Every time I speak to someone outside of Mexico about visiting Tijuana, I’m met with confused looks or even expressions of horror. And while I understand there are misconceptions, the Tijuana I’ve been exploring is nothing like the seedy dark visions people have in their minds. The Tijuana I’m getting to know is up and coming and changing every month. In my past visits, I’ve tasted excellent craft beer, eaten delicious food and at a fraction of the cost of anything north of the border. It’s a destination I’m eager to continue discovering.
I was recently presented with an opportunity to return to Tijuana as it was where my friends from Oaxaca and Mexico City would converge for an extended weekend in the the Northern Baja. It was my third visit since last September and I was excited to delve back into its eating and drinking scene.
The easy flight from Vancouver to San Diego had me in sunshine and palm trees in the matter of hours and I was picked up at the airport by my friend Heriberto (@thepuertoexperience), with Anais (@thecuriousmexican) as his co-pilot. We quickly found our way down the 805 towards the border, but before we crossed south, we had to make one quick stop.
We made a quick stop to drop off our bags and meet up with Omar (@oaxacking) and before I knew it, the gang was all together and heading to the first stop on our Tijuana beer adventure.
On previous TJ beer crawls, I’ve focused on ordering samplers to get a good tasting of what each brewery had to offer. But this time, I thought pacing and lower alcohol beers would be my key to the many days of drinking I had ahead of me. It seemed like good logic at the time…
Mamut Brewery Co – Easily located just off Av. Revolucion around the corner from our hotel, Mamut was the logical first stop. My choice was the flavourful Lecho Calizo, an American pale ale which I enjoyed outside on the patio, reunited with friends. It was the perfect start to my Northern Baja adventure.
Cervecería Tijuana – On my first TJ visit, we’d gone to the TJ TapHouse a bit outside the city center. I loved the colourful bright room with high ceilings that brought all the sunshine in. Their new room on Av. Revolucion felt completely opposite, with its moody red lighting, although any thoughts of lighting and ambiance disappeared with my first sip of their delicious Güera (blonde).
Border Psycho – We hopped in an Uber and made our way to Plaza Fiesta to meet up with more friends from Mexico City. Plaza Fiesta houses a number of tap rooms and a good place to get a taste of the growing Tijuana beer scene. Border Psycho has a good selection of their own and special guests from the area on tap. After trying a sip of their Guayabo blonde ale which was way too tart for my liking, I settled on their cream ale which I knew I’d enjoy from past visits.
Sci-Hop Brewing at Brewpub Plaza Fiesta was next and this time I ordered an “interesting beer” the Blonde Coco with greater success. Their lineup included a lot of beers with flavor mix-ins (like mango, blueberry and even peanut butter), and all that I sampled around the table were quite delicious.
Insurgentes Tap Room – This room has been a favourite in the past and was again on this evening. We seem to be able to sit easily for hours in the space enjoying their offerings. Juan Cordero, their American pale ale is my go-to, although their Tiniebla witbier is a close second.
Taconazo – No evening of drinking (in Mexico) is complete without a late-night taco stop and this was a welcome end to the night. I don’t have enough taco experience to know what I like so I just randomly ordered 2 that I enjoyed with my Sidral. People think it’s funny I get excited about apple soda when I’m in Mexico, but we don’t have apple soda at home. And it pairs perfectly with tacos in my opinion.
The next morning, I woke up feeling refreshed after a good night’s rest and needed a coffee. On my last stay at One Bunk, I had a delicious coffee made by Tania the manager, so I went down to see if she was able to do the same for me again. Lucky for me, she was available to not only pour me a delicious brew, but also sat with me and then Omar and Anais for a lovely morning chat.
Telefonica Gastro Park – I’ve visited Telefonica on every TJ visit and this time was no exception. In the morning there are only 2 options from this food truck park that are open, so we ordered some things on toast from Azarosa and chilaquiles from La Carmelita. While I enjoy visiting Telefonica, it’s a place I’ll save on future visits for the afternoon when all the stands and brewery are open for more food choices and a livelier feel.
Los Compas – Our morning adventure to the beach coupled with a visit to the hot springs helped us worked up an appetite and we decided it was time for a nicer sit-down meal. Without hesitation, we knew it was going to be at Los Compas.
Chefs Mario Peralta and Juan Cabrera teamed up to open Los Compas last year and while the recipes are said to come from central Mexico, the ingredients highlight the bounty of the Baja. After the copious amounts of beer and grease I’d consumed in the past day, I was happy to sit down, relax into a glass of wine and ponder over the many delicious-looking choices on the menu.
Ceverceria Insurgentes – On my first beer crawl of TJ last September, we’d tried to go to Insurgentes’ brewery but unfortunately it was closed. On this trip, it was our priority to go there. We headed to the 3 story brewery with the intention that it would be our first stop of many that evening, but we loved the upstairs patio so much we spent most of our 2nd night in TJ there.
Tacos El Franc is the popular choice in TJ and our choice for the evening to get food in our stomachs. I’ve loved El Franc in the past and this time was no exception. According to my domestic traveling partners, by their standards, these are just “ok”. But as the lone foreigner, I did not let them dampen my enthusiasm, and whatever they thought, it didn’t stop anyone from devouring everything that was placed in front of them.
Teorema / Lúdica Co Tasting Room – Just when I thought we were done for the evening, our next Uber ride led us to “one last beer”. Teorema/Lucida’s shared tasting room had so many choices I wanted to try and because it was the last of the evening (and for Tijuana as we were leaving the next morning), I thought it was time to finally indulge in a sampler.
The next morning we were up bright and early to make our way down to Ensenada happily anticipating the weekend ahead of us.
While this trip to Tijuana had many repeats from previous trips, they were all good places that I was happy to return to. Couple that with new finds on this adventure, I left Tijuana for the next part of adventure feeling happy for the time spent with good friends drinking and eating very well. Each time I visit TJ, I know I’m just scratching the surface and am eager to return again to delve deeper in all it has to offer.