Avenida Revolución 1070, Baja
“Why don’t you try Praga? They have really good chai.” My friend Claudia suggested this after I told her that I did not feel like eating vegan at her Happy Vegan locale. I was looking for a place to relax, get some work done, people watch, and enjoy a bite to eat...with meat.
I had walked in front of Praga Cafe countless times, but it had never drawn me in. The decor and the formally dressed staff gives it an upscale feel. Patrons sit by themselves working on their laptops, while others are gathered in groups for work meetings or school projects.
The menu is a booklet with classy pictures of the food. Breakfast goes for $5. They offer chilaquiles, egg ciabattas, omelettes, and frittatas. But I was there for lunch. I didn’t pay attention to the salads, since Caesar’s Restaurant is across the street.
After analyzing the choices — pizza, lasagna, crepes, ciabattas, and sandwiches — I settled for the chicken walnut pesto ciabatta with gratinated cheese for $5 and a chai tea for $2.75.
The ciabatta came with a small side of flavorless, burnt potato chips and a chile toreado with no crunch. The bread was soaked from the pesto oil, making it a messy grab. Despite being drenched in oily pesto, the whole thing tasted dry. The portion of chicken was small.
I don’t usually drink chai tea. This cup was soothing and sweet. The sun-like figure made out of cinnamon was a nice touch.
I ordered a coffee for dessert. It tasted like Folgers coffee left overnight from a Motel 6, and I did not continue to drink it.
As I was leaving the cafe I noticed a sign that read “Get to know the pleasures in life — taste our Placer Burger.”
I decided to return on another day and give Praga a second chance. This time I sat inside and ordered the advertised burger (not on the menu) for $5.50. The waiter told me I could have it with blue cheese with caramelized onions or cheddar with regular red onions. I opted for the blue cheese, and the waiter left without asking how I would like the meat cooked.
The burger came with a lot of fries, a huge improvement over the chips, and chunky pieces of blue cheese and a thick meat patty cooked medium (which is how I happen to like it). Overall, it was better than the sandwich...but not by much.
If I visit Praga Cafe again, it won’t be for its food or coffee but because of their prime location. It makes it an easy gathering spot for those who do not know downtown Tijuana.