<em>Tentaculo Negro</em> on blue corn tortillas at Tacosteno
Yes, I’m one of those people — when presented with an amazing plate, I’ll take out my cell phone. Hell, I’ll even take out my DSLR and take dozens of photos before having a bite. I tell friends not to eat their food until I take a picture. Then I post the photographs on the internet with the hashtags #foodporn and #tacoporn for likes and imaginary karma points. One of my taco pictures made the front page of Reddit, and ever since, I’ve been looking for the best looking and tasting tacos in Tijuana. I have a food dedicated Instagram where I only follow pictures of food. And no one makes me crave tacos like the pictures posted by user @Baja_Cali_Food. His account is filled with food porn from all over the region, which took me outside my usual stomping grounds of downtown Tijuana.
Lazaro Cardenas 606, Tijuana, BC
Situated on the industrial east side of the city, near the Otay border, el Gallito shares the street with several other taquerías including big brother, Tacos el Gallo. Their specialty is New York steak unchopped inside a handmade tortilla, topped with a big piece of grilled nopal, salsa, beans, and guacamole, accompanied with a side of onions marinated on meat juice. They also carry all the other taquería meats, adobada, cabeza, suadero, tripa, chorizo, and lengua (slightly more expensive). Tacos go for $1.50, two more coras (quarters) to make it a quesadilla.
German Gedovios 10488, Tijuana, BC
This small taquería, that just opened this February, is nestled in the part of town that looks like Chilangolandia, surrounded by tall buildings and small city parks. For $1.50 their adobada and asada tacos are a fair standard. The arrachera taco goes for $1 extra and it is well worth it. The meat is thick and juicy. But the star is their cheapest taco, the birria for $1.25 or quesabirria for $2.25. Despite being beef, the birria meat was seasoned in such a way that I thought it could be goat or mutton like true birria.
9594 Avenida Rio Bravp, Tijuana, BC
El Nuevo Tecolote only uses marinated prime rib cuts.
I never thought anyone could dethrone the king (Tacos el Rey), but my all-time favorite tacos have met their match with El Nuevo Tecolote. Hailing from Mexicali, “The New Owl” opened a taco truck near La Cacho (hipsterland) four years ago. They only use marinated prime rib cuts instead of cheaper carne asada and they are generous with it. For only 25 pesos (about $1.25) instead of greasy adobada TJ style, theirs resembles the central Mexico al pastor, leaner pinkish meat topped with pineapple. The truck is lined up with a plethora of toppings, salsas, and side bites to enjoy.
Tacos el Dorado
- Calle de la Nieve 185
- Playas de Tijuana
Nothing but TJ-style beef birria in Tacos el Dorado to serve hungover people from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm for un dólar y una cora ($1.25) per taco. The original location started in Otay in 1997 and expanded to a location in Playas de Tijuana this February just blocks away from the beach and border wall. They grill the tortilla for minutes to get it extra crispy, pack the meat, top it with onions, cilantro, salsa, beans, and caldito de birria. Say adios to la cruda (hangover) with three tacos.
Boulevard Diaz Ordaz 949, Tijuana, BC
I missed the Reader’s Tacotopia last year, but it was all over Tijuana’s papers, “Local taquería wins San Diego contest.” Wicho’s was runner-up, but still considered it a huge win with the Costa Azul taco, which is three chunky balls of shrimp filled with marlin and cheese, wrapped in bacon, topped with cheddar cheese and peppers. I ventured for another of the gourmet tacos, New York steak quesadilla (with Monterey Jack), topped with plenty of mushrooms and shrimp al mojo de ajo (garlic-bathed). The gourmet tacos go for $3.25 and pair well with a liter of Clamato michelada beer for $4.25.
Blvd. Aquacaliente 8924, Tijuana, BC
Truth be told, with so many choices at Telefónica, I never wanted to try this place. But when I saw the picture of their Tentaculo Negro (for $3.25), I had to try it. Blue-corn tortilla filled with melted cheese, huitlacoche, pulpo campechano, and topped with a green non-spicy garlic sauce. Huitlacoche translates into corn smut is considered a delicacy and the food of the Aztec Gods. The earthy and savory fungus that grows in maize pairs excellently with the chunky pieces of octopus boiled in its ink, chile ancho, and other spices.