanish/Basque cuisine) is located just a half a block up from Colectivo 9 on the left-hand side of the street on the corner of Calle 7 and Revolucion. The menu is set to the Basque region of Spain. Dishes include a wide assortment of tapas, seafood, and other popular regional dishes. All meals come with homemade soup which is usually lentil or white bean, and a small side order of paella. I like to order a side of bleu cheese served with toasted bread to compliment the soup.
I personally would not order paella from here or anywhere in TJ. A good paella depends on the quality of seafood used. Restaurants in TJ don’t have access to the high-end ingredients needed, nor do they have the budget for it.
That said, I love the Camarones al Ajillo and the Bacalao (codfish). Sometimes I just have the soup and a variety of tapas and call it a meal.
Now cross the street and keep walking past TILLYS and you will see the famous SANBORNS Department Store on the corner of Calle 8 and Revolucion. At that corner, make a left turn and walk halfway down the block on the same side of the street as Sanborns towards Avenida Madero. You will see an orange awning and probably a line of people waiting outside. This is Cenaduria Tupidos/Menudos. This is a FANTASTIC tacos varios stand attached to a restaurant with the same name. If you get lucky enough to find an open seat and are only interested in a light snack, sit down at the taco bar and prepare to be delighted with what I think are the best taco varios to be found in TJ. If you choose to eat indoors, you will have access to a menu with some of the best Mexican dishes served “off” of Avenida Revolucion. This is also a great place to have breakfast. I highly recommend this place to anyone staying at Hotel Ticuan since it is only a block away from the hotel.
Unfortunately, like many business in TJ, they shoot themselves in the foot. They now close at 3pm!!! instead of 5pm. This makes an already in-demand restaurant more crowded and more difficult to enjoy since you need to get there by 2:15pm at the latest so that items don’t run out for the day. Besides breakfast, I used to come here after the lunch hour rush to enjoy my tacos with less people. Now that isn’t possible. This place is crowded all the time, but those that can deal with crowds will ultimately be rewarded.
Let us go to the Hotel Ticuan now. We might as well since we are already on 8th Street. Turn back towards Revolucion and head across to find the Ticuan. My cheap ass can’t afford to stay at the Hotel Ticuan mainly because I pay by the month in TJ but I sure as heck like to take advantage of the amenities they have like the swank bar and the super clean toilets….oh yeah, and the food isn’t bad either.
Hotel Ticuan serves very decent food at fair prices. I would even go as far to say that this hotel would be a great place to bring a date for an inexpensive meal in a plush environment.
There are no real standout dishes here but all the food is very decent and they are open until, I believe, 11pm. IMO their home baked bread is a standout. Think super thick whole wheat Challah Bread. Tip: They use the same bread to make the french toast in the morning.
Now exit stage left from the Ticuan and go back to the corner of Calle 8 and Revolucion and keep walking further uptown. Within a few blocks, eventually you will see a tall white bell tower situated in a public park surrounded by a lush green lawn. Here my friends you are at the crossroads. If you keep on walking past the tower to the right-hand side of it (continuing on Avenida Revolucion on the right side of the street), you will eventually be walking on Fundadores. No longer is it considered Avenida Revolucion.
Let’s say you do decide to go past the tower on the right. What is there to explore? Well, if you go one block past the tower you will see a Tortas El Turco (sandwich shop) on the corner. Behind it is a really steep hill leading up to a colonia (neighborhood) called Morelos.
Two blocks up that steep hill and to the left on the corner almost diagonal to the park is a Thai Restaurant called KATAI. The owners are a couple that spent one month in Thailand learning how to cook local dishes. They do a really good job at it considering the short amount of time they spent in Thailand, not to mention ingredients for these types of dishes are hard to come by in TJ. They need to bring many of the products back from the USA, which can be an arduous task to say the least. All their dishes are worth a try. They have a very limited menu but what they do serve is worth the visit. The place is well decorated and there is always a wonderful music soundtrack playing in the background.
The stand out dish to me is the Red Curry served with apples. I never tried a red curry with apples until I ate here.
Okay. So we are back at the tower now (before we went to Tortas El Turco and up the hill). This time we make a LEFT onto Blvd Aguas Caliente. This is a really important Blvd in the food chain, if you will. The Blvd itself goes for several miles and will take you as far as Pinos, which is a colonia you all will probably never see. I will end our tour of Blvd Aguas Caliente at the Grand Hotel. Don’t worry; the tour won’t be over. We will take another direction back towards Centro when we get there, thus continuing our Recorrido Gastronomico as we head back to the Zona.
When we turn left onto the Blvd, you will see a mini mall to your right-hand side across the street from the tower. Look in there for a Japanese restaurant named Tai – Ki -Shi. This is a local TJ chain with maybe 3 locations. I have been eating here for years. The standout here is Sopa De Hongos (Mushroom Soup). They stuff an entire bowl with exotic Japanese mushrooms then pour miso soup over it to complete the broth. Something like this would be too expensive to sell in a restaurant stateside. Here in TJ, you can have it for a pittance.
Besides the soup, I highly recommend their vegetable tempura. Both the sauce and the preparation is SPOT ON. For dessert, have the fried bananas with ice cream…YUM.
The sushi situation in TJ is passable to just okay to downright gross. I would rate this place as passable. Either get a teriyaki or make your own dinner out of various appetizers including the mushroom soup and the tempura. That coupled with a bowl of rice will be more than sufficient to fill you up.
Now continuing down the Blvd, we need to gain our bearings a little more because I will start sending you off the beaten path at times to either the left or right. At the same time don’t forget that we are still touring Blvd Aguas Caliente.
You will see a convenience store called EXTRA maybe a block or two just past the mini mall we just left. At EXTRA we make a right off the Blvd (on to a street called AVENIDA (not Blvd) Aguas Caliente – the opposite direction is Ocampo) and we walk two blocks up until we hit Calle Brasil. We are now in the La Cacho colonia (neighborhood) of TJ. This is considered an up-and-coming middle class neighborhood with several food joints to check out.
The first place we will explore is The Pancake House. As one can imagine, we have arrived at the TJ version of IHOP. Homemade Waffles, French Toast, and Pancakes served ALL DAY LONG ! Whooopeee 🙂 I love the Waffles con Moras Azules (blueberries) and the bacon here is also divine. Don’t forget to ask for your bacon crocante (CRISPY). Eggs, omelettes, and a few dinner items like burgers are also on the menu.
Let’s stay on Calle Brasil for a while. We can get back to the Blvd. anytime we want by turning left and walking two blocks. You won’t get lost and we still have a lot to explore on Brasil.
So after breakfast at The Pancake House, we keep walking parallel to the Blvd. and we eventually run into a white building with pink and black lettering entitled OUI. Are we in France or is this Fear and Loathing in TJ? No! My friends, we are at a rather newly opened French Bakery called….OUI. The owner was trained in Paris as a pastry chef. The interior is… you guessed it… all pink and white and there is even an imitation water fall located in the tiny seating area in back of the shop.
Here you can choose between many French inspired baked goods, cakes, and mousses. There are also macaroons and gift baskets stuffed with mini cupcakes and other goodies. The standouts to me are the orange spice cake with orange icing, as well as the chocolate mousse and the macaroons. I have also tried the fruit tarts and enjoyed those as well.
Need a drink to wash down those pastries? Stop by Alma Verde on your way to our next location. You will see it on the same side of the street as OUI as we’re heading towards ….Tony’s NY Pizza.
They serve light fare including sandwiches and breakfast food, but the juice bar is where this place shines.
I usually order a Pink Power juice which is served in a nifty screw cap bottle.
So we have eaten our waffles, bacon, and pastries and have washed it down with a fresh fruit juice… Now we need something to complement our gastronomic adventures.
How about a slice of pizza?
A few blocks down Brasil on the same side of the street as OUI is TONY’s NY PIZZA. Gentlemen, this is the BEST PIZZA JOINT IN TOWN. Not only does this place have the best pizza in TJ, but IMO it is better than anything you will find in all of San Diego as well. Not to mention the owner is a true New Yawker like myself. Tony used to work as a cook at the famed Moonlight Diner in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. This guy knows NY Style pizza to the T. I will even go as far as to say that it is better than NY Pizza. Tony uses fresh ingredients which THEY DO NOT DO ANYMORE IN NYC due to the fact that rent is so high and they need to cut corners wherever possible. Let’s cheapen our ingredients and sell our slices for $5 a piece, shall we? That is the current mentality in NYC. Tony delivers the goods for a mere 25mx a slice and whole pies go for roughly $8 with the current exchange rate. Not to mention all pies cost the same regardless of how many ingredients you put on it. Are you still glued to the computer screen or have you fallen off your seat yet?
Tony also serves pasta dishes and a few subs (sandwiches) which I have not had the pleasure of trying yet since the pizza sitting on the counter locks me in before I can even ask for a menu.
We have one more spot to check out on (or rather, just off BRASIL) then we are going to hop back on the Blvd again.
So walking past Tony’s where we just had the best pizza in Tijuana, we reach the very end of Brasil St. We make a right at the corner where there is a little mini mall with a coffee shop and bakery scattered amongst other little boutique stores. When we make that right, we look halfway up the block and to the left across the street we see a house turned into a restaurant. This joint is called El Turco. Turkish Food.
I don’t recommend this place for the standard Turkish dishes but I do recommend the Lahmajoun, which is basically Turkish pizza. What? These guys make pizza, too? Yes, and it is damn good. The difference between Turkish pizza and the Italian variety is they use feta cheese instead of mozzarella and that, my friends, gives you a whole other outlook on what can be done with pizza. I highly recommend all pizza lovers to come here with an open mind and try Lahmajoun.
We have now finished exploring Calle Brasil and will go back to Blvd Aguas Caliente. Remember that the Blvd runs parallel to Calle Brasil by two blocks to the left.
But wait. Before we continue further up the Blvd, I would to back track by just a few blocks. Go back to Tony’s NY Pizza and this time make a right turn at the corner and head two blocks down to the Blvd then make a left onto the Blvd as you are walking back towards La Torre. About two blocks up and across the street to the right you will see COCODOUX. This is THE cupcake place. I sometimes enjoy a cupcake after a slice at Tony’s on my way back to the Zona. There are several flavors to choose from.
Cruising right along, we have now beamed ourselves back to the Blvd and are walking past Tony’s and past El Turco but we are along the main stretch of the Blvd. We run into street Jalisco and Aguas Caliente. We are going to turn right onto Jalisco and walk two or three blocks until we see an OXXO convenience store on the right side of the street. At the OXXO, we make a left and walk up maybe a block and half to PLAZA LA CACHO on the right-hand side of the street. You will see a restaurant in a yellow-colored mini mall called MAIZ.
*Did you notice the little plaza to your right before you arrived at OXXO ? That is where the new Chan’s Chinese Restaurant is located as well as a few other places worth looking into. More on Chan’s later in this guide.
Maiz is a tiny joint that basically takes the idea of Tijuana street food and serves it to you gourmet style in a clean environment. This is a big deal for me since I really enjoy street food in TJ but I have had mixed responses when it comes to staying healthy after a meal on the street. Maiz takes the guessing game out of it and gives the diner an opportunity to enjoy these treasures without the fear of wondering if you are going to get sick afterwards.
Here I go for the mixed appetizer plate since you get to try pretty much one of everything that they have to offer. After dining here a few times, I began substituting the items I wasn’t crazy about and doubling up on my favorites. The waiter had no problem doing it for me.
Before your dish arrives, they offer you two free tacos on the house. Usually those consist of a Chicken Taco de Mole or Cochinita Pibil (pork) . Both are absolutely exquisite. The molle sauce at Maiz is very different from others I have tried. It has an almost transparent appearance and a completely sweet flavor which is very uncommon compared to other traditional moles. The mole sauces that I have tried in the past were more balanced at 50 sweet/50 picante. If by chance they don’t serve you one for free, don’t miss the opportunity to add a Taco de Mole to your order. They are reasonably priced. The same goes for the Cochinita Pibil.
Now let’s go back “On The Blvd” as famed rapper LL Cool Jay would say, although he was referring to Farmers Blvd in Queens, NY. We are still in Tijuana 🙂
As we go further and further away from Centro, we run into El Rodeo on the left-hand side of the Blvd across the street from a Pemex gas station and the old bull ring.
El Rodeo has two locations, both on Aguas Caliente. This one is closer to Centro and I happen to like it much better than the other one located near the swap meet next to the 5 Y 10 colonia.
The food here seemed better to me and it was more crowded due to the central location. As with most places in TJ, I tend to like to eat where there is a constant flow of people. To me, that translates into fresher food since there is more of a turnaround.
El Rodeo is a tapas and grill house. They set you up with a mini charcoal grill at your table and while your meat is maintaining a warm temperature the waiters bring you tapas such as quesadillas, potato salad with vinegar/pickle dressing, beans charro (cowboy) style, pickled livers, and some of the best homemade tortillas in Tijuana.
I really like the mesquite chicken here which they serve with grilled green onions.
Make room for dessert because that is also included in the price of the meal.
Very close to this El Rodeo location, you will run into the cross street RIO TIJUANA. Keep this street in mind because we will return here in just a little while. Your landmark for this street will be The Fiesta Hotel which any taxi driver will know.
Now moving on forward, El Taller Baja Med Cuisine is located around the corner from Bob’s Big Boy, which is easily spotted from Blvd Aguas Caliente. You will see it around the same area or just before El Rodeo. Look for the Big Boy statue outside on the Blvd. El Taller is currently my favorite restaurant in TJ. The owner also owns two more restaurants. One in TJ and the other in El Valle de Guadalupe, south of TJ.
Set in a beautifully done industrial warehouse type setting, this could easily be a high end eatery in LA or NYC. El Taller has their own farm which provides the restaurant with thick NY-style cuts of pork chops and other farm fresh products.
There are many good dishes here but I will list a few that I tend to gravitate to :
Roasted Garlic Appetizer
Escargot in an herb butter sauce
Thin crust pizza made with goat cheese and jamon serrano (prosciutto)
Chamorro in osso bucco sauce (Lamb)
Chuleta de puerco (pork chop)
Banana Pudding served warm
Homemade Apple Pie a la mode.
Oddly enough, the other restaurant the chef owns in TJ does not offer the same quality food IMO, nor is the menu that interesting.
If you only try one place on my list, try this one!
We have just a few more locations on Aguas Caliente just before we turn off and explore the Zona Gastronomica located on Blvd Sanchez Taboada.
La Fonda Argentina | Paseo Chapultepec | Plaza RoCasa: Dimitris (Greek)/ Da Salvatore(Italian)
These restaurants are all located near the Grand Hotel, which is a well-known landmark in Tijuana. Just walk across the street to La Fonda Argentina. Go out the side door of the hotel and you will arrive at Paseo Chapultepec. Across the street from La Fonda going up the Blvd, you will see a mini mall with ROCASA written on the sign.
La Fonda Argentina is a steak house. Generally, I advise not to eat red meat in Tijuana just because the quality isn’t that great. TJ shines when it comes to seafood and pork. However, to give credit where credit is due, La Fonda serves creamed spinach! There are so many grill houses in Tijuana, yet many of them are slackers when it comes to side orders. Nothing is more boring than having a slab of meat on your plate with a “side salad” and average tasting refried beans which is usually the norm down here. So if you like a little more than just a salad with your meat and you like the quality of meat in TJ, come here for a little something extra on the side.
Past La Fonda, you will see Paseo Chapultepec is a great idea that never took off like so many other business ventures in TJ. The idea was to build a high-end food court in an outdoor environment. There are still a few scattered restaurants in the complex but also many empty spaces. I can’t really recommend anything besides the calamari in the Italian restaurant on the ground level. Regardless, it is definitely worth a look if you are in the area. A good idea would be to go into each restaurant and look at the menus. If all else fails, there is a Starbucks located on the ground floor as you enter the complex.
Moving onward, Plaza RoCasa houses two really good restaurants.
Dimitris serves Greek food. The owner is actually Greek and brings products over from San Diego like his feta cheese and kalamata olives. I am part Greek myself and I think he does a really good job here. He serves all your classic Greek dishes.
Portion sizes aren’t great but when you consider the effort that goes into shopping for products in San Diego then having to bring them back into Mexico, one can easily forgive the lack of portion size.
I love the feta and kalamata olives plate served with toasted pita bread.
Across the parking lot, Da Salvatore, located in the same plaza, has always been THE authentic Italian restaurant in TJ IMO. You will find pastas on the menu, but those who know Italian food know that the cuisine is so much more than your typical pizzas and pastas. Here you will find more offerings of country style Italian food.
The owner is also Italian, unlike other Italian restaurants in TJ.
The last stop on Blvd. Aguas Caliente is La Lena Grill House located just before the bridge/overpass that is located one or two blocks past the Grand Hotel. It is located on the right side of the street tucked way back at the end of the parking lot. I mention this restaurant not because of the menu being that interesting, but the location it what makes it worth the while. It sits on the Club Campestre which is the Tijuana Golf Course. You can look out the window on to the course from your table. This makes it a truly unique dining experience in Tijuana and is a great escape from the urban jungle that surrounds you.
They offer a typical grill house menu..
This concludes our tour of Blvd Aguas Caliente.
But wait! There is more!
Just a few steps away is Sanchez Taboada!
Have a drink of water, stretch out your legs for a little while, and then let us move over to Avenida Sanchez Taboada two blocks over to the left of the bridge and down the hill which is technically the Zona Gastronomica (Dining Zone) of Tijuana.
Here you will find clusters of restaurants all within walking distance of each other. The key is to find the right area to be dropped off. I will use Blvd Aguas Caliente as a guide to get us there only because one can arrive to these areas by using public transportation for less than $1 and we are already familiar with Aguas Caliente from our previous travels.
The first cluster takes us back to a different SUPER SORIANA than we first encountered back on Revo. This one is located on Blvd Aguas Caliente just before the Grand Hotel. If you take a left at Soriana and keep walking downhill two blocks across the next avenue, you will see a TGI Fridays to your right on the corner which is located in a mini mall that has several other restaurants. To your left across the street, you will see Villa Saverios. This is another one of the Plascencia Family owned establishments. This is even more fancy than Caesars on Revolucion. Dress to impress or at least be aware that you are once again entering the world of Tijuana upper class. One monger I know told me the maitre d’ brought his “date” a jacket in order to cover up her skin. You have been warned.
Besides offering an all-you-can-eat Sunday Brunch starting at 1pm, Villa Saverios offers a mix of experimental Baja Med cuisine at its finest. One of my favorite dishes is the grilled salmon.
This is a great place to bring a date if you want to show off 🙂
Right behind Villa Saverios is Chan’s Chinese Cuisine. In general, I don’t recommend Chinese food in Tijuana because from my experience the quality goes from gross to grosser. Overall, I find that the Japanese restaurants are the way to go in TJ because they offer a much better experience.
With that being said, Chan’s does deliver the flavor close enough to that of Chinese food you find in NYC. However, they have an issue with meat quality which is a crying shame. I have eaten here numerous times and numerous times I have received shrimp that had a rubbery texture due to it being boiled versus pan fried. I have also had chicken and pork with the same hollow rubbery texture. Then again, the first few times I ate here I had none of these issues. Things change on a dime in Tijuana. So who knows? Maybe there was a shortage of meats the last few times I went. Regardless the flavor is spot on since the owner comes from Mexican/Chinese origin. This is THE high-end Chinese restaurant in TJ.
I recommend the Moo Shu Pork.
So now we have eaten at Chan’s and are heading back towards in the direction of Centro but this time we are walking on Blvd Sanchez Taboada, which is located one avenue below Aguas Caliente.
Eventually, you will see Punjabi Indian Food (Formerly TANDOOR), which is located in the parking lot where Sam’s Club is located on Blvd. Sanchez Taboada No. 10713.
Indian food made by an Indian chef for Indian diners. This is what the owner told me. I am accustomed to the Indian food in NYC but this food is way spicier and indicative of true Indian cuisine. You can choose half or full portions to share. I recommend getting the half portions and a larger variety of dishes.
Tandoor serves all your typical Indian dishes plus nan and native drinks. Highly recommended if you want to eat something exotic while dining in TJ.
Getting back to Mexican cuisine for a bit, Fonda La Finca is a true homestyle Mexican restaurant located in the same area as Tandoor but across the street and heading towards Chan’s by one or two blocks (left side of street). This is a really neat Mexican eatery frequented by mainly locals. Daily specials abound; just ask when you get there. Their salsa fresca is the BEST that I have tried in Tijuana. During Chile en Nogada season (late fall/early winter), I come here for it.
And now, down down down we go on Sanchez Taboada towards Centro and we run into Lion Fish on the right, down Calle Erasmo Castellanos. My favorite seafood restaurant in TJ. Dine inside or on a beautiful outdoor deck with jazzy music set to just the right volume.
I recommend trying the various tacos appetizers. Taco Jicama comes to mind as well as the Camarones Flameados. As far as grilled fish I always go with the Filete en Mojo de Ajo (Garlic Sauce).
This restaurant is located in back of the fairgrounds between Sanchez Taboada and Paseo De Los Heroes. If you pass Mercado Hidalgo on the right, you went too far.
Since you are in the general area, you might as well walk around Mercado Hidalgo and see what they have to offer. You can pick up some dried fruit or candies by the pound. Honey is dirt cheap here and of high quality. It will also give you a glance to see what a real Mexican market (mercado experience) is truly like. Keep in mind though this one is set up for tourists and Mexicans from California (Pochos). You won’t get the full flies-on-raw-meat-hanging-off-hooks experience at Hidalgo.
Before we head back to Zona, I would like to mention Sushi Tei, Applebee’s, and Tito’s Seafood to the list as add-ons.
Applebee’s and Sushi Tei are located on Paseo De Los Heroes, which is the avenue below Sanchez Taboada, and leads to the well-known Plaza Rio.
Remember we started on Aguas Caliente then we made a left and descended down to Sanchez Taboada. Now we go down one avenue over to Paseo De Los Heroes. This is the same avenue that will take you to the vehicle line that leads back to the USA.
Applebee’s is located across the street from Costco in a commercial plaza. If I crave a burger (red meat) while in TJ, this is where I go. You know the menu so I won’t bore you with the details but besides taste, Applebee’s offers really good side dishes to accompany your burger. Their Sriracha-flavored ribs are delicious, as well as their boneless buffalo wings. Prices are very high for TJ, but to me it is worth it.
A few blocks down is Sushi Tei, which is a combination Sushi and Chinese restaurant. The sushi here is probably the closest to what you would find on the USA side compared to other sushi joints in TJ. I would stay away from the Chinese food though. Prices here can also be high.
Titos Seafood on Calle 6 and Ocampo offers low-priced grilled fish among other seafood options in an open air picnic environment. Prices are dirt cheap for what you get. The way it works is you choose your fish that is sitting on ice and they grill for you (Zarandeado/BBQ). The waiters bring it back to your table once it has been grilled. The dish comes with yellow rice and a healthy looking green salad. I have also ordered the salmon tacos here which are fantastic for a mere pittance. Also, the marlin tacos are HUGE here. Marlin has a unique texture and flavor that is more meaty than fish-like.
This concludes our tour of restaurants in and around Tijuana for now! Well, except for my notes below on Zona Norte.
Zona Norte/Street Food Vendors
Unfortunately, ZN is my least favorite area to eat food and it so happens to be the area that I reside in. Let’s face it; you cannot have total bliss anywhere on the this planet, even in the oasis that is The Zona Norte.
However, I can tell you that Azul is the place to go. The owner Alex (from Argentina) and Chef Giovanni have both trained outside of Mexico at culinary institutions. It will be obvious if you are lucky enough to have them prepare your food. When Alex is in the kitchen, the food has the potential to be amazing but when he leaves to go home, the place turns into a dive. Timing is everything with this place and consistency is well….never consistent. There are always daily specials off the menu so don’t forget to ask. Chances are if you stay close to the Zona, you will eventually be forced to eat here due to the proximity of the restaurant to the Zona (It is on the alley of Coahuila!). Go earlier in the day before the zombies start working the night shift.
Open 24 Hrs
Ciabatta Sandwich w/Chicken
Empanadas of different varieties
Lentil Soup (Estilo Espanola)
Salmon a las finas hierbas
Ask a waiter at Azul to direct you to El Viejo Lobo. Azul originally started out of a little window located across the street from the opposite side of HK Club (the Cohulia street entrance) over next door to Mermaids Massage. It is now called El Viejo Lobo, but there is no sign. Giovanni still uses the place for an oven to prepare the empanadas before bringing them over to Azul. He can also make you a personal pizza for 60mx if you ask nicely…or buy the empanadas over there while they are still piping hot.
Besides Azul, there are many other restaurants in the area. Some people also enjoy eating at Sonora Grill but I prefer to eat away from the Zona. That’s just me.
Street Food is another option and there is lots of it in Tijuana. Any TJ experience is not complete without having tried local street food. A friend of mine turned me on to it several years ago, which is something I would have never done on my own for fear of getting sick. I have had plenty of it and while some of it was absolutely delicious I have also gotten sick from it numerous times. At this point in my eating adventures, I have given up on TJ street food.
If you do decide to venture into the abyss of street food, I would have a game plan as far as what medicines you need to have on hand in case of an accident. It also wouldn’t hurt to save it for the end of your trip. A case of the runs will ruin your mongering sessions.
Thank you so much for reading and remember there are so many more restaurants to explore. This list is only the tip of the iceberg. Go out there and see for yourself what Tijuana has to offer and report back if you can.
If you have any specific questions about these or any other restaurants, feel free to post in the comments below.
Happy eating and adventuring!
Sonero De Barrio
Bar & Grill ( Heavily Tapas Oriented )
Blvd. Agua Caliente 10387
Plaza Paseo Chapultepec
+52 664 681 8096
Home Style Mexican Food
Calle Jose Maria Velazco No.2680
Zona Rio , Tijuana
+52 664 634 2931
Bar Grill Pub Seafood
( Pork Dishes Are Superb )
Paseo Chapultepec , Blvd Agua Caliente
+52 664 686 3334
Blvd. Salinas y Escuadron 201 No. 1000 Col. Aviacion
664 686 31 71 / 664 686 47 57
Plaza Rio Shopping Mall
Avenida Paseo de Los Heroes
+52 664 684 0157
Grill /Seafood /Fusion
Av. Sonora 3240 local 6 Chapultepec
+52 664 681 7120
Hookah Lounge / Arabic Cuisine
Av. Paseo Playa 2405 , Jardines del Sol
+52 664 609 9870
Korean BBQ , Taqueira
22000 , Calle Hermenegildo Galeana 8120
+52 664 210 0383
Bar / Grill
Paseo Chapultepec Blvd. Agua Caliente 10387
+52 664 681 7269
Av. Sonora 69
Sandwiches (Best in TJ)
Plaza Rio (Back Entrance Near Parking Structures)
Blvd Agua Caliente (in front of Calimax/Across the street)
Upscale Authentic Mexican Food
Blvd. Salinas 4700 Col. Aviacion
+52 664 686 3626
Punjabi Indian Cuisine
Blvd. Sanchez Taboada No. 10713
+52 664 383 7883
New Baja Experimental
Miguel Aleman Valdez 2612
+52 664 686 3361
Calle 3 Avenida Revolucion