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Tasty trip to Tijuana

They have everything you’d expect, including my latest fave taco, octopus

Anelise, daughter Anelise, Max and dad Leo. All having Croque Madame and chilaquiles.
Anelise, daughter Anelise, Max and dad Leo. All having Croque Madame and chilaquiles.

"Cenosilicaphobia! I’m suffering from Cenosilicaphobia!” I say. “Do something!”

Scottish Annie ignores me. She’s scanning Agua Caliente Boulevard like Columbus searching for India. “Ceno...? Och. I canna see a single food truck.”

Hmm. Finally I ask this guy from a small AT&T office. He points right over the road. “Where the guy’s holding the thermometer,” he says.

French Toast S’mores, $7.75

We were here and never knew it! I guess we’re early — this is Sunday morning — because guys and gals are only just pumping up a kind of air tube inspection station you have to go through in order to be allowed into the enclosed food truck area. So we cross, and then submit to the whole deal: thermometer to your wrist, scraping your shoes, squirting gunk into your hands. And reminders everywhere. “Prohibido entrar sin cubrebocas.” “Mantenga Su Distancia, 2 metros.”

We enter this kind of village square ringed by food trucks, plus a wooden pyramid with steps to an upper level.

That’s if you have the energy to climb it, which, hey man, don’t push me. Sunday mornings, I don’t do climbing.

Actually, Annie and I came over here because we heard TJ covid alert levels were set to relax this week. Also, we figured early morning would be pretty deserted.

My Croque Madame

So hey, desayuno at the famous Telefonica Gastro Park! When you come in, you think of Quartyard in San Diego’s East Village. Pet-friendly. Dogs straining on leashes. Bright yellow chairs with red glass tables, black “Bohemia 1905” umbrellas, and tall heaters. Which tells you they stay open late.

But now I see there’s really more to this place than Quartyard. I count seven eateries here, but then I see you can go under the stairway and into an underground area with coffee, a wine place, a cheese shop called “Quesos El Popo,” a cocktail bar, and a whole tank farm of conical-bottomed fermenters. Cervezeria Lirica. Yay! On the wall, a yellow neon sign tells you to “Tequirisi.” Takes a moment to get it.

So, first things first, if I’m gonna calm Annikin down: coffee, and next — why not, it’s Sunday — a couple of Lirica’s cervezas. They’re called “cheves” of course, here in this hip place. Even cooler: each beer is named after a song lyric. Annie’s ($3) is a “Strawberry Blonde” (Mitski). Mine ($3.50) is a “Cerberus” ($uicideBoy$) double imperial stout (“Beyond the shadow of a stout,” it says). Cerberus was (is?) the Hound of Hades who guards the gates of the underworld to stop the dead from leaving. Heavenly taste, though.

Ostiones: from San Quintin.

So, food: I resist going to the cheese place, even though it specializes in cheeses from Baja California. We climb the steps back out into the glaring sunshine. First place on the right is Otto’s Grill.

They have everything you’d expect, including my latest fave taco, octopus. They cost 55 pesos, about $2.50. Main dishes such as octopus with olives go for around $12. A huachinango (red snapper) dish is $13. Across the patio, another eatery, “Ta’costeño,” is also selling octopus tacos, but with huitlacoche, the black corn-smut fungus which the Aztecs have always loved, and which adds a smoky, mushroomy corn flavor to anything it’s mixed with. Hmm. Think I might get a couple. Except....

“Over here!” says Annie. She’s at a little place called Azarosa. Name means something like “adventurer,” “chancer,” (Think of “Azar” as in “hazard”), even “pain in the butt.” Whatever, gal named Georgina is coming out with delicious-looking Sunday morning brunch stuff, including what looks like a brioche with eggs, cream, prosciutto; and blackberry jam jammed between two oozy slices of brioche bread. I check the menu. Oh yes, about $8. Most dishes are around this price.

Georgina with a half-Croque Madame.

Family next to us seem to be all chomping happily. “We’ve got Croque Madame, with béchamel, ham, and cheese, and chilaquiles with mole and eggs,” says Leo the dad.

Each dish looks like a good idea. I check the menu. Georgina says Azarosa is basically a Southern California-style breakfast place. Closes at 2pm. They feature toast-based dishes such the brioches, a Monte Cristo (with French toast, ham, cheese, egg, $7.50), or sweet treats like French Toast with s’mores ($7.75), or a croissant bread pudding with red fruit and whipped cream ($7.75).

Then there are the menus at all the other places. Oh man. Decisions!

“Getting hungry,” says Annie in a warning voice.

“OK,” I say in a rush. “The Grand Brunch a la Telefonica! I’m having six raw oysters in the shell from Otto’s ($5.50). You’re having chilaquiles de mole with two eggs and frijoles from Carmelita’s, 120 pesos, say $6. Then I’m having the Croque Madame from Azarosa ($6.25). So that’ll be $17.75. Not bad.”

I go to take a slurp of my stout, except argh! Empty. And sun’s heating up.

“Cenosilicaphobia! It’s coming on again!”

“Hokay, you’re longing for me to ask you. What is ceno-whatever?”

“Thought you’d never ask. It’s fear of an empty glass. A real word! “Ceno,” empty. “Silica,” glass. “Phobia,” fear, right?”

Annie hauls in a long deep breath. “Hongry!”

I race off and order them all. Gonna cost, but how long before we can do this again?

Results? Oysters slip down a treat. My Croque Madame has good tasty béchamel cheese, fried egg, plus fresh veggies on top and a pot of nice sharp sweetish sauce.

Annie’s chilaquiles look fine, although she doesn’t let me near them, and yes! My second Cerberus stout has cured the cenosilicaphobia quite miraculously.

“So that cost us $32,” I say.

“Och, man. We going to have enough cash to get back to the border?”

“I kept some aside,” I say. “Tequirisi.”

  • The Place: Telefonica Gastro Park (various eateries), 8924 Boulevard Agua Caliente, Tijuana, +52-664-684-8782
  • Hours: 9am-10pm, daily (Till 11pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday; till 9:30pm Sunday)
  • Prices: Octopus tacos, $2.50; octopus plate with olives, $12; red snapper plate, $13; octopus tacos, with huitlacoche, $2.75; brioche with eggs, cream, prosciutto, jam, $8; Croc Madame (with ham, cheese, béchamel), $6.25; chilaquiles, mole, frijoles, eggs, $6; Monte Cristo (French toast, ham, cheese, egg), $7.50; French Toast with s’mores, $7.75; croissant bread pudding, fruit, whipped cream, $7.75
  • Buses: Various popular taxis are cheap and probably best.
  • Nearest Taxi Stops: Just wave them down. Ask if they’re going where you’re going
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Anelise, daughter Anelise, Max and dad Leo. All having Croque Madame and chilaquiles.
Anelise, daughter Anelise, Max and dad Leo. All having Croque Madame and chilaquiles.

"Cenosilicaphobia! I’m suffering from Cenosilicaphobia!” I say. “Do something!”

Scottish Annie ignores me. She’s scanning Agua Caliente Boulevard like Columbus searching for India. “Ceno...? Och. I canna see a single food truck.”

Hmm. Finally I ask this guy from a small AT&T office. He points right over the road. “Where the guy’s holding the thermometer,” he says.

French Toast S’mores, $7.75

We were here and never knew it! I guess we’re early — this is Sunday morning — because guys and gals are only just pumping up a kind of air tube inspection station you have to go through in order to be allowed into the enclosed food truck area. So we cross, and then submit to the whole deal: thermometer to your wrist, scraping your shoes, squirting gunk into your hands. And reminders everywhere. “Prohibido entrar sin cubrebocas.” “Mantenga Su Distancia, 2 metros.”

We enter this kind of village square ringed by food trucks, plus a wooden pyramid with steps to an upper level.

That’s if you have the energy to climb it, which, hey man, don’t push me. Sunday mornings, I don’t do climbing.

Actually, Annie and I came over here because we heard TJ covid alert levels were set to relax this week. Also, we figured early morning would be pretty deserted.

My Croque Madame

So hey, desayuno at the famous Telefonica Gastro Park! When you come in, you think of Quartyard in San Diego’s East Village. Pet-friendly. Dogs straining on leashes. Bright yellow chairs with red glass tables, black “Bohemia 1905” umbrellas, and tall heaters. Which tells you they stay open late.

But now I see there’s really more to this place than Quartyard. I count seven eateries here, but then I see you can go under the stairway and into an underground area with coffee, a wine place, a cheese shop called “Quesos El Popo,” a cocktail bar, and a whole tank farm of conical-bottomed fermenters. Cervezeria Lirica. Yay! On the wall, a yellow neon sign tells you to “Tequirisi.” Takes a moment to get it.

So, first things first, if I’m gonna calm Annikin down: coffee, and next — why not, it’s Sunday — a couple of Lirica’s cervezas. They’re called “cheves” of course, here in this hip place. Even cooler: each beer is named after a song lyric. Annie’s ($3) is a “Strawberry Blonde” (Mitski). Mine ($3.50) is a “Cerberus” ($uicideBoy$) double imperial stout (“Beyond the shadow of a stout,” it says). Cerberus was (is?) the Hound of Hades who guards the gates of the underworld to stop the dead from leaving. Heavenly taste, though.

Ostiones: from San Quintin.

So, food: I resist going to the cheese place, even though it specializes in cheeses from Baja California. We climb the steps back out into the glaring sunshine. First place on the right is Otto’s Grill.

They have everything you’d expect, including my latest fave taco, octopus. They cost 55 pesos, about $2.50. Main dishes such as octopus with olives go for around $12. A huachinango (red snapper) dish is $13. Across the patio, another eatery, “Ta’costeño,” is also selling octopus tacos, but with huitlacoche, the black corn-smut fungus which the Aztecs have always loved, and which adds a smoky, mushroomy corn flavor to anything it’s mixed with. Hmm. Think I might get a couple. Except....

“Over here!” says Annie. She’s at a little place called Azarosa. Name means something like “adventurer,” “chancer,” (Think of “Azar” as in “hazard”), even “pain in the butt.” Whatever, gal named Georgina is coming out with delicious-looking Sunday morning brunch stuff, including what looks like a brioche with eggs, cream, prosciutto; and blackberry jam jammed between two oozy slices of brioche bread. I check the menu. Oh yes, about $8. Most dishes are around this price.

Georgina with a half-Croque Madame.

Family next to us seem to be all chomping happily. “We’ve got Croque Madame, with béchamel, ham, and cheese, and chilaquiles with mole and eggs,” says Leo the dad.

Each dish looks like a good idea. I check the menu. Georgina says Azarosa is basically a Southern California-style breakfast place. Closes at 2pm. They feature toast-based dishes such the brioches, a Monte Cristo (with French toast, ham, cheese, egg, $7.50), or sweet treats like French Toast with s’mores ($7.75), or a croissant bread pudding with red fruit and whipped cream ($7.75).

Then there are the menus at all the other places. Oh man. Decisions!

“Getting hungry,” says Annie in a warning voice.

“OK,” I say in a rush. “The Grand Brunch a la Telefonica! I’m having six raw oysters in the shell from Otto’s ($5.50). You’re having chilaquiles de mole with two eggs and frijoles from Carmelita’s, 120 pesos, say $6. Then I’m having the Croque Madame from Azarosa ($6.25). So that’ll be $17.75. Not bad.”

I go to take a slurp of my stout, except argh! Empty. And sun’s heating up.

“Cenosilicaphobia! It’s coming on again!”

“Hokay, you’re longing for me to ask you. What is ceno-whatever?”

“Thought you’d never ask. It’s fear of an empty glass. A real word! “Ceno,” empty. “Silica,” glass. “Phobia,” fear, right?”

Annie hauls in a long deep breath. “Hongry!”

I race off and order them all. Gonna cost, but how long before we can do this again?

Results? Oysters slip down a treat. My Croque Madame has good tasty béchamel cheese, fried egg, plus fresh veggies on top and a pot of nice sharp sweetish sauce.

Annie’s chilaquiles look fine, although she doesn’t let me near them, and yes! My second Cerberus stout has cured the cenosilicaphobia quite miraculously.

“So that cost us $32,” I say.

“Och, man. We going to have enough cash to get back to the border?”

“I kept some aside,” I say. “Tequirisi.”

  • The Place: Telefonica Gastro Park (various eateries), 8924 Boulevard Agua Caliente, Tijuana, +52-664-684-8782
  • Hours: 9am-10pm, daily (Till 11pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday; till 9:30pm Sunday)
  • Prices: Octopus tacos, $2.50; octopus plate with olives, $12; red snapper plate, $13; octopus tacos, with huitlacoche, $2.75; brioche with eggs, cream, prosciutto, jam, $8; Croc Madame (with ham, cheese, béchamel), $6.25; chilaquiles, mole, frijoles, eggs, $6; Monte Cristo (French toast, ham, cheese, egg), $7.50; French Toast with s’mores, $7.75; croissant bread pudding, fruit, whipped cream, $7.75
  • Buses: Various popular taxis are cheap and probably best.
  • Nearest Taxi Stops: Just wave them down. Ask if they’re going where you’re going
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