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If the words “Tijuana vegetarian food festival” evoke images in your mind of, at worst, rows of bean and cheese burrito vendors or, at best, Pokez-style potato flautas, you aren’t alone.

In fact, just about everyone I mentioned the event to scratched their head and laughed a little.

But then, they haven’t been paying attention.

Tijuana and surrounding cities are world-famous in foodie circles for their gourmet Baja Med cuisine, a fusion of Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian influences that coalesce into creations such as escargot pizza, duck tacos, and manta ray soup – all, of course, paired with a glass of Valle de Guadalupe wine.

While the rather open-ended Baja Med genre often relies on seafood and specialty meats, vendors at the second bi-annual Vegetarian Cuisine & Arts Festival showed the same ingenuity in their flesh-free presentations at Margarita’s Village (Avenida Revolucion – Zona Centro).


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Take, for example, this cauliflower ceviche tostada from Kokopelli – the celebrated taco hut on Ocampo near Agua Caliente – which offered all the citrusy zazz of traditional ceviche followed by the inert spice and snap of broccoli's sun-bleached cousin.

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Kokopelli also served this raw nopales (cactus) taco with optional chapulines (ahem crickets). Slimy and weirdly crunchy with chipotle salsa burning slowly on the 'cados, it was everything that a veggie taco garnished with bugs should be. Behold.

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Here's a whole-wheat pizza with pesto, green beans, sun-dried tomato, artichoke, and peppers.

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The real thrill was seitan tacos by Alternativa Vegetariana, who approximated traditional street meats such as adobada, chicharron, and tinga with marinated wheat gluten. They may not be as mind-blowing as the chorizo tacos from the popular cart on Madero between Third and Fourth, but they came surprisingly close.

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The festival also touted raw chocolates, cupcakes, vegan nachos, portobello "fish" tacos, Caesar salad wraps (the salad originated at a hotel restaurant of the same name a few blocks away, srsly), guacamole-stuffed mashed potatoes, and crafts from local vendors.

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Musical highlights included Tijuana locals Coastral:


And X-1:

And San Diego producer/live performer Memo&Rex:



The Vegetarian Cuisine & Arts Festival was coordinated by Polen, a Tijuana-based organization which seeks to “generate critical audiences that construct reality through sound” via events such as the food fest, regular downtown showcases, and their seasonal flea market, Arts & Trees.

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