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A slosh through Tijuana’s afterparty epicenter

The most Tijuana thing you can do is drink and debate what the most Tijuana thing you can do is

Suitable accompaniment to a 5 a.m. listening of the Locust’s catalog
Suitable accompaniment to a 5 a.m. listening of the Locust’s catalog

“Remember one thing: la city is not a utopia or a dystopia, it’s the afterparty where you hear the last call.”

Place

Tropic's Bar

Flores Magón (Calle Sexta) 8259, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

The words of the late Rafa Saavedra, a culture writer and champion of Tijuana nightlife, take on a special relevance at Tropic’s Bar. They feel as if they were born here. This decades-strong cantina is the indisputable afterparty epicenter of downtown Tijuana, where rockers from Moustache, churched-up cocktail sippers from Dandy del Sur, and sweaty techno kids from La Mi-Ja all converge after the 2 a.m. bell tolls to drink round after round of Tecate roja from disposable plastic cups. Caguamas, 32-ounce bottles of beer, roll out for 50 pesos (about three bucks), making it dangerously possible to drink well past sunrise into the cruel accusation of morning.

Tijuana imposed a ban on late-night bars in early 2010 following the shooting of soccer hero Salvador Cabañas at an after-hours joint in Mexico City, but the measure has long since been lifted or bought into obsolescence, as evinced by the standing-room-only crowd that flocks to Tropic’s every weekend. In fact, the place has become so popular that their brass stripper pole and platform were removed a few months ago to make room.

I think Saavedra would agree that the most Tijuana thing you can do is drink until 5 a.m. with a few friends on a weeknight debating what the most Tijuana thing you can do is, and Tropic’s facilitates this process with a weathered nonchalance. Between the pornography on the swinging men’s room door, the cockroaches climbing up the wall, and the dim haze of cigarette smoke and pickled romance at dawn, one senses the soul of la city looming thick on the stifling morning air.

House matrons Claudia and Lulu, attentive server Sixto, and the abuelita whose name I’ve never learned seem to never sleep. There they are, at all hours, cracking open caguamas as anything from Macklemore to Pink Floyd to Los Ángeles Azules croon from the jukebox. But one of my favorite quirks of the Rockola is the near-transcendental joy one gets from interrupting a streak of blaring banda ballads with five dollars’ worth of the Locust, which will afford you a good bulk of their blistering discography.

Saavedra was right about Tijuana. It isn’t heaven or hell. It’s the greatest afterparty in the Californias, except here at Tropic’s Bar, last call never seems to come.

Capacity: Apparently infinite

Prices: 50-peso caguamas

Hours: Eternal

Parking: Take an Uber, gringo

Food: Chicharrones de harina and microwaved carne seca

The Deal: Everything

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Suitable accompaniment to a 5 a.m. listening of the Locust’s catalog
Suitable accompaniment to a 5 a.m. listening of the Locust’s catalog

“Remember one thing: la city is not a utopia or a dystopia, it’s the afterparty where you hear the last call.”

Place

Tropic's Bar

Flores Magón (Calle Sexta) 8259, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

The words of the late Rafa Saavedra, a culture writer and champion of Tijuana nightlife, take on a special relevance at Tropic’s Bar. They feel as if they were born here. This decades-strong cantina is the indisputable afterparty epicenter of downtown Tijuana, where rockers from Moustache, churched-up cocktail sippers from Dandy del Sur, and sweaty techno kids from La Mi-Ja all converge after the 2 a.m. bell tolls to drink round after round of Tecate roja from disposable plastic cups. Caguamas, 32-ounce bottles of beer, roll out for 50 pesos (about three bucks), making it dangerously possible to drink well past sunrise into the cruel accusation of morning.

Tijuana imposed a ban on late-night bars in early 2010 following the shooting of soccer hero Salvador Cabañas at an after-hours joint in Mexico City, but the measure has long since been lifted or bought into obsolescence, as evinced by the standing-room-only crowd that flocks to Tropic’s every weekend. In fact, the place has become so popular that their brass stripper pole and platform were removed a few months ago to make room.

I think Saavedra would agree that the most Tijuana thing you can do is drink until 5 a.m. with a few friends on a weeknight debating what the most Tijuana thing you can do is, and Tropic’s facilitates this process with a weathered nonchalance. Between the pornography on the swinging men’s room door, the cockroaches climbing up the wall, and the dim haze of cigarette smoke and pickled romance at dawn, one senses the soul of la city looming thick on the stifling morning air.

House matrons Claudia and Lulu, attentive server Sixto, and the abuelita whose name I’ve never learned seem to never sleep. There they are, at all hours, cracking open caguamas as anything from Macklemore to Pink Floyd to Los Ángeles Azules croon from the jukebox. But one of my favorite quirks of the Rockola is the near-transcendental joy one gets from interrupting a streak of blaring banda ballads with five dollars’ worth of the Locust, which will afford you a good bulk of their blistering discography.

Saavedra was right about Tijuana. It isn’t heaven or hell. It’s the greatest afterparty in the Californias, except here at Tropic’s Bar, last call never seems to come.

Capacity: Apparently infinite

Prices: 50-peso caguamas

Hours: Eternal

Parking: Take an Uber, gringo

Food: Chicharrones de harina and microwaved carne seca

The Deal: Everything

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Comments
1

They have a thing in Tijuana, and it sometimes goes away and quickly returns, where you pay a fine if you're open after 3 am. If you pay your fine to remain open after hours, they won't shut your place down. Tropics takes advantage of being one of the only games in town, so it's worth the fine in order to stay open. A pal and I always had to set an over/under on days where we needed to wake up early to kill the hangover with some hair of the dog.

"Five? Six?"

That was often our guess as to how many people were passed out at the bar or a table when we walked in. Picking the over was more successful than taking a chance at the under. No one woke them up, they awoke on their own and more often than not, ordered another drink. By noon, the place was mostly empty.

Dec. 31, 2015

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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