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Stories by Matthew Suárez

Gateway between worlds

The border doesn’t have to move that slow.

“It’s like a multicultural limbo,” said Ken Terry, a daily border crosser. “In Mexico, I’m the gringo. In America, I’m the white Mexican. I’m stuck in the middle and seem to be a foreigner in ...

Pleasant ride on Tijuana's big-boy bus system

“Que tengan buen día!” the female driver shouted.

After watching police arrest some minor drug offenders from inside the huge modern bus terminal in the Zone Norte, I headed toward a bus in Tijuana’s new rapid transit system, named SITT (Sistema Integral de ...

Tip of Tijuana's garbage iceberg

Mayor takes hit for violence spike, gas jump, uneven trash pick-up

“It’s been since January that the trash hasn’t been picked up,” says Geovanni Zamudio, a 35-year-old high school teacher in Tijuana. “Garbage collectors usually come on Wednesdays where I live in Porticos de la Mesa, ...

The legs get stuck in your teeth

Tijuana grasshopper salesmen get bugged

“Buddy! Over here! Buy something, amigo! It’s all cheap! Free tequila shot!” Street salesmen in Tijuana usually try to shove things down your throat, whether you want them or not. They yell at you in ...

Trump border-wall project begins on beach

Chain-link fencing poses additional barrier — or does it?

The morning after Trump signed the executive order to build a wall (January 25), a couple of workers in a white van installed a 60-yard section section of chain-link fence on the existing barrier that ...

Korean tacos?

Asian and Mexican fusion

A Caucasian American and a Korean opened a taco shop in Tijuana in late November. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there is no punchline. KoMe is situated downtown on 7th Street ...

Gas-price hike protests in Tijuana

President declares there won't be any turning back

Gas prices went up more than 20 percent in Mexico on the first Monday of 2017 (January 2). Protests and highway blockades started the same day over what is being referred to as "El Gasolinazo." ...

A different kind of breakfast burrito

Thirty-three years on the same corner

Burritos salesmen walk the streets toting coolers in many corners of Tijuana. You can find them while waiting in line to cross the border, in small stores, or outside popular dive bars. The coolers contain ...

Mingus and poul fri among newest Tijuana residents

Haitian chicken fight song

Cue the upright bass solo in G minor. Enter trombones. Enter drums. Enter saxophones. All in a long crescendo. “My solo in it is a deeply concentrated one,” said jazz man Charles Mingus about “Haitian ...

I succumbed to Spanglish

Tijuana destroys both languages.

“Tengo que ir hacer laundry, then I have to study en la biblioteca,” I’m paraphrasing what the Latina students in my college sounded like. My first real encounter with Spanglish speakers was in Minnesota. Spanglish ...

Party hearty and then chow down

A late-night pizza stop in Tijuana

Despite the fact that there is no pizza in Tijuana that comes close to Pizzeria Luigi, there are many hundreds of pizzerias spread throughout the city. Many of them are commercialized garbage. Including many of ...

A pizza that’s better the next day is a pizza worth having

Napolito, a newcomer to Plaza Fiesta

When I talked to Juan Carlos Bucio for last summer’s Tijuana beer article, he described a vision of Plaza Fiesta beyond just beer. He envisioned Plaza as a daytime option for foodies, not just for ...

Go south for tacos, north for pizza

“That’s a great one, that one is also really good, or you could go for that one.”

I first visited Pizzeria Luigi in 2008. I lived in Los Angeles at the time, but I visited my brother in San Diego frequently enough that Luigi’s became a regular spot. I thought Luigi’s pizza ...

Tijuana’s transportation system in turmoil

Taxi drivers throw rocks, slash tires of new buses

“Bajan!” Anyone who has ridden public transportation in Tijuana has shouted those two syllables. There are no real bus stops in the city, the few that exist are symbolic. You can yell “bajan” at any ...

Life of a vagabond clown newspaper salesman

Tijuana's Pepe Nacho a little vague on the details

“But first, my presentation.” Pepe Nacho breathes in and places his calloused right hand on his ear, pretending he has an earpiece. It’s a Wednesday morning and Pepe Nacho, a newspaper salesman, has been out ...

Family feast at Telefonica Gastro Park

Breaded beef tongue or rabbit pibil?

It was a classic family outing with my parents, my brother, his pregnant wife, and their two-and-a-half year old son. My brother picked us all up. In the car we started debating on where to ...

Kokopelli rises from the ashes as Tras/Horizonte

Back from the grave and into my belly

I’ve known Kokopelli tacos since they started on a street cart on Calle Ocampo in 2012, and the food truck craze wasn’t prominent in Tijuana yet. The grilled octopus taco in a charred tortilla named ...

Shrek de Tijuana takes on the hard times

“I don’t ask for donations, it has to come from their hearts."

“Sorry, but this is not a costume, this is a character, and it’s something I do with all my heart for everyone that visits us and those who live here in Tijuana,” el Shrek de ...

Tipsy Crow, I trust thee

Though I hardly know ye

Rarely do I find myself in the Gaslamp Quarter. Two out of the last three times I was there were after picking up out-of-state friends from the Santa Fe Depot; the other was during Comic-Con. ...

Bacon King and Cheetos Chicken Fries, reviewed

Burger King, better than McDonald's, but still garbage

It’s NFL season again. Which means that, besides watching the Chargers lose over and over, I also get to watch a lot of meretricious commercials. Most of them are about cars that I cannot afford, ...

Not all that tasty, plus a hangover

Everything is great at Mamut Brewery. Except the beer.

Situated on Third Street in what used to be the Foreign Club building, Mamut Brewing Co.’s main location is top notch. The old hotel is one of Tijuana’s oldest buildings. Legend says that the building ...

Revolution continues on Revolución

Curio shops in peril as investment changes face of Tijuana's main drag

Avenida Revolución is seeing a lot of changes. The most emblematic street in downtown Tijuana, known as La Revu, has had something different opening up almost each week this year. Mexican curio shops lose ground ...

He’s hungry as a wolf; she does the happy crocodile dance

Mexican craft beer, bacon, and perversas at Plaza Fiesta

I have been meaning to write about the kitchen inside Border Psycho’s tap room for a while. Border Psycho is one of the few breweries in Tijuana that exports to the U.S., a well-established craft ...

Power of peso putters along in Tijuana

“It’s awesome for me — now I can get twice as drunk.”

“The [rise] of the dollar does not affect Mexicans,” said Andrea Legarreta, host of daily morning television show Hoy, in January of this year. The Mexican peso had just plummeted to a historic low against ...

Tijuana Big Boy

A Tinder date disaster

My friend Dan from San Diego matched with a Tijuana girl through Tinder. They agreed to meet on a Monday night on a double date, accompanied by my roommate and his girlfriend who was celebrating ...

5000 monitos on his van

Don Zazueta swears he is best headlight shiner in TJ

There is a lot of quirky nonsense in Tijuana. There is the three-story house that has a naked lady sculpted around. There are several cars and motorbikes modified beyond imagination. Cars are more than just ...

The best seafood tacos in Playas de Tijuana

The partnership between La Cerve and Alga Bien is a welcome addition to an area of Tijuana that has seen too many failed attempts at new restaurants and bars.

The maddening inconsistency of Balboa Park busking

“Hotel California” is the busker’s “Freebird.”

“As long as the buskers are getting along with each other and not fighting…everything is fine,” said Chet Harrison, a guitarist and fiddle player who makes his living as a busker in San Diego. “The ...

Danger dog’s burger brother

Tijuana street vendors who offer a basic burger

The “danger dog” was born in the streets of Tijuana, then spread to Los Angeles (and beyond). Usually sold by unlicensed street vendors on improvised dirty grills, the weiner is typically a bacon-wrapped and deep-fried ...

Everyone else in Tijuana seems to love this place

One disappointment after another

“If you don’t have anything to nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s an English proverb that I tend not to follow. Family, friends, and strangers are always recommending places for me. I ...

Bizarre life, delicious food at the border

Restaurants that comforted me in the time of my discomfort

Being both Mexican and American did nothing to prepare me for the bizarre life at the border. Mastery of Spanish did little to help understand the complexities of Tijuana. In this city, cultures clash, streets ...

Please, anything but sidewalk stars

Avenida Revolución goes Hollywood, restaurateur goes ballistic

"We’ve witnessed tourism making a slow comeback. But it’s not at all the type of tourism that wants to see star-studded sidewalks."

Several smells do the tango

Ocean views, vegan food, and hookah at Açai Café

I have walked by Açai Café on the beach boardwalk of Playas de Tijuana countless times and thought of it simply as the café with the Mario Bros. mural painted on the side. I had ...

Shocks for sale

Only the delicate go early

Clickety-clink-clack. Toques! Toques! A man wearing polished shoes, a zoot suit, and a fancy hat walks through a bar with a decorated electric box attached to his hip. Two metal tubes that he smashes together ...

The best camarón enchilado taco in all the land

Tijuana’s Los Compadres Taco Stand

My friend Danger Dave took me to Los Compadres for the first time a few years ago. He guaranteed that they had the best camarón enchilado taco (spicy shrimp), better than Tijuana favorite El Mazateño. ...

Fun things to do in San Diego

A million things under the sun — we offer a few (some indoors)

County Administration Center Waterfront Park In 2014, 12 acres of former parking lots were converted into a public park facing San Diego Bay. Running both north and south of the county government headquarters established in ...

The torta was truly drowned

The rare tortas ahogadas at Carnitas el Jerezano

The torta ahogada (“drowned sandwich”) is one of the many signature dishes brought to you by Jalisco, the state that is home to tequila and also my paternal family’s home. From what I know, there ...

Vote for me, or go f--- your mother

Rough talk and independent candidates punctuate Baja elections

“We are doing the first grassroots campaign in Tijuana,” Antonio Ley tells the Reader. “We are doing it Obama style.” Ley is the downtown canvass coordinator for one of the independent candidates running for Tijuana’s ...

Great Korean in a Tijuana mall

It’s called Chopstix Comida Coreana

In Tijuana, if you crave sushi you are limited to two things: bad but cheap sushi or decent sushi in a fancy sit-down restaurant. I knew that the Friki Plaza, the nerdy mall where Dorian’s ...

Sometimes gay-friendly Tijuana

LGBT rights parades contrast with restrictive legislation

“Governor Quiko [Kiko] Vega violates rights of trans.” “Religions: Stop promoting trans assassinations.” “Stop the abuse by policemen against trans in Tijuana.” “To be trans is not a sin nor a disease.” These were just ...

Enter a maze of beer and food

And then overindulge in greasy bar grub at the Lazy Pig

“We accomplished our primary task, which was to have as many tap rooms as we can in one place,” says Juan Carlos Bucio, the mastermind that turned Plaza del Balazo into Plaza Cerveza. “The second ...

Classic Tijuana taquerías

A few of the best known taquerias for local Tijuanenses

Tijuanenses will never agree what taquería has the best taco, but what they can agree on is that the very best in the world is found in Tijuana. Though Tacos El Gordo dominates the San ...

Borderland brews

Taste my beer

More than 20 tap rooms opened in Tijuana last year, many of them in the same Plaza, giving the area a feel of a daily beer fest. Partially thanks to San Diego, the Baja region ...

Plaza La Ocho opens in downtown Tijuana

Nice park, but city green space is still lacking (understatement)

“El Parque de la Ocho is more than just a space for activities, it is also an area to develop values like respect, harmony, and a sense of belonging,” Dr. Jorge Astiazarán, Tijuana’s mayor said ...

From Greengo to Grater

A cheesy family story

“We started in 2011 with a food truck named Greengo grilled cheese,” explained Gaston Corbalá, chef and creator of Grater Grilled Cheese Bistro. “We wanted a name that was a play on words and represented ...

Ghost buildings haunt Tijuana

No romantic approach toward saving old buildings.

Puerta Mexico, a.k.a. La Concha (“the shell”), a googie-esque immigration office on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing, was demolished in 2015 . Constructed in 1961, the structure also served as a ...

Tijuana taxistas in turmoil

Industry changes inspire mayor's comparison to Hitler

"I have no idea what is going on," Enrique Sanchez, a taxi coordinator, told me last week when I inquired about the plans for taxi drivers to strike in Tijuana. "The director instructed us to ...

Vegan tacos via bike

Veggies Are Us is off to a good start

Young couple David García and Ariss Mercado started delivering vegan food via bicycle around Tijuana over a year ago. After biking around the city, they garnered enough fans via Facebook and Instagram to open a ...

Little Japan in Tijuana

Otaku Anime Café has all your favorites

I found myself in a bizarre, nerdy dreamland called Otaku Anime Café. Similar to Plaza Friki, this is where nerds congregate in downtown. Welcome to Nippon in Tijuana. As I enter, a video of Kyary ...

Vanessa up in flames

Tijuana punk band DFMK loses van and gear in roadside burn

Tijuana punk band DFMK were on their way through California for their RnR Spring West Coast tour, when they had to pull over to the side of the road to attend Vanessa’s wounds. Vanessa was ...

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