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May 15, 2008 09:33 PM

Taco Hunting in North Baja

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)

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.
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. To be honest it was good, but Ojo is just not for me. The asada and adobada were great as usual. 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!

I went to El Paisa and ordered the asada, chorizo, and adobada. They use a small grill with mesquite for all their meats

The adobada was awesome!!! It had so much zest and was marinated to perfection.

The chorizo as KR would put it almost made me weep it was that good.

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. and also the salsa was very good 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!
    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.

              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.

                  Here is outside of Kikos

                  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.
                    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.