Spanish culture family recipes might as well be the
plaid on a Scottish kilt that a clan so proudly wears.
Meals are the very fiber of society, and dining with
friends and loved ones is a popular form of socializing
and entertainment. Why? Maybe it's because the food is
so delicious. Whatever the reason, when I read somewhere
about Tijuana's food revolution, it caught my interest.
I planned a cross-the-border trip to Tijuana with the
promise of old-fashioned, home cooked meals and real
Mexican cuisine--not the California version that
Hispanics scoff at. I had never stayed all night in
Tijuana, so before going, I contacted the
Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which
gave me their "favorites" list of restaurants and hotel
first morning in Tijuana, I wasn't hungry at all as I
wandered down to the free buffet at the Grand Hotel, an
affordable, four diamond resort with an outdoor lap
swimming pool and golf course that beckoned from my 17th
floor room. With free Internet and great views, I could
have easily stayed in my perfect room and worked all
day. But I needed a Starbucks latte, and thanks to
my good fortune, was offered the hotel's superior blend
of coffee made to perfection. The free buffet I marveled
over as I drank my coffee seemed out of this world.
I probably insulted one lady making tortillas as I
studied and took pictures of her salsas she showed me,
yet refused to try them.
massive spread of fruits, soups, eggs cooked to order,
breads, meats and other items wrapped its way around a
large room, but wasn't the only breakfast option. The
Grand Hotel offers two choices for breakfast, one in a
darker, more intimate room that features a mural of
Paris. It looks like the perfect spot for dinner when
you want to stay in for the evening.
a good idea to build an appetite before you start
munching your way through Tijuana, but why not do both?
Cooking, an honorable occupation that society values and
reveres in Tijuana, isn't just for chefs in restaurants,
as you'll see when wandering through the downtown plazas
and shops. In large open air markets you'll find spices,
cheeses, breads and delicacies sold by street vendors.
From gourmet hand-crafted Venus Chocolates to boutique
wines made by the L.A. Cetto family vineyards and sold
at their tasting room in the Cava Boutique in Tijuana,
these fine foods offer tourists a glimpse into the
craftsmanship that carries through in so many products
you can buy in Mexico. Food is one of many, including
medical treatments, pharmaceuticals, silver jewelry and
Mexico's largest winery grows its grapes in the Valley
of Guadalupe, but has a bottling operation and tasting
room in Tijuana. Wines such as its top-selling Cabernet
Sauvignon (a bargain under $10), Merlot, and Vino Blanco
Espumoso Champrule Brut, a sparkling wine that's ideal
for holidays and celebrations, can be sampled in an
elegant tasting room and gift shop open to the public.
Visitors can also try an attractively bottled olive oil
that rivals many produced on small farms in Central
California. Wine tasting and tours of the production
cellars are offered hourly, and group tours are
available by arrangement.
Contact: L.A. Cetto Cava Winecellar, Baja California.
Ave. Cañon Jonson No. 2108 Col. Hidalgo, Zona Centro,
Tijuana B.C. México C.P. 22130 Tel:(0152664) 638-5848 /
(0152664) 685-3031. cettowine.com
taxi drivers and average Joses on the street may not
speak English, most places we visited did, and they also
accepted US dollars, allowing us to buy lots of things
to cart back across the border. If it had been closer to
Christmas I would have purchased some beautiful gifts in
a fine jewelry store, and one of Mexico's oldest pottery
shops along the eight blocks of bargain shops and stores
Avenida Revolucion. It only takes 10 minutes from the
border to find a shopper's paradise of designer name
clothing, leather jackets, jewelry, pottery, art and
other items that you can easily pay double the amount
for back in the U.S. But food awaits...
Take a gastronomical tour with the "Tour Gastronomico"
from the event menu for group dining.
Several options ranging from $21 - 35/person (US
dollars) include six course meals with enough for each
person to try, and range from steaks to salmon, salads
and tostadas, all prepared fresh, home-cooked and with
the chef's secret recipes, that are more delicious than
any Mexican meals you'll find in California. We've dined
all over California and have never tasted anything this
healthy and flavorfully- fresh that's called "Mexican".
In fact, this meal and restaurant is worth the visit
across the border alone.
As you enter a driveway
with a valet greeter, a fountain framed by colorful
bougainvillea creates a Spanish scene. The building
slightly tucked away from the street is a two story casa
with a veranda. As you enter the lobby, a traditional
Spanish-style alter with candles guests can light
includes lots of charm and warmth of a home. Passing
into the main dining area, the expanse of flooring all
includes Mexican tile pavers and table in coves that
surround the centerpiece of the huge dining room, a step
down area with a large fountain that splashes
delightfully while you dine.
in a pan," said one visitor to restaurant in Tijuana. Sexy,
sizzling and lovingly made tells the story of the meal I
tried at he paella I sampled at La Diferencia was like.
into most any restaurant in Los Angeles or California,
for that matter, and you'll discover the excellent food
you are dining on was tastefully prepared 8 out of 10
times by Hispanic food preparers, cooks and often chefs.
What you may have not considered is that those folks
often spent years earning their stripes. And consider
this--your meal may pale in comparison to exquisite
cuisine they served South of the Border in Tijuana.
Hidden secret doesn't aptly describe the cuisine of
Tijuana. The locals know about it and smile like the
friendly Cheshire cat, at ...., after feasting
you could imagine watching a chef spend half an hour
preparing fresh Caesar salad before your eyes, then
following the delicacy with a beautifully designed
serving dish, filled with shrimp, rice, chicken and a
variety of spices and sauces, you have sex on a platter.
the moment you enter the two story abode with rich wood
beams and floors, colorful walls of mustard or dark
orange, you've entered somebody's home...yours!
The saying, "Mi casa est su casa," couldn't be more
Location: Sanchez Taboada No. 10611-A Zona Rio,
Tijuanana Baja California,Mexico Tel. (664)634-3346
Tijuana - Gourmet Mexican: Excellencia en Cocina
La Diferencia - Rio Tijuana, Mexico
10611 Sanchez Taboada Blvd., Rio Tijuana
(01152-664-634-3346). Open daily for lunch and dinner
Mon.- Thurs., noon-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., noon-midnight;
Sun., noon-7 p.m. ($10-$23).
Mention this review for a free appetizer! This would
definitely be one of the top restaurants in any city,
anywhere in the world. You'll enjoy some of the best
cuisine you've ever tasted. Plus, it has a one-of-a-kind
atmosphere with splashes of rich, warm color in the
cocktail lounge to subdued lighting in its main dining
room. The main attraction though, is the
delicious-tasting cuisine, which has its roots in
generations of culinary history dating back to the days
of the Spanish conquistadors. Recommended specialties
include their beef tenderloin over poblano chile sauce,
topped with cuitlacoche and goat cheese. Another
delicious traditional Mexican dish is the Chile en
Nogada, available between August and October. Every
entrée from their stuffed crêpes to the fresh salmon
will delight you. No less spectacular is a slice of
their memorable tortilla cake topped with white
chocolate. Valet parking. Banquets. Catering. Full bar.
Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Tijuana - Fresh & Delicious Baja Mediterranean
La Querencia Baja Med Cocina - Tijuana, Mexico
201 Escuadron #3, 110, local 1 y 2, Colonia Aviacion
(01152-664-972-9940). Open daily 1 p.m.-11 p.m.
Owner Miguel Angel has a winner on his hands. The
atmosphere is festive with many repeat customers who
come here to enjoy good food and good friends. Freshness
is the number one ingredient and every selection is
cooked on an open grill right before your very eyes. The
menu is listed on a huge chalk board that everyone can
see. House specialties include fresh seafood from
Ensenada, grilled beef from Sonora, wild goat, abalone
and even salmon. Banquets. Catering. Full bar. Credit
cards: MC, VISA.
Rincon San Roman: This romantic hideaway, overlooking
the sea and the Coronado Islands, features
French-Mexican fusion offerings created by world-famous
chef Martin San Roman. From lobster bisque in puff
pastry to ostrich filet in plum/red wine sauce, the food
is simply divine. The white chocolate Napoleans are
worth the trip alone, but the warm French fudge balls
will also leave you
Fifteen minutes from the border at Km. 19.5 on the
Rosarito-Ensenada Scenic Road (the toll road), in the
Real del Mar Golf and Equestrian Community
Phone: 011-52 (664) 631-2242
agine tiny, tender duck burritos seasoned with Mayan
spices; flash-fried conch diced and tossed with avocado
and warm gorgonzola cheese; delicate squash-blossom
quiche, with a touch of chili and cheese, in a poblano
These are but a few of the sublime gourmet adventures
waiting just across the border in Tijuana. Yes, Tijuana.
In the past three years, the fine dining scene in our
sister city to the south has exploded with upscale,
gourmet restaurants that are inexpensive by Southern
California standards. The following 10 standouts
represent the best, with options that include Mayan,
Aztec, Argentinean, Spanish, French-Mexican fusion and
the best of Baja's fresh seafood, done in all new ways.
All 10 selected restaurants have been certified by the
Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau in meeting strict
standards for international visitors. All are within a
few minutes of the border and have English-speaking
staff and/or English menus. All have secure parking, and
most are a short, inexpensive cab ride from the border.
To help plan your adventure dining forays, you'll find
directions and more details on each restaurant's
The walk from Revolucion to La Differencia is a couple
of miles... so you probably wouldn't want to do that.
Yes, taking a taxi there is among the safest things in
TJ... its located in Rio Tijuana... which is the safest,
least congested part of town (within the urban area...
not including the Playas area etc.,).
Rio Tijuana is the happening area among the cities
middle & upper middle class. There are several good
restaurants, boutiques, jazz, blues, speak easy & nortec
joints... as well as the best art galleries, the
relatively impressive Cultural Center, the Country Club
& other points of interest.
An update is long overdue. We ended up going to La
Diferencia for dinner, and it worked out great. The food
was definitely among the best sit-down Mexican food I've
had, and everyone in our party was happy--even the
vegetarians and the cheese-haters.
My chicken with huitlacoche was good. The chicken itself
was a little dry, and there wasn't all that much
huitlacoche, but it was still quite tasty. Several in
our party got chicken mole poblano. At least a couple
had never had mole before, and this was a completely
worthy introduction, if not the ultimate example of mole
at its finest. The appetizers also looked delicious and
the omnivores who ate them reported very positively (I
don't eat pork, and the best apps almost all had pork).
Aside from the food being good, service was also
excellent. New drinks came faster than we could order
them, and when we refused them, there were no protests
from the waiters. Only one waiter really spoke any
significant English, but between his English and the
high school spanish of a few in our party, we had no
problems ordering (even making it clear that there was
no lard used in the cooking). Everyone at the restaurant
was friendly and trying hard to please. They even
ordered us taxis for the ride back downtown that came
Chicharrón: Fried pork rind. A popular appetizer, often
served with tortillas and guacamole or salsa.
Tijuana, Baja Med, Fine Dining and Wining
La DifferenciaTijuana welcomes you to some of the finest
dining and wining this side of Europe. Baja Med cuisine
is being served in a plethora of restaurants just south
of the border and for a fraction of the price that
lesser quality restaurants in Alta California charge.
Recently, we took a culinary tour of Tijuana and were
very impressed with not only the food, but the beautiful
presentation and European style service. The following
are some of our favorites.
La Diferencia is the epitomy of colonial Mexico. We were
transported back 200 years as soon as we entered the
cool arched reception era Candles dripped around a
reverent saint standing by the entrance to the romantic
dining room. The dining rooms atrium ceiling changes
mood from daytime sky blue dimming to a night time glow.
Chef/owner Juan Carlos Rodriguez specializes in
traditional gourmet Mexican cuisine:
Epozote herbed black beans served with freshly made
salsa and crispy chips; chicarrones (crispy pork rinds)
softened and paired with blue corn tortillas; a
refreshing salad of mixed greens, mango, avocado, red
onion and jicama in a honey dressing is followed by
chicken breast with cheese and chipotle sauce;
enchiladaa de camaron (shrimp); tender beef in chili
with mashed potatoes; and pastel de crepas con chocolate
blanco (white chocolate cheesecake) .. crocodile or
crickets are sometimes available. Mariachis stroll the
La Diferencia was voted the Best Mexican Cuisine in Baja
La Diferencia is located at Blvd. Sanchez Taboada # 1061
1, Zona Rio, (664) 634-3346
drinksLa Querencia Baja Med Cocina’s chef/owner Miguel
Angel Guerrero Yagues stopped practicing law to open
this very cool restaurant and cook the bounty of his
hunting and other special treats. No one knows how to
prepare game like a hunter. The restaurant is an island
of industrial space graced with the stuffed heads of
wild game, the kitchen is open and excited conversations
bounce off the galvanized metal surfaces. A large
blackboard is slid to your table to announce the
delightfully eccentric menu: duck tacos; grilled
sardines; fresh fish; and of course fresh game;
tortillas are hand patteed and charred to a tasty crisp.
A rack of four salsas, one habanero was the hottest I’ve
tasted and I like salsa picante.
We continue to be amazed at the depth of the carte, as
we are introduced to a top candidate for the mayor of
this exciting city. It is clear that this is a power
lunch spot and in its way it reflects the new dynamic
nature of a city full of possibilities.
chilliesLa Querencia is located at Escuadron 201 #3110,
Local 1 y 2, Col.Aviacion, (664)972-99 35 y 40
Casa Plascencia could be in Madrid, it looks so like
restaurants we have enjoyed in Spain. And, the menu is
Spanish: magnificent paellas are the masterpiece of
chef/owner Juan Jose Plascencia, Caesar salad is made at
table in a ten minute cerimony (this Tijuana tradition
is almost a lost art ), a large variety of tapas,
roasted and grilled meats include lamb, beef checks,
tongue, pigs feet and sweetbreads
It’s difficult to believe anywhere without pizza, but
that was the case in Tijuana before 1969, when Placencia
opened the first pizza parlor Guiseppis. There are now
11 branches, but only three remain in the family.
Saverios Mediterraneo and Romesco Baja Med Bistro
(Bonita, California), have been added to the Placencia’s
Casa Plascencia is located at Carlos Robison # 25,
Fracc.Aviacion, (011-52-664) 686-3604
chefsRincon San Roman Cuisine D’Auteur’s chef Martin San
Roman, a graduate of Academe Culinaire de France, cooks
a fusion of French and Mexican cuisines. San Roman is
internationally known for his rich combining of the
ingredients from land, ocean and the air. Overlooking
the Pacific Ocean at Real del Mar, this is an ideal
place for lunch.
platePate de pato is a lovely duck pate on toast; a
lettuce salad with cilantro dressing is refreshing;
cream of tomato soup with slivers of red pepper,
zucchini, and fried onion is savory. Chicken Milanesa is
breaded with panko and fried crisp, placed over
fettucine with basil leaf, proscuito, tomato sauce and
finished with grated parmesan. Dessert is a tres leche
flan with strawberries and mille-feuille.
Rincon San Roman is located at Real del Mar, (664)-
L.A. Cetto a fine winery, since is situated in the
Valley of Guadalupe. It is also the largest winery in
Mexico. I love their wines, they are in the European,
especially Italian style. The founder Don Angelo Cetto
(recognizing the Valley of Guadalupe to be an
outstanding vine growing region), founded the winery in
1928. L. A. Cetto has a bottling facility and tasting
room in the Cava Boutique in Tijuana. The wines include:
Terra; Merlot; Nebbiolo; Concordia; Cabernet Sauvignon;
Viognier and Vino Blanco Espumoso Champrule Brut, a
wonderful sparkling wine. Olive oil, bacalaok, peanut
treats, chocolate and other goodies are also available.
L. A. Cetto Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, from
USA 001152 (664) 685-3031
If all that is not enough to tempt your taste buds try
Venus Chocolates. So good they will make Godiva cry.
These truffles are some of the best made anywhere:
filled with amaretto; Bailey’s; caramel and nuts; cereza
negra; chocolate amargo; cognac; Drambuie; Drambuie
Blanco; Durazno; Frangelico; Grand Marnier, Kahlua;
Kahlua Blanco; Licor 43; Malibu; menta; mint with
chocolate and milk; nuez; nuez blanca; Oreo; pina
colada; plantano con nuez; tequilla, tequilla almendrado;
tequilla con cajeta and tequilla con fresa,
Centro Cultural Tijuana was inaugurated in 1982 with the
goal to fortify national identity in the north border of
Mexico and to encourage cultural tourism coming from the
United States of America to all the country by promoting
Mexican history and the traditions from the border
states of the republic. The center does a great job of
promoting the bi-national region of Tijuana-San Diego.
All the arts and culture are represented from
photography exhibits, to visual art, to dance, to music,
to history to an IMAX theatre and other mediums.
Centro Cultural Tijuana is located at Paseo de los
Heroes 9350, Zona Urbana Rio, Tijuana, (664) 678 96 00
Grand Hotel Tijuana is right in the middle of the Zona
Rio, easy walking to many of these fine restaurants.
Breakfast is included with room tariff and can be taken
in the tall white room with extensive buffet or in the
elegant dining room with a mural of Paris, the owner and
his wife in the foreground and superb continental
service. The rooms are very comfortable and the views
are spectacular. One night as I looked out of my window
on the 15th floor I saw a silver new moon, cars before
golden arches, perhaps a minaret, white, gold and green
lights. It could be anywhere exciting.
Grand Hotel Tijuana is located at Blvd. Agua Caliente
4500 Col. Aviacion, (664) 681 70 00
Convention and Visitors Bureau tel: (011 52 664) 684
0537. tijuanaonline.org. They know their stuff and
really helped me