Over the last decade, Tijuana's restaurant scene has come on in leaps and bounds, transforming the city's reputation from party-central to a foodie's paradise. In the city's best restaurants, creativity and innovation cozy up to old school traditions and regional classics. The options are boundless, with enough variety to suit every taste and budget. Here, we look at ten of the very best Tijuana restaurants for 2021.
10. Mariscos Ruben
First of all, a slight admission. Mariscos Ruben isn't a restaurant. Not in the traditional sense, in any case. If you had to give it a name, you'd probably call it a truck. But it's a truck with chairs and a few tables outside, and for us, that's enough. If it's not enough for you, one bite of their food will be enough to convince you otherwise. The restaurant (ok, truck) specializes in Sonora-style mariscos. Their authentic aguachile is practically legendary, while their selection of oysters and ceviches is near enough faultless. If you're not a seafood fan, you can't go wrong with their tacos or tostadas.
9. Mariscos Don Luis
Mariscos Don Luis doesn't do pretty. If you want tiny portions of artfully piled ingredients in an elegant, suave environment, go somewhere else. If you're able to see past appearances, stay right where you are. This hole in the wall joint might not look like much, but what it lacks in style, it more than makes up for in substance. The food is hearty, generously portioned, and packed with flavor. Whether you go for the fish skin chicharron, the cucaracha shrimp with tangy sauce, or the spicy aguachile, your taste buds are going to thank you for making the trip.
A good taco isn't hard to find in Tijuana. A mind-blowingly amazing one is a little harder. But not if you eat at Tacomiendo. This local-favorite does some of the best tacos you'll find in the city. Their quesatacos with cheese crusts have taken on almost legendary status, as has their fine selection of salsas. If you want to pay a little visit to carb-heaven, do your appetite a favor and book a table now.
7. Verde y Crema
When Verde y Crema opened up, it was to a blaze of glory. Ten years and one change of location later, it's still continuing to set tongues wagging with its showstopping menu and atmospheric ambiance. Pair the braised ribs and the tacos coreanos with some local mezcal for a meal you won't forget in a hurry.
6. Cine Tonalá
Cine Tonalá is more than just a restaurant. It's a restaurant, a bar, a small theater, and a performance space all rolled into one. But even leaving aside the joys of catching some indie cinema or enjoying a mezcal cocktail on the rooftop terrace, it's still an unmissable experience, and that's all down to the food. Executive chef Diego Hernandez has been working in the business for long enough to know exactly how to pull together a showstopping menu, something he's done at Cine Tonalá with epic results. For a rare treat, try the tuna ceviche wonton tostadas and lobster burritos washed down with some regional wine. The ambiance is just as memorable as the food. The service is friendly and attentive, while the prices are attractive enough to justify a few repeat visits.
5. Villa Saverios
Ranked by ZonaTuristica as one of Tijuana's best restaurants, Villa Saverios is a fabulous place to enjoy some fine food, local wines, and first-class service. The menu combines Mediterranean flavors with regional classics. It's not necessarily a combination you'd think would work, but it does, beautifully. The refined decor and exquisite menu make it a good choice for special occasions and blowouts. Thanks to the superb prices and relaxed ambiance, it's equally suitable for everyday dining.
4. La Justina
With a menu that takes inspiration from Mexican, new American, and Baja culinary traditions, a funky, youthful vibe, and a fine selection of cocktails and regional wines, La Justina is unquestionably one of the hippest places to head in Tijuana. For a meal to remember, try the popcorn and the elotes en vaso to whet your appetite, before moving onto the duck confit tostadas for mains. If you can fit in an octopus burger as well, so much the better. It's interesting, it's vibrant, and it's about to become your new favorite restaurant.
Considered by Eater.com as one of the most interesting restaurants in Tijuana, Caesars certainly has a lot to recommend it. As its name suggests, this is a place that celebrates the Caesar salad. And why wouldn't it? Believe it or not, the dish has nothing at all to do with Rome as some people think. It was actually invented in 1924 in this very restaurant by a local chef named Caesar Cardini. Today, each salad is made tableside, guaranteeing utmost freshness and allowing a rare glimpse into the Tijuana culinary traditions of old. The rest of the menu is equally as impressive, with a great combination of both old-school classics and contemporary dishes.
2. Churrascaria Do Brasil
If you like meat, you're going to love Churrascaria Do Brasil. The vast menu is packed with some of the juiciest, tenderest meat dishes you'll ever taste. There are a few vegetarian options and a good selection of salads, but ultimately, this is a place you go to indulge your carnivorous side. Service is outstanding, with friendly waiters who know how to be attentive without overbearing. If all that wasn't enough, its convenient location just 15 minutes from the US border makes it wonderfully accessible.
As Lonely Planet writes, with paintings of sunsets and sea creatures decorating the walls and ferns, cacti, driftwood, and fairy lights scattered throughout, Tras/Horizonte feels more like a magical outdoor space than an indoor warehouse restaurant. The rustic, earthy menu is just as gorgeous as the decor - don't miss highlights like the Rockefeller oysters with chistorra, gorgonzola, and cherry tomatoes with a balsamic glaze on toasted bread; the smoked marlin-stuffed chili relleno with serrano pepper and pumpkin-seed cream, or the smoked marlin taco Pibil. The drinks list is impressive, with a good selection of regional wines, beers, and intriguing cocktails like the El Rey, an enticing blend of mezcal, Oaxacan chocolate, poblano chile, orange bitters, and brown sugar.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson