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 Kraken was one of their most popular dishes. The ceviche de lenguado, "Black Harder,' was another big hit.
The menu soon expanded to include more seafood and experimental cuisine, including sweet salmon in a flour tortilla taco, grilled portobello tacos, and a taco with panela cheese and crickets. Yes, the insect.
Kokopelli quickly became notorious in the Baja Med scene. They expanded to other locations, including a venture in one of Chicago’s top fine-dining neighborhoods. The Chicago Reader did not give Kokopelli favorable reviews, saying “it’s lost in the crowd.” Kokopelli Chicago lasted less than a year.
Their locations in Tijuana also seemed to have a tough time, also getting lost in the crowd with the wave of new restaurants. The food truck stopped shortly after Teléfonica Gastro Park’s opening two years ago. Kokopelli seemed to have vanished into oblivion.
But as of Saturday, November 5, they are back. And back with bang!
Kokopelli acquired a big warehouse space, next to a candy warehouse, and behind the police station building in Zona Rio, Tijuana. They closed their last location, dropped the name Kokopelli, and changed the name to Tras/Horizonte. The Kokopelli cart rests in the parking lot (I miss it dearly).
The big open space features a side patio, large bar and dining room, and an open kitchen with a grill that is somehow also a fountain. A separate space in the back has a few empty 10BBL fermenter tanks, a clear indication that they plan to be a brewery in the future.
A bright purple drink, El Chapulín Colorado, is made with mezcal with purple cactus fruit juice, lemon, bitters, rimmed with cricket salt, and garnished with a lemon slice and a cricket.
A brown muddy drink, El Rey, is prepared with mezcal, piloncillo, Oaxacan chocolate, poblano chile, and orange bitters, and garnished with a chilli pepper.
A white drink that looks like horchata, El Gringo, is comprised of whisky, cajeta, and cinnamon, and is garnished with a stick of cinnamon.
I took a liking to all the drinks (around $4). I didn’t drink them all — I went with my roommate and his girlfriend, and we all shared.
The top of the menu offers 14 different appetizers, with seafood, duck, vegetarian dishes, escargot, and more — many prepared in special methods that I never heard of. We ordered the following:
Rockefeller oysters with gorgonzola, chistorra, and balsamic cherry tomatoes, served on toasted bread ($5). The Black Harder ceviche tostada, lenguado (common sole), marinated in Orientals sauce and squid ink ($3). Aluxe, a salmon ceviche with mango, tamarind, and local herbs ($3.50). Tiradito de Atun, tuna that has been home-cured for 12 hours on special salt, and cold-smoked; it comes with two sauces ($4.50). Fin Del Mundo (End of the World): panela cheese with black beans, drunken pulque salsa, and crickets ($4).
The oysters were my favorite, mixing flavors in a way that I never had before and have a tough time explaining. The End of the World was the only one I disliked, the pulque salsa had that signature pulque taste that I'd rather not associate with food. I prefer the dish in its former taco version (without the pulque salsa).
The middle of the menu features four different entrées: rib mole burger, duck adobado, fish al olivo, and a vegetable molcajete. We skipped them all in favor of the lower part of the menu, nine classic Kokopelli tacos that many already know and love ($2.50-$4).
Gringo en Vacaciones con Tuxedo is shrimp inside a chile California (nonspicy). The red shrimp looks like a white American after a day on the beach, the chile works as the tuxedo.
Funky and Italiano are two different grilled portobello tacos, mixed together to create a chinola (secret menu). Pibil is smoked marlin with Yucatecan flavors. Pólvora is a smoked salmon taco on a flour tortilla that melts in your mouth with a semisweet sauce.
We skipped several tacos, including Malacostra, which is one of my favorites: marlin inside a chile güero covered with a thick crust of burnt cheese, cream of chile serrano, and pumpkin seeds.
We ended our feast with a couple of mango, habanero, and sambucus margaritas and complimentary tequila shots. We left very happy, and I can’t wait to go back.