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Taco Hunting in North Baja

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It’s been awhile since I've been down to TJ; years ago I would visit on a weekly basis (not Revolucion Ave).

I started my day working through Tijuana feasting on some exceptional tacos from at least 5 taco stands. Most notable tacos for this trip, the original Tacos El Gordo, (Corner of Sanchez Tobado/Javier Mina) and Tacos El Paisa at Las Ahumaderes (The Blvd/Gob. Balarezo)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

Things to note about Tacos El Gordo. I often times get asked about the difference between the TJ locations and their US operations. The cost is of course lower but not by much, basically $1.30 TJ vs $ 1.85 in US. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
I’m always amazed by people complaining about the cost at the US locations. The variety is basically the same however the TJ location offers Masisa and Ojo (eyeball). I had to try the Ojo so I ordered one with my usual taco trio. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63... To be honest it was good, but Ojo is just not for me. The asada and adobada were great as usual.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63... As far as difference in flavor I have to give the slight edge to the TJ locations, however the difference is very minimal. I thought the meat was fresher and the masa was perfection.

As I left Tacos El Gordo, I walked across the street to Hildago Market. Wow! Just picture Imperial Farmers Market in San Diego multiplied by 10, and outside. Next time I go back I’m just going to stay here. They have some amazing looking places particularly Kikos Carnitas.

On to Las Ahumaderes. If you have not been to Ahumaderes there is a series of Taco establishments all lined up. It’s a taco lovers dream. This place has been around since before I was born! http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

I went to El Paisa and ordered the asada, chorizo, and adobada. They use a small grill with mesquite for all their meats http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

The adobada was awesome!!! It had so much zest and was marinated to perfection. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

The chorizo as KR would put it almost made me weep it was that good. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

Overall I have to give the edge to Tacos El Paisa at Las Ahumaderes they were best of the day for this trip. The tacos BTW are only $1.20, prices are painted on the wall. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63... and also the salsa was very good http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63... I have some more places on my list to try next time.

The rest of my trip extended to Rosorito and final destination Ensenada. I came across some interesting places searching for the perfect fish taco in the place of its origin. I will post more when I get time.

KR Thanks for the video inspiration haha.

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  1. Damn son, The COLORS of the salsas and chorizo! When is your next Tijuana taco tour scheduled? I will be at your side and I won't forget to bring my two stomachs.

    High five for the ojo taco, you are indeed the fearless, pioneering Masa Assassin! :^)

    I have not seen sexier taco photography in my life....

    More Nortec!
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=6pfwT2E6XJ4
    This song makes so much more sense after reading your post!

    Cant wait for the follow up

    2 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      Thanks Alex! I will defiantly let you know next time, it should be within in next couple of months. You might have to bring three stomachs. The video was hilarious.

      1. re: kare_raisu

        Seriously next time someone wants to do a taco tour down in TJ post it here. I'm sure many of us would love to go. I know I would.

      2. If it were only safer? and the border crossing shorter!
        We used to go for dinner at least once a week. I miss that.
        But wow, those tacos adobado. I'm with Alex, bring an extra stomach.
        Please tell me about ojos. Why do people order them? Is it possible to bite into one without losing a tooth? or are you supposed to swallow them whole? Where's the taste or is it merely texture? WTF?

        8 Replies
        1. re: P Macias

          The border crossing is still fairly beastly, 2 hours last friday around 1pm, but my friend told me that was because everybody was crossing into the U.S. to buy gifts for mexican mother's day on Saturday. In terms of safety, I really believe unless you are on the roads south of TJ in the middle of the night, or are running mates of the mexican mafia or policia you are really pretty safe. The area around the market seems pretty family oriented and I know both TJ and Rosarito have really stepped up security, they have gotten fairly aggressive to stem the loss of gringo tourist dollars.

          1. re: P Macias

            Ojos are great.They are steamed and very tender.

            There are no worries down in TJ.The LA Times has been writing sensational and misleading stories about TJ.You will have no problems where you are going, and for right now I would walk across the border and use taxis, preferrably the Taxi Libre. I've walked across the past 3 times in less than a 15 min. wait. You can also walk across the bridge if you arrive during the day and I've even been walking over to Mercado Hidalgo from downtown, it's not very far.

            Don't miss miss Tacos Fito's(tacos de brirria de res) or El Conchal(Sinaloa style mariscos) right next to EL Gordo on Col. Javier Mina.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Can you give me the best route from walking over to get to Mercado Hidalgo by foot SGL?

              1. re: kare_raisu

                From downtown, take Av. Galeana(7th) towards Zona Rio 5 blocks from La Revo to Bl. Sanchez Taboada.Make a right on Bl. Sanchez Taboada and go three blocks to Col. Javier Mina where you will see Tacos el Gordo on the other side of the street.The Mercado will be on your right on Javier Mina and just past El Gordo is El Conchal and Tacos Fito's(5AM-1PM).Tacos de birria de res is a TJ specialty.

                From the border to downtown walk to your right and pass through the gate , make a left, and go through the Plaza Viva Tijuana, cross the bridge follow the gauntlet of pharmacies and redundant tiendas to El Arco, the TJ monument. You need to join me on one of my reconaissance missions KR.

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Write me and I am there!

                  Gracias!

              2. re: streetgourmetla

                Thanks for the heads up on Tacos Fito's and El Conchal.

                1. re: Masa Assassin

                  The taquero at Tacos Fito's will fry your mind, and taco.He needs to be in the Guiness book for the fastest taco ever assembled.It's worth it just to watch, but the taco is even better.

                  I can cover Centro and Zona Rio on foot and taxi, plus I end up parking my car most of the time while I walk anyway.The places on the outskirts can be reached by ruta taxi.

                  There's also a Oaxacan restaurant inside the Mercado that has antojito Oaxaquenos and chupulines!

              3. re: P Macias

                I always drive across because their is to much territory to cover when taco hunting. I crossed on Sunday morning (US Mothers Day) only took 45 MIN no hassles.

                Ojo what can I say? Ojo was very tender. I had my taco con todo so I could not pinpoint the exact flavor. Next time I will be brave and eat it with nothing. Some people love it. On my way back from Baja I stopped at a Carnceria on National Ave some guy was upset because they did not have Ojo.

              4. Kikos carnitas is pretty tasty. We have also had some very good menudo and posole at a couple of the places located in the inner ring of the market (sorry, been awhile, can't recall the names.) Pretty interesting Chiccaronnes at the shop by the banos. Love love love the market!

                1 Reply
                1. re: foodiechick

                  Cool foodiechick, I was so close to trying the chicharrones outside of kikos. Yes indeed very interesting they are about the size of an infant.
                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                  Here is outside of Kikos http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                  I wish I would have snapped more but I was in AWE.

                2. Hey MA, I checked out Las Ahumadoras this weekend while making my rounds.I tried the al pastor and barbacoa at El Paisa and they were great.The carne asada looked uninviting and I had many stops before and after under my belt, literally, and on my itinerary, so I stopped at the two fine offerings.But, I checked out the menus at the last two stands Las Tres Salsas and Las Quince Letras and was more intrigued.The ambitious pitch man at El Paisa said all the stands were the same, but that was the contrary.Tres Salsas had vampiros(carne asada atop cheese), which I just had for the first time in Mazatlan last weekend and Quince Letras had TJ's own quesatacos, invented at the superlative Tacos Salceados located in Mesa to name a couple of items out of the ordinary.The quesataco has a fried cheese envelope wrapped around the ingredients and then the flavorful cocoon is placed on the tortilla.Next time I will go straight to those last two stands.

                  When I asked my cooworker from Tijuana "De donde estan los vampiros?", he replied,"Romania."

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                    Thanks for the report! You are correct not all stands are the same. I've heard Las Quince Letras is very good. Last time I was their I was in the same situation as you and could not try anymore. I'm planning another taco hunt down their soon, I will be sure to check the other two stands out.
                    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
                    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
                    I love quesatacos! Now you have me craving one.

                    I have to finish part two of this post which is the Ensenada Fish Taco Scene.

                    On a separate note your post regarding Mazatlan Lunch is fabulous
                    Viva Sinaloa!

                  2. Have you tried Kentucky Fried Buches?The premise is hilarious.I die laughing everytime I see that sign.They are strangely decent, not that I have a benchmark for fried buche tacos, and the taquero makes a simple, and fantastic salsa.That's it:fried buches, corn tortillas, and salsa.Located on Constitucion at Art.123. There's also another birria puesto next to a mariscos puesto on Ninos Heroes Coahuila.Well, yes, you're not in Kansas anymore, but these are great stops.

                    But, did you get to Tacos Salceados(la Ermita)?This may be the center of the taco universe,IMHO.I've been 5 times.Amazing!! It's the talk of TJ among restauranteurs and la raza.Check it out.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      I have not tried KFB, but it sounds interesting.

                      Yes La Ermita! quesataco I'm due for a trip.

                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                        I talk about Kentucky Fried Buches all the time! That place has been there forever--or at least since I first lived in Tijuana, nearly 30 years ago. I always thought the sign was a riot too.

                        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                      2. I went to the TJ Tacos El Gordo once and found the place pretty lacking -- the tortillas weren't fresh off the grill, the meat was fatty, and the drinks available were crappy sodas. It seemed like a well-established destination for drinkers at night and families on weekends. I think you can do much better by heading out to the neighborhoods and figuring out which places are popular with cops and locals.

                        A few recs for sublime tacos near the center: carne asada/guac tacos on utterly fresh tortillas at Tacos Guanajuato at the end of Avenida Carranza at Av. Arias Bernal (after 4 pm); cabeza etc. and insane agua de guayaba at a nice corner taqueria/lunch place at the corner of Av. Zapata and Av. Martinez; excellent stand-up fish tacos at the TJ chain, Mariscos Dorado, Av. Cristobal Colon above Av. Arias Bernal.

                        1. It has been over 3 years since I have had the opportunity to go to Baja, a favorite was Tacos El Yaqui in Rosarito.

                          Any one know if they are still there. They were a block off the main street into the residential area, but still close to the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

                          They only offered one type of taco, carne asada, but it was incomparable.

                          I appreciate any info, I am planning a Baja trip for September.

                          Thanks.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: pamf

                            Tacos el Yaqui is still in the same location, serving the same great food, with lines out to the street at lunch time.

                            They also opened a second location in Tijuana, but I don't know where it is.

                            To help your Baja trip planning for great taco stand experiences, I highly recommend going to www.bajanomad.com and use the search function for the "Best Taco Stands" thread, which has been actively contributed to for about least two years now. (Disclosure with a blush, but I started the thread and it has taken on a life of its own).

                            Have a great trip, the weather is wonderful down here.

                            1. re: Gypsy Jan

                              Yesterday I made a trip to Tacos Salceados, ("La Ermita") in the La Mesa neighborhood of Tijuana. The food and service exceeded my expectaions. Even the security guard standing in front of the restaurant was part of my experience; I drove past the restaurant (missed it), turned around and, the guard noticed the Calif plates I guess (why else would I be in the neighborhood?). He motioned to me to make a quick U-turn and gave me a spot right in front of the door (in spite of the red curb). Of course he got a tip.

                              The quesotaco is great (mine had salmon inside) but the marlin taco was probably the best fish taco I have ever had. It was slightly smokey and finished with a pleasant spicy bite.

                              Go eat.

                               
                              1. re: Ringo Gato

                                Arriba La Ermita, Cabrones! I would have bought that cool security guard a taco dulce. Great to hear you had an amazing time at the center of taco universe, ringo!

                                & in case you need a reminder:
                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pfwT2... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                          2. For great tacos in TJ, try Tacos El Hippodromo.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: SD Native

                              Could you give us a little more intel on Hippodromo"?

                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                KR. Hipodromos is located on the backside of Agua Caliente Racetrack in Colonia Hipodromo. Very good tacos It used to be my regular spot, however I have not been their for years.

                              2. re: SD Native

                                Never heard of that place though I have consistently gotten wonderful tacos at El Rincon just across the border by the TJ Taxi stands. It sounds like a bad place to find decent tacos but they're honestly much better then any I've found in San Diego.

                                1. re: oerdin

                                  all i have noticed near the stands is pharmacias -n relation to those where is this

                              3. Yesterdays Lunch????? Tacos (Birria Saudero Asada Chorizo), Vampiro, Quesa Taco, Elote, Tostada Ceviche, Countless Churros, and a Torta Cubana.

                                Started the Crawl with family at 1100am at Kentucky Fried Buches however they were not open. Some locals advised us they opened at 3pm. Next stop Tacos Fitos based on streetgormetlas recommendation.

                                This place exceeded my expectations. Not only did I have some great Tacos De Birra I was also entertained by the taqueros and musicians. SGLA was not joking when he said these guys crank them out fast, I uploaded a video to youtube of the masterful taquero. I’m glad their was musicians playing in the back otherwise most would think the video was sped up. Check out his tricks on the last taco.

                                VIDEO
                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZfqtw...

                                The end result was fantastic. Fitos also has Tripe on the Menu which I did not try but hope to return soon.
                                http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                These are top notch Birra De Res Tacos. The only thing I've had comparable was in Sonora, and what’s funny is the Sonoran Taquero was the slowest I’ve ever experianced. I will never forget my wife braving 115 degree heat waiting for tacos and finally jumping behind the cart and making her own.

                                At Fitos you can stand near the cart or you can sit and enjoy your tacos with a soda in the dining room.
                                http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                Tacos Fitos has a huge dining room (converted warehouse) behind the stand. The staff is very friendly, and even getting your check is quick (rare in these parts).

                                Located Francisco Javier Mina #14 in front of Mercado Hildago Zona Rio. Tacos Fitos should be the first stop on any TJ taco tour; it will definitely be on mine. Thanks SGLA

                                Continued with vampiros………………

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Masa Assassin

                                  KFB!! haha I think it opens at 4pm - but Street knows best. Awesome you made it to fitos! You cant get a more quintessential Tijuanese style breakfast than Birria de Res! Great VIdeo!!!! I think ppl will see how special this place is now!

                                  Cant wait to read the rest!

                                  Let me know if you need inspiration again to jumpstart that writing!!! :0) I think I can scrounge smth up!

                                2. Vampiros at Quince Letras

                                  After a great experience at Fitos, and walking around Mercado Hidalgo I headed to "Taco Plaza" Las Ahumaderes (The Blvd/Gob. Balarezo). I wanted to try a Vampiro so I opted to go to Quince Letras rather then El Paisa.
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
                                  The Menu
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                  On a Vampiro the tortillas are griddled and dried out and start taking a form of their own. They had a bowl of them out when I arrived.
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                  I ordered mine with Carne Asada con todo. Melted cheese, carne asada, salsa, cilantro, onions, and guacamole.
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                  I’m not sure about the origins of the Vampiro but the concept works. Basically you get more meat than a taco. The form the shells take on are easy to grip. The Vampiros stay intact do to the toughened shell. I don’t think I will be replacing my tacos with Vampiros, however they are definitely worth a try and Quince Letras does a fine version.

                                  While I was eating my Vampiro the Taqeuro was grilling some chorizo that was calling my name so I decided to order a taco. Now I didn’t think I could have had a better chorizo taco then I had previously at El Paisa, but I have to give the slight edge to Quince Letras. These are probably the best I’ve had. My only gripe with the tacos at all the Ahumaderes vendors is the tortiallas are not hand pressed to order.
                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                  I didn’t want to leave without trying their rendition of the Quesataco. This version was completely different then others I have had. Basically it was more similar to a mulita/caramelo then a Quesataco. It really got interesting when he asked me what choice of meat I wanted. I left it up to the taquero and he said recommended champechana.. It seems campechana has become a popular term used to describe a mix of meats. He came up with a Suadero/Asada mix I won’t soon forget.

                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v63...

                                  Although the Quesataco was a different rendition then I expected, the mix of the white breast bone meat and the dark asada was amazing.

                                  If you make it out to Quince Letras @ Las Ahumaderes try the chorizo, or a Suadero Asada concoction.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Masa Assassin

                                    Is this the chorizo espanol you were telling me about? The suadero asada mix still sounds amazing Great write up and pictures as always amigo!

                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                      Thanks
                                      Yes thats the chorizo!
                                      Yeah the champechana ala suadero/asada was killer.
                                      To be continued la ermita..........

                                      1. re: Masa Assassin

                                        I was long overdue for a real quesataco at Tacos Salceados (La Ermita) so I decided to visit the neighborhood that was once very familiar to me (La Mesa).

                                        For now I can bring you the sights and sounds from a quick video I put together.

                                        VIDEO
                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8-lkh...

                                        Sorry I can’t transfer the incomparable taste and aroma
                                        Report to follow………

                                        1. re: Masa Assassin

                                          ORALE!!!!!!
                                          That has got to be the coolest video on Youtube! What a unbelievable job you did man! Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting that together. Feels like you are right there at the bar.

                                          Micheladas are on me from now on! :^)

                                          Is that Julieta?

                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                            Thanks! I wanted to capture the experience as best I could. I will take you up on the chelada.

                                            Is that Julieta?
                                            The track is off Bajofondos "Mar Dulce" album its called Pa'Bailar and yes Julieta is featured in that song.

                                          2. re: Masa Assassin

                                            I'm definitely going to hit that place up next time I head down south.

                                    2. Los Poblanos on the outskirts of ensenada has the best carne asada tacos I have ever had. Hands down.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: SD Native

                                        Where is Los Poblanos on the outskirts of Ensenada? North, south, east?

                                      2. After reading all of the amazing sounding posts on the tijuana and ensenada taco scene, I think it would be a great idea if someone would create separate maps with all these great places notated. A sort of easy taco stand travel map.

                                        1. Here's a website that has a ton of good info on the best tacos stands of baja.

                                          http://btsproduction.com/taco

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: gtag

                                            Thanks for the link--my husband and I are spending a couple of days in Rosarito in September and my plan is to stuff myself with excellent tacos.

                                            1. re: MandalayVA

                                              Hi, please send me an email request to ohanahuiATyahoo.com.

                                              I have spreadsheets for Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada dining (taco stands to fine experiences), but I can only send attachments.

                                              Buen Provecho, GJ