Beef-and-bacon meatball sandwich with chipotle sauce and a brown ale
9415 Avenida Paseo de Los Héroes, Plaza Fiesta, Zona Rio, Tijuana, BC
Follow the stairs with the gnomes painted on the side to the second floor of one of the many locales that is the maze of Plaza Fiesta and you will find a kitchen with a tap room. Painted to look like the inside of a tree house with animals hanging out, an outside patio, and tables and benches of exposed wood, the place looks like a magical fairy tale of beer. In fact, each animal represents a different beer. After all, the brewery is called Fauna.
Entrance to Fauna and Suculenta
Starter beers in the small patio: Belgian Pale Ale, Brown Ale, and Pale Ale
Guacamole appetizer and beer
Cerveza Fauna is a brewery from Mexicali founded in 2011 that opened its tap room in Tijuana’s Plaza Fiesta early this year. Following the trend of Baja breweries opening tap rooms in Plaza Fiesta, the bar is paired with an autonomous kitchen named “Suculenta Sabores de Baja California (Succulent Flavors of Baja California).”
“You guys are here on the wrong day. You should come again on Friday,” Alexis Martínez, the bartender, informs us. “They bring in the kegs tonight to get them ready for the weekend, but if its food you want, let me call out the chefs.”
Chefs Christan Gómez and Fernando Crosswhite come out and greet us and explain the ever-changing menu. “We try to switch it up on a constant basis, depending on the season and what is fresh. We like to experiment…we also work what is the most popular, and not many people were ordering the potatoes.”
I was surprised to see that the potato and pesto appetizer was not on the menu, which was my favorite dish the first time I visited.
We ordered beer for $3.25 each 16 oz. pour and a guacamole appetizer in which I did not partake, saving my hunger for a bigger dish. The bartender recommended the tortita de albondigas de res y tocino slathered in chipotle sauce — basically a beef-and-bacon meatball sandwich paired with Mercedes beer, their brown ale.
I was disappointed that I was presented with three meatballs inside a smallish hot dog bun instead of bolillo bread, but my frown went away when I bit into the first meatball (and I reminded myself that the sandwich was only $4). Each bite came with a large chunk of bacon, and the chipotle sauce was savory. The brown ale worked in harmony with the meaty bites. The meatball sandwich was not enough to satisfy my hunger, but the beer filled me up.
Mussels tostada with kidney beans partnered with Caracol
I also got the chef’s suggestion of the day, a tostada with mussels and kidney beans paired with Caracol (their saison). The tostada went for $1.75 and was small enough to eat in a couple of bites but very rich in flavor. The saison was a smooth and refreshing beer, despite its high alcohol volume.
Still hungry (and a little bit drunk), I was about to order more food when my friends told me it was time to go to a different place. With several more tap rooms and experimental kitchen inside the same plaza, the labyrinth-like mall acts like a culinary and beer festival on a daily basis.
What happen after leaving Fauna is a blur, but there was more food and drink consumption at other tap rooms, which will be reviewed next time.