Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau

tel: (011 52 664) 684 0537

Cultural Center Video

California Dining


Casa Plasencia Tijuana Baja California Vacation Restaurant

Casa Plasencia, Address: Calle Rovirosa 250, Fracc. AviaciĆ³n, Tijuana Baja California Mexico  Fracc.Aviacion, (011-52-664) 686-3604

Casa Plasencia in Tijuana, Mexico--Blame Chela Plascenica for the legacy of great cooking that spread joy through Tijuana--kids munching on flavorful garlic-sausage pizzas, matadors dining on bold Spanish paellas, and countless tourists discovering food so delicious, Plascenia family cooking became known around the globe. Chela had talent and taste, and lent a hand at son Juan Jose's first restaurant in Tijuana, Guiseppe's, which premiered in 1969 as the city's first pizzeria.


Nearly 40 years later and 10 restaurants under the family belt (including several pizzerias and Restaurante Romesco in Chula Vista,) Juan Jose Plascencia and his children continue a time-honored tradition of exceptional service and consistently satisfying dining in tasteful surroundings. One place the regarded restaurateur holds dear to his heart is his beloved Casa Plasencia. Located in Zona Rio (river zone), it is where people come to share friendship, fine food and passions. During the bullfighting season dignitaries make their way to the two-story restaurant to see and be seen among the 'A' crowd of elite citizens and famous bullfighters. The casa's upstairs walls are a museum of collectible art and photographs of famous matadors who have shaken hands with the owner and dined as esteemed guests, sharing the culture of the corrida--the Spanish word for bullfight.


Located across the street from the five star Grand Hotel Tijuana, this Spanish casa that could easily pass for Madrid, is the place to impress your date or woo your mate with quality food, pampered service and serenades from strumming guitar musicians who sing love ballads.  The main dining room offers rich mural-painted walls, pavered floors, white linen tablecloths and views of the chef's mesquite grill, while several rooms upstairs are ideal for intimate dining, private banquets, and cocktails at a cozy bar. That's where you'll find the inner sanctum of the bullfighting culture and sport that remains popular in Tijuana despite one of two bullrings closing recently. The head of a mounted bull with fearsome horns, prize ribbons, framed photos, posters and an ornate matador's costume decorate the walls as wine bodas hang from the ceiling by their cords, paying homage to what many consider a national sport. Casa Plasencia attracts an elite crowd--courageous bullfighters, bullfighting clubs, politicians and fans hoping to gain glimpses of their valiant heroes. Without going to a bullfight there's no better place to absorb the atmosphere of this 400-year old sport than the upstairs rooms with ochre-colored walls Juan Jose has adorned with memorabilia featuring friends, family and renown matadors.


Entering from the busy street, the mellow mood and soft scents of mesquite instantly grab you, making it clear why people are drawn to the restaurant. Known for creative Mediterranean cuisine and exceptional use of spices to enhance fresh produce and meats, I surveyed many plates as I strolled past diners eating tapas, roasted vegetables and grilled lamb and beef. Every serving looked delicious and convinced me another trip to Tijuana will be in order. Our meal for five and reserved seating upstairs offered great promise with a specially prepared Caesar salad (invented in Tijuana) and paella.


There's no hurrying as your first course is created before your eyes in a family restaurant where every waiter takes incredible pride. Do order the house wine--Cabernet Tempranillo Special Edition Cosecha 2004, and get ready for a show.  From the first drops of olive oil and crushed garlic to the finished product topped with a large crouton, we admired our waiter's style as he chopped, mashed, blended and mixed fresh ingredients in a large wooden serving bowl, then divvied portions of authentic Caesar salad. Fresh eggs, anchovies, lettuce, and spices bring out the tangy flavors in a favorite that neighboring California would hope to take credit for. The California governor even exempted raw eggs in restaurants for this special recipe but take note, it was invented in Mexico, not the U.S. If you love Caesar salad (like I do), this was the best I ever tasted--so I quickly jotted down one special ingredient as they whisked the preparation table away--Maggi Jugo seasoning sauce. 


Sharing a relaxing evening among friends, you can set up temporary residence in the Plasencia casa and melt your cares  with a fresh salad and heavenly, heaping servings of Spanish paella. When our self-contained meal was delivered to the head of the table, the dish was so big it dwarfed the waiter.  Just out of reach on its very own stand, I couldn't try it fast enough, and as a seafood fan, immediately dove for the shrimp on the plate set before me. Big mistake! I got squirted by the spicy red juices that popped out of the shell onto my blouse! Oh well. Not too overpowering, their slightly sweet flavors enhanced a dish brimming with tender clams, mussels, crab and flavorful bites of Spanish chorizo. When eating it you can almost hear Chela Plascencia advise, "In all the savory things put sugar, and all the sweet things add salt."


Though several tried, there was no way that we could possibly finish that platter of paella, a traditional dish as popular in Spain as the bullfights. Juan (a different Juan--not Juan Plascencia) was the only Tijuana resident among us, so we urged him to take the remaining portion home to his wife and tell her he bought it especially for her since she couldn't join us. We laughed at silly jokes, sipped a full-bodied wine, and presented a toast to our fantastic meal, our host and good times.


Most of us were stuffed, but who can turn down something sweet? With  just enough room for a thin pizza-shaped pastry dessert, our final sugar craving was cured. Imaginative and well-executed, it is the perfect finish to a dining experience, and still another reason to wander across the border for exquisite Mexican dining in Tijuana. Some come for the day or evening, then go back to the U.S. after a meal. But why rush things? I stayed across the street at the Grand Hotel Tijuana and was pleased at the affordable price for 5 star accommodations. In the morning I examined my options of a healthy swim in the pool that sparkled blue, a round of golf on greens the hotel overlooks, and complimentary breakfast buffet with freshly-made tortillas, salsas, soups and enough dishes to feed an army. I lost track of time working on my computer, compliments of the free Internet service the hotel provides in each room. But there's so much to see in Tijuana, I had to seize the day and investigate yet another restaurant--La Querencia, sample wines at L.A. Cetto wine tasting room and do a bit of shopping along the touristy Avenida Revolucion. 


Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau tel: (011 52 664) 684 0537. 

Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) can supply visitors with a list of restaurants and hotel recommendations.