You hear it all the time: “We are not Mexico. We are not the U.S. We are Tijuana.”
Just as this mentality has bred a number of cultural hallmarks that are distinctly tijuas (the Caesar salad, ruidoson music, colorful street slang), it has also allowed the city to assimilate elements of either influence into something all their own.
Restaurants such as La Diferencia and Cien Años, for example, bring a twist on the haute cuisine of Mexico City to Tijuana’s gastronomic district while, up the hill, a cocktail lounge called Jinx draws inspiration from the back-alley speakeasies of New York City.
“New York for me was a two-month thing that ended up being two years,” says Tijuana native and Jinx co-owner Christopher Caro.
“The thing to do was find the newest bar and the best place for a drink. One day I end up moving to the Lower East Side. I’m living alone, but I have a speakeasy bar in the bottom of my place called the Back Room. And it was a real speakeasy. They served you the drinks in coffee and tea cups, which I think was cool.”
Big Apple afterhours still crisp in his mind, Caro returned to Tijuana and approached friends Donato Perez and Alfonso “Poncho” Jarquin with an idea.
“I wanted a bar with a different feeling than most of the bars in Tijuana: a chill atmosphere and good drinks with a speakeasy type of [vibe].”
The trio settled on a former strip mall of law offices next to the old U.S. Consulate — a location that Caro says has been jinxed by a series of failed bars. The entrepreneurs took the theme and ran with it, angling ladders over the semi-hidden entrance under which new arrivals must try their luck to gain access to the bar’s ornate interior. Employing the help of designer Andrea Noel, Jinx transformed the nondescript mall into a quirky drinking den using all-modular decorations designed to be setup and torn down with minimal effort.
“It’s difficult in Tijuana to make people get the idea of a speakeasy,” Caro admits, “but one day it will work.”
Nevertheless, any weekend or acid jazz Thurday night makes it clear that locals have happily begun to catch on.
Keep an eye out for La Justina, a restaurant at Third and Revolucíon that Caro and Perez will soon be opening with San Diego Chef Chad White.
- Hours: 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday–Saturday
- Happy: 2-FOR-1 mojitos on acid jazz Thursdays, dollar beer Wednesdays
- Food: taco stands nearby
- Price: beer, $2.30; Mason jar cocktails, $6.25
- Capacity: 85
- Cards: Visa and Mastercard accepted