Playas de Tijuana is not known for its thriving food scene, nor is it known for its nightlife. The boardwalk is filled with unvarying coffee shops, pizza parlors, and mariscos restaurants with very loud live Norteño music. No one comes to Tijuana for pizza, not even if it’s good, such as Horno 320.
Four friends came down to Tijuana on Labor Day and wanted to check out Playas. Hunger struck us all while strolling the boardwalk near the border wall. We needed a place to eat and drink with one condition: clean bathrooms.
I remembered that, lately, my social media has been bombarded with sponsored messages by a place called Alga Bien. Their pictures of ceviche and their general presence made it seem like a nice, clean space. Plus, they were advertising 2x1 ceviches on Mondays.
Avenida del Pácifico #441, Baja
We found Alga Bien a couple blocks south of the border wall, conjoined with a place called La Cerve (short for cerveza). I’ve been to La Cerve before, a pub with multiple locations that offers huge beers for cheap, minimal craft beer selection, and greasy Applebee's-wannabe looking food. Both establishments are in new, modern buildings with their own entrances, and the back area fuses them together — an ocean view balcony with a youthful vibe, tall chairs and tables, and '90s Latin rock blasting loudly through several speakers.
We ordered four liters of Indio beer, which came in a plastic elevated contraption called la vaquita, meaning little cow. I was tasked with ordering food for everyone from the Alga Bien menu. The name of the restaurant is a play on words for algo bien, meaning “something good.” But the word algo, is replaced with alga (algae or seaweed). Ironically, nothing on the menu contains seaweed.
I ordered four ceviche plates: fish tostada, shrimp tostada, tuna plate, and salmon plate. I also ordered six different tacos: shrimp gobernador, shrimp al ajillo, shrimp enchilado, smoked marlin, land and sea, octopus al ajillo, and the house special: taco Alga Bien. All the food came at once. La vaquita already took half our table space, so we had to borrow another table for all our food. We all shared bites — plates went from one end to the other — splitting tostadas, biting tacos, and drinking beer.
The group’s favorite ceviche was the salmon one, which came in a bowl mixed with mango cubes, red onions, orange juice, tajin, and other spices. The tuna ceviche was a close second. There was barely any mention of the traditional ceviches besides “very fresh.” It is better than any other ceviches I’ve had in Playas, but nowhere close to my favorite: La Corriente Cevicheria Nais.
The group was split on the best taco; some liked the camaron gobernador the best (shrimp with cheese and bacon), others were really digging the grilled octopus. My favorite of the bunch was the house specialty taco — octopus covered with green salsa, pork rinds, and beans. Despite being a brand new restaurant, Alga Bien has some of the best seafood tacos around Playas, but nowhere near the untouchable camarón enchilado tacos by the park in downtown.
The group was happily surprised to find out that the total bill for all the food and drinks was 891 pesos ($52.50 USD).