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Tijuana, Mexico Cuisine


In 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 Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which  gave me their "favorites" list of restaurants and hotel recommendations.

My 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.

The 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.

It's 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 stained glass.

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.

While 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 on
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...

La Diferencia - 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. 

"Sex 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. 

Go 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

If 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.

From 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 appropriate at

Location: Sanchez Taboada No. 10611-A Zona Rio, Tijuanana Baja California,Mexico Tel. (664)634-3346

Tijuana - Gourmet Mexican: Excellencia en Cocina Mexicana
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. ($12-$25).

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 sauce.

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 individual profile.\

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 very quickly.

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 room.

La Diferencia was voted the Best Mexican Cuisine in Baja California

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 fine restaurants.

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)- 631-2241

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.

It’s Tijuana.

Grand Hotel Tijuana is located at Blvd. Agua Caliente 4500 Col. Aviacion, (664) 681 70 00


Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau tel: (011 52 664) 684 0537.  They know their stuff and really helped me