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Tijuana tour guide takes us to all the fish places he can find

Octopus at Cevichería Nais, shrimp at El Buzo, oysters at Otto's Grill, corn smut at Tacosteño, sweet salmon at Tras Horizonte, manta ray and tuna fin at La Cahua del Yeyo

One of my favorites at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice.
One of my favorites at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I’ve been doing tours in Tijuana for more than 11 years. I remember my first client well. Back then, I announced my tours on Craigslist. Back then, my tours and Tijuana were much different than what they are now. His name was Rudy; he was a 40-year-old Italian-American from New York with a thick “I’m walkin’ here” accent. Rudy came to Tijuana for one thing only: brothels. But like a proper tour guide, I showed him more of the city than he bargained for. I explained why there were numerous farmacias and dentistas on every corner. He started to see Tijuana in a new light, as more than just a place for sex tourism.

Pulpo entero zarandeado at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: a whole chargrilled octopus in adobo accompanied by rice and Cambray potatoes.

Rudy wasn’t much of a drinker, but back then, the available options were mostly dive bars, so it was no great loss. But when it came to food, I told him I knew of a great seafood place nearby. Alas, Rudy said he didn’t eat seafood, and requested chicken tacos. I was baffled and taken aback. Chicken tacos aren’t really a thing in Mexican restaurants — at least not in Mexico. Some have pollo asado, but it’s rare to see chicken tacos in taquerías. Mexicans usually buy a chicken at a rotisserie, which includes tortillas, rice, beans, and salsa. Some even go to KFC and bring their own tortillas to make chicken tacos.

I took Rudy to a restaurant in Avenida Revolución that I had never been to, but I knew it had chicken tacos on the menu. They were bad, but Rudy seemed satisfied. That restaurant has changed names a dozen times during my years in Tijuana; it continues to be bad. After lunch, I took Rudy to do his thing in Zona Norte. He found a girl that he liked and asked a photographer to take their picture. The first picture was an awkward snap of them standing and holding hands as if they were going to prom together, except she was almost naked. In the second picture, Rudy had his face in the middle of her breasts. Rudy had the time of his life in Tijuana, and paid me more than my asking price. Later, he came back to Tijuana to get dental work and for more sex tourism.

My biggest regret about that day was not insisting to Rudy that we could have had way better food. Even if he didn’t think he liked seafood. He didn’t know the seafood wonderland that Tijuana can provide. Seafood surrounds me in my Tijuana life. “SHRIMP!!!!” my old roommate used to yell out when he was too hung-over to function. Just a few steps away from my apartment in downtown Tijuana, there’s a seafood cart named El Buzo. A shrimp cocktail costs around $12, and it was my roommate’s favorite hangover cure (plus more Tecate). El Buzo has been serving seafood on that corner since the 1970s (the owner took over from his father).

Tijuana has nurtured me into a seafood obsession (among many other things). When people contact me for a private tour, I always ask the same question: do you like seafood and craft beer? If they don’t, I am not the tour guide for them. Presented here are some of the most unique seafood tacos, tostadas, or other seafood presentations in this town, the ones that I find myself going back to again and again. If you plan a Tijuana trip and love seafood, save this copy of the Reader.

  1. La Corriente - Cevichería Nais

I’ve been coming to this place since before I moved to Tijuana in 2012. Their red snapper tostada was and remains their main feature. The first time I visited, the number of tostadas sold was displayed on a blackboard counter: 8000+. On a later visit, it was around 330,000+. Eventually, the tally was removed; when I asked the manager about it, he didn’t give me a reason why. But the tostada remained.

Place

La Corriente Cevichería & Nais

Colombia 9350, Col. Madero (Cacho), Tijuana, BC

Today, the place has grown; there are multiple locations, including Rosarito, Monterrey, and Mexico City. The menu has expanded and prices have gone up, but the quality is the same. Though some of my favorite items are gone, they have been replaced by items that are arguably better. I used to get a pulpo pacheco, half a grilled octopus served with tortillas, rice, and beans. Off the menu now, but the more popular and bigger plate pulpo entero zarandeado remains: a whole chargrilled octopus in adobo accompanied by rice and Cambray potatoes.

Two new items (marked by a red star) quickly became my favorites: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice; and the tostada Pácifico, slices of tuna topped with scallops in black salsa and serrano chiles.

To go with the great food, the drinks and ambiance are also spot on. Their featured drink is the mezcalita, eight flavors of a margarita-like concoction that replaces tequila with mezcal. The roof is made with palm trees, and the whole place makes you feel like you’re steps away from the beach instead of the dirty streets of downtown Tijuana. The music, partially curated by DJ Chucuchu, features cumbias mixed with pop songs. The DJ even has a plate named after him: camarones Chucuchu, shrimp filled with marlin and accompanied by rice, veggies, and fries.

I’ve taken more than a hundred tourists from all over the world to this establishment, and it has never failed to impress.

Location: The original spot and the one reviewed is on the corner of 6th Street and Calle Madero. Two more locations in Tijuana (La Cacho and Las Palmas).

Price: I usually spend $25-40 on myself.

  1. Los Compadres

“I miss eating those tacos, sometimes I dream of it,” texts my friend Andrei from Kentucky after I post a picture of my breakfast. When friends or tourists stay in Tijuana for the night and visit me in the morning, I take them to Los Compadres. If I upload a picture to social media, I get flooded with questions as to where to find this taco (and many similarly jealous comments).

Place

Compadres

Corner of 4th Street and 5 Cinco de Mayo, Tijuana, BC

Los Compadres is open 7 am to 3 pm daily, except Sundays. They start running out of shrimp around 1 pm, so you need to get there early. They also serve fish and shrimp tacos (with or without batter), caldo de cahuamanta (stingray broth), marlin tacos, and more. But the main reason to go is the camarón enchilado. I could write a love song about this taco. It’s gigantic, greasy, has lots of melted cheese that gets burnt around the crust of the tortilla, and is loaded with a lot of flash-fried shrimp that have been dunked in buttery chili sauce. It is topped (all optional) with cream, cabbage, tomato, cilantro, and chipotle sauce. It’s a complex and messy item to pick up and eat. I go back at least once a month to partake in my shrimp enchilado ritual. I’ve taken people from all over the world to try it, and every once in a while I get a message that they are thinking about those shrimp tacos.

I could write a love song about this taco at Los Compadres. It’s gigantic, greasy, has lots of melted cheese that gets burnt around the crust of the tortilla, and is loaded with a lot of flash-fried shrimp that has been dunked in buttery chili sauce.

None of the ingredients are gourmet or fancy. It’s a dirty fish taco truck just like the Tijuana gods intended. They have a tip jar in the form of a Tecate bottle. Drop some coins in when you finish your meal and shout “Por la causa!” — “for the cause.” The cause is to buy more Tecate.

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Los Compadres became El Compadre when one of the two taqueros died during Covid times (his death was not Covid -related). RIP Guillermo Mireles. Angel, the remaining compadre, still slings tacos with his family in the same corner.

Location: On the corner of 5 de Mayo and 4th Street, next to Parque Teniente Guerrero.

Price: I spend less than $10 for two shrimp enchilado tacos.

  1. Otto’s Grill inside Teléfonica Gastro Park

Teléfonica Gastro Park was originally behind Teléfonos de Mexico (hence the name) back in 2014 when it was founded. It started with a burger truck named Maquina 65 by chef Bernardo González, parked on an empty lot. More trucks like La Carmelita (by chef José Figueroa), Humo (by chef Giovanni Brassea), Don Ramen (by chef Adria Marina), and Otto’s Grill (by chef Otto Spohn) joined the project. I have pictures of myself with tourists from this old location.

Place

Otto's Grill

Blvd. Agua Caliente 8860-9, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

In 2016, it moved to a bigger location just a couple blocks away that includes a warehouse with a brewery (Cerveza Lírica), more restaurants, a second floor with an art room, and a bigger patio. A family-friendly crowd-pleaser with a bit of everything, it’s a good place to take groups of tourists with different dietary wants or needs.

Some of the restaurants that founded the food park have moved on and grown into different projects, but Otto’s Grill remains. Otto’s menu includes some of the best oysters I’ve found in the city, plus seafood tacos, tostadas, specialty plates, and appetizers, all made in traditional Baja style. Its specialty taco is a “taquesos,” a taco made with burnt cheese instead of a tortilla, filled with shrimp, fish, octopus, or marlin. But of all the options in Teléfonica, Otto’s spicy tuna tostada is my top choice: fresh chunks of tuna with spicy oil, chives, cucumber, sesame seed, and habanero creamy salsa.

Otto’s menu includes some of the best oysters I’ve found in the city, plus seafood tacos, tostadas, specialty plates, and appetizers, all made in traditional Baja style.

Location: Teléfonica Gastro Park is on the main boulevard “Boulevard Agua Caliente” or “El Bule” not far from downtown (Blvd. Agua Caliente 8860).

Price: My favorite tuna tostada goes for $3.50. The rest is modestly priced and well worth it.

  1. Tacosteño

The first time I saw Tacosteño, I was put off by their over-the-top mouthful of a slogan: “Gastro taqueria artesanal & cocina urbana de autor con bases en la cocina Baja-Med casi autosustentable 100% Mexicano.” And their tuna tostada fell on the sweet side, while the fish taco was lackluster. But then I tried their black tentacle: octopus with huitlacoche (corn smut) quesadilla on a blue corn tortilla, topped off with a green garlic and cilantro sauce. For the uninitiated: huitlacoche is described as the food of the (Aztec) gods; it’s a fungus that grows on corn. Also known as the Mexican truffle, huitlacoche makes a delectable pairing with octopus; but it’s a combination I’ve never seen anywhere except at Tacosteño.

Place

Tacosteno

Blvd. Aquacaliente 8924, Tijuana, BC

For years, my meal of choice in Teléfonica was a tuna tostada from Otto’s followed by a pair of octopus tacos from Tacosteño, and a beer. But on my last visit, I found out Tacosteño had left the park. It took me a while to track the restaurant down, but I found it a mile away in a different food collective called “Food Trucks Express.” The space was desolate when I arrived; the other restaurants seemed generic.

I was greeted by chef Rodolfo Luviano, who explained that Teléfonica’s market shifted and it wasn’t the place for Tacosteño anymore. In this new spot, he serves barbacoa on the weekends under the name La Barbacha and he operates as Tacosteño throughout the week (or catering events). Chef Rodolfo served me two of his newest dishes: a spicy white marlin tostada, and a clam prepared with xoconostle (the fruit of cactus, similar to a prickly pear but more acidic than sweet).

Wherever Tacosteño goes, as the city changes, I’ll follow for that black tentacle tostada.

Location: Unknown — Chef Luviano recently deleted the social media for his restaurant.

Price: The first time I had that octopus taco, it was around $2, but it is closer to $4 now. Whatever the cost, it’s worth it.

  1. From Kokopelli to Tras/Horizonte

Kokopelli started as a street cart on Calle Ocampo in 2011. They served a handful of tacos: one of their most popular was the Kraken, a grilled octopus taco in a charred tortilla. The ceviche de lenguado, “Black Harder,” was another big hit. 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.

Place

Tras/Horizonte

9680 Rio Colorado, Marron, Tijuana, BC

Chef Guillermo “Oso” Campos worked the truck together with his brother Pablo and a bunch of his friends. I still remember El Grillo’s smile as he happily delivered tacos to my tourists back in the day. 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, and they tried expanding to other locations, including a venture in one of Chicago’s top fine-dining neighborhoods. The Chicago Reader did not give Kokopelli favorable reviews; they said, “it’s lost in the crowd.” Kokopelli Chicago lasted less than a year, opening and closing in 2015. For a while, it seemed like Kokopelli was gone, not only from Chicago, but from Tijuana as well.

But in late 2016, it was reborn as Tras/Horizonte. Chef Oso acquired a big warehouse space next to a giant candy shop, behind the police station in Zona Rio. The Kokopelli cart rests in the parking lot (I miss it dearly). The big open space features a side patio, a large bar and dining room, and an open kitchen with a grill that is somehow also a fountain. A separate space in the back houses fermenter tanks; Tras/Horizonte makes their own brand of beer.

The bigger space comes with a bigger menu: new plates like the Aluxe, salmon ceviche with mango, tamarind, and local herbs; or the Atun Sangre (or blood tuna), home-cured for 12 hours on worm salt, chilhuacle chile, and jicama.

In 2018, I private messaged Chef Oso for a special dinner for my then-girlfriend’s birthday. I told him she loved octopus and spicy food. Chef Oso prepared us a spicy grilled octopus with chimichurri and a mix of chiles on a bed of risotto. And for her birthday cake, he presented a “Terrario Comestible” — a fishbowl that looked like a terrarium filled with mushrooms, ice cream, crumpled sugar to resemble dirt, edible flowers, and other magically delicious sweet things that tasted nothing like what they looked like.

Location: Río Colorado 9680, Marron, 22015 Tijuana, B.C. or near Cuahutemoc statue, head up the hill and find the big warehouse.

Price: Oh! I yearn for the prices from before, but Oso’s tacos are not from a taco truck anymore. Upscale restaurant feel requires upscale restaurant prices. But well worth it.

  1. La Cahua del Yeyo

Tijuana is rapidly changing. I visited Cahua del Yeyo in August of 2022; a month later, it was demolished. The original location — since 1996 — was on the corner of 8th Street and Sirak Baloyan. It moved half a block away, and the new spot looks similar to the original: an unfinished, improvised, dive-y shack with plastic chairs and tables. But now, the construction of a 20+ story building looms in the background.

Place

La Cahua del Yeyo

Ocampo 1542, Zonaeste, Tijuana, BC

A staple of Tijuana this place was featured by Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods in 2009. The logo of the restaurant is a loggerhead sea turtle (tortuga caguama) riding an SUV with two palm trees. The turtle was one of the two main ingredients of the cahuamanta soup, the other being manta ray. Alas, the cahua part of the portmanteau has been illegal since 2012; the soup doesn’t contain turtles anymore, just manta. Their other main feature is aleta (tuna fin) — the meat is gelatinous with a strong sea flavor. It’s an acquired taste that not many tourists can stomach.

Aleta, pulpo al olivo, and cahuamanta at La Cahua del Yeyo

La Cahua also has shrimp, octopus, moronga (blood sausage), marlin, and chilpacholi (blue crab stew). All are available in a variety of forms and combinations: a soft shell taco, a hard shell taco (taco dorado), “taco Lalo” (from a secret menu, it’s a hard shell inside a soft shell), as an order, or in a soup (named “jugo vichi”).

On my latest visit to their new location, a sign outside read “NO HAY ALETA” warning me that there was no tuna fin. I got a taco dorado with chilpacholi on top, a crunchy, delightful disaster drowned in salsas. I followed it with a jugo vichi with shrimp with a touch of red wine (another house secret). And to finish my seafood breakfast, a traditional marlin taco.

La Cahua del Yeyo is a morning joint for hangover cures (it closes at 3 pm). They also have your traditional commercial Mexican beers as well as craft beer Buqui Bichi Brewing from Sonora.

Location: Ocampo 1542, Zonaeste, unless they demolish this building as well and it gets pushed somewhere else.

Price: Regular seafood joint prices, except for specialty items which can add up to way more.

  1. Trucha and Tito’s Tacos

When I first moved to Tijuana, Tito’s tacos were my saviors. The cost of a fish taco was around $1, and their tacos are so big that with two, it feels like you’ve had a heavy lunch. Their menu is huge, and includes all of the seafood standards that you could imagine. Beyond that, there is a variety of pastas and even flank steak. But back in the day, I was broke and I got only the cheap fish tacos — until one day, I bit into a taco with undercooked batter and raw fish on the inside. After that, I didn’t want to go to Tito’s ever again.

Tito’s tacos are so big that with two, it feels like you had a heavy lunch.

With eight locations, Tito’s Tacos has been around in Tijuana for over 50 years. But it wasn’t until late 2019 that they created a spin-off named Trucha (as in “trout,” but there’s also a Mexican slang meaning, so be alert). Trucha opened in the heart of downtown Tijuana on Avenida Revolución between 5th and 6th. On my first visit, I was unimpressed: their shrimp tacos were small and expensive and the Rockefeller oysters topped with cream of spinach was underwhelming. I didn’t want to go there ever again, either.

Place

Tito's

Estrella del Mar #605, Playas, Tijuana, BC

But one day, after dropping off my ex-girlfriend in Playas de Tijuana, I got stuck in traffic. I was too hungry to sit in traffic, so I decided to give Tito’s one more chance. I discovered that Tito’s in Playas also serves the menu from their new upscale Trucha. So I put Trucha to the test and ordered a shrimp enchilado taco and a poke tostada. As expected, the shrimp enchilado taco was massive, with tons of melted cheese, a plethora of prawns, and a bitter spicy black sauce with peanuts. Not as good as my favorite shrimp enchilado, but still, a promising sign that Tito’s was in fact better than before.

Place

Trucha

Av. Revolución 1150-5, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

The poke tostada was what made me include them on this list: a blue corn tostada topped with chunks of bluefin tuna with shichimi togarashi aioli, peanuts, masago, seaweed salad, and more Asian ingredients. I was so impressed that it became my favorite tuna tostada in Tijuana, even topping Otto’s Grill.

On my last visit to Tito’s, I took a quasi-famous TikToker from New York named “SoupyGarbageJuice” and his friend. I didn’t warn him about how big the tacos were. We ordered so much food. SoupyGarbageJuice ordered tostada campechana: a bowl of shrimp, octopus, clam, tuna, avocado, onions, and cilantro with multiple tostadas on the side. His friend ordered two fish tacos and a “California Tito’s” — shrimp inside a chile, similar to Kokopelli’s Gringo en Vacaciones con Tuxedo, but three times the size. I ventured forth and ordered the “Taco Trucha,” another massive thing in a flour tortilla packed with burnt cheese, breaded New York steak, shrimp, chipotle sauce, pickled red onions, and avocado. I also got a “Taco Chilindrino:” steak, mushrooms, and shrimp inside a quesadilla. I could eat only one taco, SoupyGarbageJuice and his friend ate just half of what they ordered.

Location: Tito’s has several locations; the original is in Playas de Tijuana. Trucha is on La Revu.

Price: Tito’s is cheap, Trucha is not. Both have hit-and-miss things on the menu that could be very well worth it. Most items are massive.

  1. La Barra Conchita Raw Bar

As a tour guide, I feel like it’s my responsibility to try out the newest seafood places. La Barra Conchita opened at the beginning of 2023 with chef Diego Hernández Baquedano from Ensenada. Diego Hernández was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s episode in Baja when he visited the chef’s restaurant Corazon de Tierra, which closed in 2020. “Extraordinary meal chef, thank you. I really really enjoyed it, it was great.” Bourdain tells Chef Diego in the episode while shaking his hand. Later, he observes: “It’s interesting though, he clearly knows French technique, but his Jedi masters were all Mexican.” Bourdain’s meal included: a roasted tuna belly with daikon garnish, kohlrabi, nasturtium, mizuna, and lemon oil; and a black bean braised leg of lamb, with Swiss chard, carrot, radish, and turnip.

La Barra Conchita opened at the beginning of 2023 with chef Diego Hernández Baquedano from Ensenada.

Chef Diego’s newest project is all seafood, Ensenada style, featuring aguachiles, clams, ceviches, oysters, tostadas, cocktails, seafood cones, and more. I got a clam mixed with a seafood medley of octopus, shrimp, and scallops. And when tiradito is on the menu, I order it. Tiradito is a Peruvian version of sashimi bathed in lemon juice and chiles that many seafood restaurants in Baja have adopted. La Barra Conchita offers tiraditos of tuna, abalone, and jurel (Pacific crevalle jack); when I visited, they had only the latter. Oysters were lackluster, but the sauce rescued them, reminding me of my favorite oyster sauce in Ensenada, at Mariscos el Güero. I finished my visit with a couple of tostadas: one smoked tuna and the other one crab pâté, both with a similar medley of seafood on top. It’s hard to not love something when it hits everything I like.

Place

La Barra Conchita Raw Bar

Av. Rio Bravo 9987, Revolucion, Tijuana, BC

The only issue is that the space is tiny. You’ve seen tiny houses; prepare for tiny restaurants. No more than eight people can fit in there comfortably. Because of this, I could use it only for a private tour of no more than 5 people.

Location: Av. Rio Bravo 9987, Revolucion, near the Big Boy.

Price: Given the chef’s background in Valle de Guadalupe and how small the place is, and inflation, I was worried about the prices. But it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be. I need to go back and try the rest of their menu, especially their main gimmick, a seafood cone.

  1. Mariscos Las 5 Esquinas

Like a good millennial, I’m always posting the food I eat. People are always asking for recommendations or telling me where to go. Many friends told me that the best fish taco in Tijuana was Mariscos las 5 Esquinas. Situated at an intersection with five corners on Second Street going west to Playas (before El Soler), it is a seafood truck next to two farmacias.

Place

Mariscos 5 Esquinas

Mar Amarillo 6098, Alemán, Tijuana, BC

Though the fish taco is up there with the best the city has to offer, it is similar to many other food trucks. After I posted that it was just an okay taco, my friend replied: “Get the perrón; tell them Gabriel sent you so they make it extra perrón.”

Mariscos Las 5 Esquinas: “Get the perrón; tell them Gabriel sent you so they make it extra perrón.”

The next week I went to try the perrón. And the week after. And almost every week since I first had it. But do not confuse the 5 Esquinas “tacos perrones” with Rosarito’s famous “Tacos El Yaqui Perrones.” Rosarito’s tacos are flank steak, these are seafood. Two tortillas with melted cheese, topped with plenty of smoked tuna, shrimp, cream, and avocado. Decorate your taco with an arrangement of toppings at your pleasure. Pickled onions and habanero salsa do the trick for me.

The menu of the small food truck is big; it offers eight different tostadas, 15 different tacos, a handful of seafood cocktails, soups, and snacks. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried any of them, because I’m addicted to their taco perrón.

Location: Las 5 Esquinas…

Price: The taco perrón goes for 65 pesos, or around $4. The standard fish taco is $2.50. The rest of the menu is equally cheap seafood truck pricing.

  1. Mariscos Los Chilos

“My mom used to take me there when she was pregnant with me,” said Chef José Figueroa when he saw my post about Mariscos Los Chilos. Like a true Tijuanense, the chef’s relationship with fish tacos started before he was even born. This food truck houses my favorite fish taco. It’s your basic fish taco: simple, yet delicious. Topped with the usual salsa bandera, cabbage, and cream (I opt to not get cream and use the chipotle instead). The fish has a golden crispy batter, crunchy yet soft. Though my mom was nowhere near this food truck when she was pregnant with me, somehow, this fish taco makes me feel at home.

Place

Mariscos Los Chilos

Third Street & Avenida H (cristóbal colón) Ext #892 Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

Los Chilos serves the other classic seafood items most trucks have: shrimp, enchilados, marlin, and seafood medley soup. The latter is another favorite of mine: a large styrofoam cup for $6 filled with shrimp, clam, fish, and vegetables, with tortillas on the side and salsa to taste. Again, it’s soup that’s not out of this world, but it somehow reminds me of a childhood beach home I never had.

The food truck has been around for 40 years. It used to be named Mariscos San Francisco, then morphed into Los Chilos (for a couple of years, it had both names). In 2023 they expanded to a sit-down restaurant in Playas de Tijuana; they expanded their menu and started serving beer. (It was common for people around the food truck to drink beer in hidden styrofoam cups; their new location fixes that.)

Location: Outside Autozone on Third Street and H Avenue, downtown, Tijuana.

Price: Cheap and plenty. I never spend more than $10 and I walk away full and happy.


Other notables and no-gos

There are seafood carts and restaurants spread throughout Tijuana. There are more than a dozen in downtown alone. Every Tijuanense has a seafood of choice. When I asked my brother what his favorite restaurant was, he said Mariscos El Socio — it was the first seafood place he took me to before I even moved to Tijuana. El Socio’s ceviche is cheap and plentiful. Great value for the buck. The restaurant has a garbage can with a ceramic pelican as a lid and a ceramic octopus on the rooftop — as if it were a tourist attraction. My brother’s favorite street seafood is Mariscos Puerto Angel; they are similar to other seafood carts on the list, though in my opinion, slightly inferior. But it’s the closest seafood stand to his place (near Colonia Independencia), which counts for a lot.

Place

Negro Durazo

9190 Sanchez Taboado Boulevard, Tijuana, BC

Many Tijuanenses will get angry that I didn’t include El Mazateño on this list. Trust me, I’ve been there. They are great tacos, but not my personal favorite. I’m aware of the existence of Los Arcos, a family-friendly chain and a Tijuana favorite. It is not the best for a single guy who likes to show foreigners around. I had a horrible experience at El Negro Durazo; I will never return. (Even without that experience, that place wasn’t for me.) Alga Bien has better and more creative tacos than some other places, and a variety of craft beer in el malecón de Playas (the boardwalk by the beach). But they play pop music incessantly, and they play it loud. I like going to Mariscos Machatlán to add some variety to my usual seafood taco spots. I’ve taken tourists; they enjoy the old-school feel and the colorful mural, but they are not impressed as with other spots.

Place

Alga Bien and La Cerve

Avenida del Pácifico #441, Tijuana, BC

Caldos Don Tony has been running for more than 40 years. This famous soup shop opens in the wee hours of the morning, between 1 am to 4 am, outside Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón, a church on 11th Street. I’ve only been there once, but I was too drunk to recollect how good the soup was. All I remember is that I was incredulous that I was watching a bride in all her white wedding dress glory with the whole party eating seafood broth at around 3 am. That’s the type of city Tijuana is; if you crave seafood at those hours, you can find it. All I know about the place is what I hear from taxi drivers. They say that it’s not the same as it used to be, but they also say it’s still legendary.

Place

LionFish

Erasmo Castellanos Q. 1857, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, Tijuana, BC

My ex-girlfriend loved LionFish; it was her favorite restaurant, mostly because they served as many chiles toreados as she desired. They mimic the menu from La Cevicheria Nais and other restaurants, but at a value. The place is decorated with cheesy neon signs, and it has grown in size and popularity since I started going. They now have a second restaurant “LionFish La Terraza” in the third part of Tijuana. I’ve visited numerous times with friends, but given the choice, there are many other places I would rather be.

Not C-Biche in La Cacho. I’m not sure if they were having a bad day when I visited, but I left without looking back. Perhaps Puerto Cocina Urbana in Zona Río. They had Belching Beaver’s Phantom Bride on tap when I visited, just one of a great selection of craft beers. The oysters were on point, I got a shrimp al pastor quesadilla that had a nice paprika kick with a tinge of pineapple, and a massive tostada with a seafood medley.

There are many places I’ve never been. I still haven’t been to Mariscos Ruben or Erizo Marketo by Chef Plascencia. Mariscos La Guerrerense from Ensenada just got here a few days before I finished writing all this. It is next on my list.

New places open. Classics fade away. And I am sure many more gems are missing. Everyone has their own favorite Tijuana seafood place. But after a decade, these are mine.

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Peter King lives a cell-free life

The art of conversation “has most definitely gone downhill.”
One of my favorites at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice.
One of my favorites at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I’ve been doing tours in Tijuana for more than 11 years. I remember my first client well. Back then, I announced my tours on Craigslist. Back then, my tours and Tijuana were much different than what they are now. His name was Rudy; he was a 40-year-old Italian-American from New York with a thick “I’m walkin’ here” accent. Rudy came to Tijuana for one thing only: brothels. But like a proper tour guide, I showed him more of the city than he bargained for. I explained why there were numerous farmacias and dentistas on every corner. He started to see Tijuana in a new light, as more than just a place for sex tourism.

Pulpo entero zarandeado at La Corriente - Cevichería Nais: a whole chargrilled octopus in adobo accompanied by rice and Cambray potatoes.

Rudy wasn’t much of a drinker, but back then, the available options were mostly dive bars, so it was no great loss. But when it came to food, I told him I knew of a great seafood place nearby. Alas, Rudy said he didn’t eat seafood, and requested chicken tacos. I was baffled and taken aback. Chicken tacos aren’t really a thing in Mexican restaurants — at least not in Mexico. Some have pollo asado, but it’s rare to see chicken tacos in taquerías. Mexicans usually buy a chicken at a rotisserie, which includes tortillas, rice, beans, and salsa. Some even go to KFC and bring their own tortillas to make chicken tacos.

I took Rudy to a restaurant in Avenida Revolución that I had never been to, but I knew it had chicken tacos on the menu. They were bad, but Rudy seemed satisfied. That restaurant has changed names a dozen times during my years in Tijuana; it continues to be bad. After lunch, I took Rudy to do his thing in Zona Norte. He found a girl that he liked and asked a photographer to take their picture. The first picture was an awkward snap of them standing and holding hands as if they were going to prom together, except she was almost naked. In the second picture, Rudy had his face in the middle of her breasts. Rudy had the time of his life in Tijuana, and paid me more than my asking price. Later, he came back to Tijuana to get dental work and for more sex tourism.

My biggest regret about that day was not insisting to Rudy that we could have had way better food. Even if he didn’t think he liked seafood. He didn’t know the seafood wonderland that Tijuana can provide. Seafood surrounds me in my Tijuana life. “SHRIMP!!!!” my old roommate used to yell out when he was too hung-over to function. Just a few steps away from my apartment in downtown Tijuana, there’s a seafood cart named El Buzo. A shrimp cocktail costs around $12, and it was my roommate’s favorite hangover cure (plus more Tecate). El Buzo has been serving seafood on that corner since the 1970s (the owner took over from his father).

Tijuana has nurtured me into a seafood obsession (among many other things). When people contact me for a private tour, I always ask the same question: do you like seafood and craft beer? If they don’t, I am not the tour guide for them. Presented here are some of the most unique seafood tacos, tostadas, or other seafood presentations in this town, the ones that I find myself going back to again and again. If you plan a Tijuana trip and love seafood, save this copy of the Reader.

  1. La Corriente - Cevichería Nais

I’ve been coming to this place since before I moved to Tijuana in 2012. Their red snapper tostada was and remains their main feature. The first time I visited, the number of tostadas sold was displayed on a blackboard counter: 8000+. On a later visit, it was around 330,000+. Eventually, the tally was removed; when I asked the manager about it, he didn’t give me a reason why. But the tostada remained.

Place

La Corriente Cevichería & Nais

Colombia 9350, Col. Madero (Cacho), Tijuana, BC

Today, the place has grown; there are multiple locations, including Rosarito, Monterrey, and Mexico City. The menu has expanded and prices have gone up, but the quality is the same. Though some of my favorite items are gone, they have been replaced by items that are arguably better. I used to get a pulpo pacheco, half a grilled octopus served with tortillas, rice, and beans. Off the menu now, but the more popular and bigger plate pulpo entero zarandeado remains: a whole chargrilled octopus in adobo accompanied by rice and Cambray potatoes.

Two new items (marked by a red star) quickly became my favorites: shrimp enchilado in flour tortillas, Arabian style with jocoque (fermented milk, inspired by Lebanese cuisine) and a squeeze of lemon juice; and the tostada Pácifico, slices of tuna topped with scallops in black salsa and serrano chiles.

To go with the great food, the drinks and ambiance are also spot on. Their featured drink is the mezcalita, eight flavors of a margarita-like concoction that replaces tequila with mezcal. The roof is made with palm trees, and the whole place makes you feel like you’re steps away from the beach instead of the dirty streets of downtown Tijuana. The music, partially curated by DJ Chucuchu, features cumbias mixed with pop songs. The DJ even has a plate named after him: camarones Chucuchu, shrimp filled with marlin and accompanied by rice, veggies, and fries.

I’ve taken more than a hundred tourists from all over the world to this establishment, and it has never failed to impress.

Location: The original spot and the one reviewed is on the corner of 6th Street and Calle Madero. Two more locations in Tijuana (La Cacho and Las Palmas).

Price: I usually spend $25-40 on myself.

  1. Los Compadres

“I miss eating those tacos, sometimes I dream of it,” texts my friend Andrei from Kentucky after I post a picture of my breakfast. When friends or tourists stay in Tijuana for the night and visit me in the morning, I take them to Los Compadres. If I upload a picture to social media, I get flooded with questions as to where to find this taco (and many similarly jealous comments).

Place

Compadres

Corner of 4th Street and 5 Cinco de Mayo, Tijuana, BC

Los Compadres is open 7 am to 3 pm daily, except Sundays. They start running out of shrimp around 1 pm, so you need to get there early. They also serve fish and shrimp tacos (with or without batter), caldo de cahuamanta (stingray broth), marlin tacos, and more. But the main reason to go is the camarón enchilado. I could write a love song about this taco. It’s gigantic, greasy, has lots of melted cheese that gets burnt around the crust of the tortilla, and is loaded with a lot of flash-fried shrimp that have been dunked in buttery chili sauce. It is topped (all optional) with cream, cabbage, tomato, cilantro, and chipotle sauce. It’s a complex and messy item to pick up and eat. I go back at least once a month to partake in my shrimp enchilado ritual. I’ve taken people from all over the world to try it, and every once in a while I get a message that they are thinking about those shrimp tacos.

I could write a love song about this taco at Los Compadres. It’s gigantic, greasy, has lots of melted cheese that gets burnt around the crust of the tortilla, and is loaded with a lot of flash-fried shrimp that has been dunked in buttery chili sauce.

None of the ingredients are gourmet or fancy. It’s a dirty fish taco truck just like the Tijuana gods intended. They have a tip jar in the form of a Tecate bottle. Drop some coins in when you finish your meal and shout “Por la causa!” — “for the cause.” The cause is to buy more Tecate.

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Los Compadres became El Compadre when one of the two taqueros died during Covid times (his death was not Covid -related). RIP Guillermo Mireles. Angel, the remaining compadre, still slings tacos with his family in the same corner.

Location: On the corner of 5 de Mayo and 4th Street, next to Parque Teniente Guerrero.

Price: I spend less than $10 for two shrimp enchilado tacos.

  1. Otto’s Grill inside Teléfonica Gastro Park

Teléfonica Gastro Park was originally behind Teléfonos de Mexico (hence the name) back in 2014 when it was founded. It started with a burger truck named Maquina 65 by chef Bernardo González, parked on an empty lot. More trucks like La Carmelita (by chef José Figueroa), Humo (by chef Giovanni Brassea), Don Ramen (by chef Adria Marina), and Otto’s Grill (by chef Otto Spohn) joined the project. I have pictures of myself with tourists from this old location.

Place

Otto's Grill

Blvd. Agua Caliente 8860-9, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

In 2016, it moved to a bigger location just a couple blocks away that includes a warehouse with a brewery (Cerveza Lírica), more restaurants, a second floor with an art room, and a bigger patio. A family-friendly crowd-pleaser with a bit of everything, it’s a good place to take groups of tourists with different dietary wants or needs.

Some of the restaurants that founded the food park have moved on and grown into different projects, but Otto’s Grill remains. Otto’s menu includes some of the best oysters I’ve found in the city, plus seafood tacos, tostadas, specialty plates, and appetizers, all made in traditional Baja style. Its specialty taco is a “taquesos,” a taco made with burnt cheese instead of a tortilla, filled with shrimp, fish, octopus, or marlin. But of all the options in Teléfonica, Otto’s spicy tuna tostada is my top choice: fresh chunks of tuna with spicy oil, chives, cucumber, sesame seed, and habanero creamy salsa.

Otto’s menu includes some of the best oysters I’ve found in the city, plus seafood tacos, tostadas, specialty plates, and appetizers, all made in traditional Baja style.

Location: Teléfonica Gastro Park is on the main boulevard “Boulevard Agua Caliente” or “El Bule” not far from downtown (Blvd. Agua Caliente 8860).

Price: My favorite tuna tostada goes for $3.50. The rest is modestly priced and well worth it.

  1. Tacosteño

The first time I saw Tacosteño, I was put off by their over-the-top mouthful of a slogan: “Gastro taqueria artesanal & cocina urbana de autor con bases en la cocina Baja-Med casi autosustentable 100% Mexicano.” And their tuna tostada fell on the sweet side, while the fish taco was lackluster. But then I tried their black tentacle: octopus with huitlacoche (corn smut) quesadilla on a blue corn tortilla, topped off with a green garlic and cilantro sauce. For the uninitiated: huitlacoche is described as the food of the (Aztec) gods; it’s a fungus that grows on corn. Also known as the Mexican truffle, huitlacoche makes a delectable pairing with octopus; but it’s a combination I’ve never seen anywhere except at Tacosteño.

Place

Tacosteno

Blvd. Aquacaliente 8924, Tijuana, BC

For years, my meal of choice in Teléfonica was a tuna tostada from Otto’s followed by a pair of octopus tacos from Tacosteño, and a beer. But on my last visit, I found out Tacosteño had left the park. It took me a while to track the restaurant down, but I found it a mile away in a different food collective called “Food Trucks Express.” The space was desolate when I arrived; the other restaurants seemed generic.

I was greeted by chef Rodolfo Luviano, who explained that Teléfonica’s market shifted and it wasn’t the place for Tacosteño anymore. In this new spot, he serves barbacoa on the weekends under the name La Barbacha and he operates as Tacosteño throughout the week (or catering events). Chef Rodolfo served me two of his newest dishes: a spicy white marlin tostada, and a clam prepared with xoconostle (the fruit of cactus, similar to a prickly pear but more acidic than sweet).

Wherever Tacosteño goes, as the city changes, I’ll follow for that black tentacle tostada.

Location: Unknown — Chef Luviano recently deleted the social media for his restaurant.

Price: The first time I had that octopus taco, it was around $2, but it is closer to $4 now. Whatever the cost, it’s worth it.

  1. From Kokopelli to Tras/Horizonte

Kokopelli started as a street cart on Calle Ocampo in 2011. They served a handful of tacos: one of their most popular was the Kraken, a grilled octopus taco in a charred tortilla. The ceviche de lenguado, “Black Harder,” was another big hit. 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.

Place

Tras/Horizonte

9680 Rio Colorado, Marron, Tijuana, BC

Chef Guillermo “Oso” Campos worked the truck together with his brother Pablo and a bunch of his friends. I still remember El Grillo’s smile as he happily delivered tacos to my tourists back in the day. 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, and they tried expanding to other locations, including a venture in one of Chicago’s top fine-dining neighborhoods. The Chicago Reader did not give Kokopelli favorable reviews; they said, “it’s lost in the crowd.” Kokopelli Chicago lasted less than a year, opening and closing in 2015. For a while, it seemed like Kokopelli was gone, not only from Chicago, but from Tijuana as well.

But in late 2016, it was reborn as Tras/Horizonte. Chef Oso acquired a big warehouse space next to a giant candy shop, behind the police station in Zona Rio. The Kokopelli cart rests in the parking lot (I miss it dearly). The big open space features a side patio, a large bar and dining room, and an open kitchen with a grill that is somehow also a fountain. A separate space in the back houses fermenter tanks; Tras/Horizonte makes their own brand of beer.

The bigger space comes with a bigger menu: new plates like the Aluxe, salmon ceviche with mango, tamarind, and local herbs; or the Atun Sangre (or blood tuna), home-cured for 12 hours on worm salt, chilhuacle chile, and jicama.

In 2018, I private messaged Chef Oso for a special dinner for my then-girlfriend’s birthday. I told him she loved octopus and spicy food. Chef Oso prepared us a spicy grilled octopus with chimichurri and a mix of chiles on a bed of risotto. And for her birthday cake, he presented a “Terrario Comestible” — a fishbowl that looked like a terrarium filled with mushrooms, ice cream, crumpled sugar to resemble dirt, edible flowers, and other magically delicious sweet things that tasted nothing like what they looked like.

Location: Río Colorado 9680, Marron, 22015 Tijuana, B.C. or near Cuahutemoc statue, head up the hill and find the big warehouse.

Price: Oh! I yearn for the prices from before, but Oso’s tacos are not from a taco truck anymore. Upscale restaurant feel requires upscale restaurant prices. But well worth it.

  1. La Cahua del Yeyo

Tijuana is rapidly changing. I visited Cahua del Yeyo in August of 2022; a month later, it was demolished. The original location — since 1996 — was on the corner of 8th Street and Sirak Baloyan. It moved half a block away, and the new spot looks similar to the original: an unfinished, improvised, dive-y shack with plastic chairs and tables. But now, the construction of a 20+ story building looms in the background.

Place

La Cahua del Yeyo

Ocampo 1542, Zonaeste, Tijuana, BC

A staple of Tijuana this place was featured by Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods in 2009. The logo of the restaurant is a loggerhead sea turtle (tortuga caguama) riding an SUV with two palm trees. The turtle was one of the two main ingredients of the cahuamanta soup, the other being manta ray. Alas, the cahua part of the portmanteau has been illegal since 2012; the soup doesn’t contain turtles anymore, just manta. Their other main feature is aleta (tuna fin) — the meat is gelatinous with a strong sea flavor. It’s an acquired taste that not many tourists can stomach.

Aleta, pulpo al olivo, and cahuamanta at La Cahua del Yeyo

La Cahua also has shrimp, octopus, moronga (blood sausage), marlin, and chilpacholi (blue crab stew). All are available in a variety of forms and combinations: a soft shell taco, a hard shell taco (taco dorado), “taco Lalo” (from a secret menu, it’s a hard shell inside a soft shell), as an order, or in a soup (named “jugo vichi”).

On my latest visit to their new location, a sign outside read “NO HAY ALETA” warning me that there was no tuna fin. I got a taco dorado with chilpacholi on top, a crunchy, delightful disaster drowned in salsas. I followed it with a jugo vichi with shrimp with a touch of red wine (another house secret). And to finish my seafood breakfast, a traditional marlin taco.

La Cahua del Yeyo is a morning joint for hangover cures (it closes at 3 pm). They also have your traditional commercial Mexican beers as well as craft beer Buqui Bichi Brewing from Sonora.

Location: Ocampo 1542, Zonaeste, unless they demolish this building as well and it gets pushed somewhere else.

Price: Regular seafood joint prices, except for specialty items which can add up to way more.

  1. Trucha and Tito’s Tacos

When I first moved to Tijuana, Tito’s tacos were my saviors. The cost of a fish taco was around $1, and their tacos are so big that with two, it feels like you’ve had a heavy lunch. Their menu is huge, and includes all of the seafood standards that you could imagine. Beyond that, there is a variety of pastas and even flank steak. But back in the day, I was broke and I got only the cheap fish tacos — until one day, I bit into a taco with undercooked batter and raw fish on the inside. After that, I didn’t want to go to Tito’s ever again.

Tito’s tacos are so big that with two, it feels like you had a heavy lunch.

With eight locations, Tito’s Tacos has been around in Tijuana for over 50 years. But it wasn’t until late 2019 that they created a spin-off named Trucha (as in “trout,” but there’s also a Mexican slang meaning, so be alert). Trucha opened in the heart of downtown Tijuana on Avenida Revolución between 5th and 6th. On my first visit, I was unimpressed: their shrimp tacos were small and expensive and the Rockefeller oysters topped with cream of spinach was underwhelming. I didn’t want to go there ever again, either.

Place

Tito's

Estrella del Mar #605, Playas, Tijuana, BC

But one day, after dropping off my ex-girlfriend in Playas de Tijuana, I got stuck in traffic. I was too hungry to sit in traffic, so I decided to give Tito’s one more chance. I discovered that Tito’s in Playas also serves the menu from their new upscale Trucha. So I put Trucha to the test and ordered a shrimp enchilado taco and a poke tostada. As expected, the shrimp enchilado taco was massive, with tons of melted cheese, a plethora of prawns, and a bitter spicy black sauce with peanuts. Not as good as my favorite shrimp enchilado, but still, a promising sign that Tito’s was in fact better than before.

Place

Trucha

Av. Revolución 1150-5, Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

The poke tostada was what made me include them on this list: a blue corn tostada topped with chunks of bluefin tuna with shichimi togarashi aioli, peanuts, masago, seaweed salad, and more Asian ingredients. I was so impressed that it became my favorite tuna tostada in Tijuana, even topping Otto’s Grill.

On my last visit to Tito’s, I took a quasi-famous TikToker from New York named “SoupyGarbageJuice” and his friend. I didn’t warn him about how big the tacos were. We ordered so much food. SoupyGarbageJuice ordered tostada campechana: a bowl of shrimp, octopus, clam, tuna, avocado, onions, and cilantro with multiple tostadas on the side. His friend ordered two fish tacos and a “California Tito’s” — shrimp inside a chile, similar to Kokopelli’s Gringo en Vacaciones con Tuxedo, but three times the size. I ventured forth and ordered the “Taco Trucha,” another massive thing in a flour tortilla packed with burnt cheese, breaded New York steak, shrimp, chipotle sauce, pickled red onions, and avocado. I also got a “Taco Chilindrino:” steak, mushrooms, and shrimp inside a quesadilla. I could eat only one taco, SoupyGarbageJuice and his friend ate just half of what they ordered.

Location: Tito’s has several locations; the original is in Playas de Tijuana. Trucha is on La Revu.

Price: Tito’s is cheap, Trucha is not. Both have hit-and-miss things on the menu that could be very well worth it. Most items are massive.

  1. La Barra Conchita Raw Bar

As a tour guide, I feel like it’s my responsibility to try out the newest seafood places. La Barra Conchita opened at the beginning of 2023 with chef Diego Hernández Baquedano from Ensenada. Diego Hernández was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s episode in Baja when he visited the chef’s restaurant Corazon de Tierra, which closed in 2020. “Extraordinary meal chef, thank you. I really really enjoyed it, it was great.” Bourdain tells Chef Diego in the episode while shaking his hand. Later, he observes: “It’s interesting though, he clearly knows French technique, but his Jedi masters were all Mexican.” Bourdain’s meal included: a roasted tuna belly with daikon garnish, kohlrabi, nasturtium, mizuna, and lemon oil; and a black bean braised leg of lamb, with Swiss chard, carrot, radish, and turnip.

La Barra Conchita opened at the beginning of 2023 with chef Diego Hernández Baquedano from Ensenada.

Chef Diego’s newest project is all seafood, Ensenada style, featuring aguachiles, clams, ceviches, oysters, tostadas, cocktails, seafood cones, and more. I got a clam mixed with a seafood medley of octopus, shrimp, and scallops. And when tiradito is on the menu, I order it. Tiradito is a Peruvian version of sashimi bathed in lemon juice and chiles that many seafood restaurants in Baja have adopted. La Barra Conchita offers tiraditos of tuna, abalone, and jurel (Pacific crevalle jack); when I visited, they had only the latter. Oysters were lackluster, but the sauce rescued them, reminding me of my favorite oyster sauce in Ensenada, at Mariscos el Güero. I finished my visit with a couple of tostadas: one smoked tuna and the other one crab pâté, both with a similar medley of seafood on top. It’s hard to not love something when it hits everything I like.

Place

La Barra Conchita Raw Bar

Av. Rio Bravo 9987, Revolucion, Tijuana, BC

The only issue is that the space is tiny. You’ve seen tiny houses; prepare for tiny restaurants. No more than eight people can fit in there comfortably. Because of this, I could use it only for a private tour of no more than 5 people.

Location: Av. Rio Bravo 9987, Revolucion, near the Big Boy.

Price: Given the chef’s background in Valle de Guadalupe and how small the place is, and inflation, I was worried about the prices. But it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be. I need to go back and try the rest of their menu, especially their main gimmick, a seafood cone.

  1. Mariscos Las 5 Esquinas

Like a good millennial, I’m always posting the food I eat. People are always asking for recommendations or telling me where to go. Many friends told me that the best fish taco in Tijuana was Mariscos las 5 Esquinas. Situated at an intersection with five corners on Second Street going west to Playas (before El Soler), it is a seafood truck next to two farmacias.

Place

Mariscos 5 Esquinas

Mar Amarillo 6098, Alemán, Tijuana, BC

Though the fish taco is up there with the best the city has to offer, it is similar to many other food trucks. After I posted that it was just an okay taco, my friend replied: “Get the perrón; tell them Gabriel sent you so they make it extra perrón.”

Mariscos Las 5 Esquinas: “Get the perrón; tell them Gabriel sent you so they make it extra perrón.”

The next week I went to try the perrón. And the week after. And almost every week since I first had it. But do not confuse the 5 Esquinas “tacos perrones” with Rosarito’s famous “Tacos El Yaqui Perrones.” Rosarito’s tacos are flank steak, these are seafood. Two tortillas with melted cheese, topped with plenty of smoked tuna, shrimp, cream, and avocado. Decorate your taco with an arrangement of toppings at your pleasure. Pickled onions and habanero salsa do the trick for me.

The menu of the small food truck is big; it offers eight different tostadas, 15 different tacos, a handful of seafood cocktails, soups, and snacks. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried any of them, because I’m addicted to their taco perrón.

Location: Las 5 Esquinas…

Price: The taco perrón goes for 65 pesos, or around $4. The standard fish taco is $2.50. The rest of the menu is equally cheap seafood truck pricing.

  1. Mariscos Los Chilos

“My mom used to take me there when she was pregnant with me,” said Chef José Figueroa when he saw my post about Mariscos Los Chilos. Like a true Tijuanense, the chef’s relationship with fish tacos started before he was even born. This food truck houses my favorite fish taco. It’s your basic fish taco: simple, yet delicious. Topped with the usual salsa bandera, cabbage, and cream (I opt to not get cream and use the chipotle instead). The fish has a golden crispy batter, crunchy yet soft. Though my mom was nowhere near this food truck when she was pregnant with me, somehow, this fish taco makes me feel at home.

Place

Mariscos Los Chilos

Third Street & Avenida H (cristóbal colón) Ext #892 Zona Centro, Tijuana, BC

Los Chilos serves the other classic seafood items most trucks have: shrimp, enchilados, marlin, and seafood medley soup. The latter is another favorite of mine: a large styrofoam cup for $6 filled with shrimp, clam, fish, and vegetables, with tortillas on the side and salsa to taste. Again, it’s soup that’s not out of this world, but it somehow reminds me of a childhood beach home I never had.

The food truck has been around for 40 years. It used to be named Mariscos San Francisco, then morphed into Los Chilos (for a couple of years, it had both names). In 2023 they expanded to a sit-down restaurant in Playas de Tijuana; they expanded their menu and started serving beer. (It was common for people around the food truck to drink beer in hidden styrofoam cups; their new location fixes that.)

Location: Outside Autozone on Third Street and H Avenue, downtown, Tijuana.

Price: Cheap and plenty. I never spend more than $10 and I walk away full and happy.


Other notables and no-gos

There are seafood carts and restaurants spread throughout Tijuana. There are more than a dozen in downtown alone. Every Tijuanense has a seafood of choice. When I asked my brother what his favorite restaurant was, he said Mariscos El Socio — it was the first seafood place he took me to before I even moved to Tijuana. El Socio’s ceviche is cheap and plentiful. Great value for the buck. The restaurant has a garbage can with a ceramic pelican as a lid and a ceramic octopus on the rooftop — as if it were a tourist attraction. My brother’s favorite street seafood is Mariscos Puerto Angel; they are similar to other seafood carts on the list, though in my opinion, slightly inferior. But it’s the closest seafood stand to his place (near Colonia Independencia), which counts for a lot.

Place

Negro Durazo

9190 Sanchez Taboado Boulevard, Tijuana, BC

Many Tijuanenses will get angry that I didn’t include El Mazateño on this list. Trust me, I’ve been there. They are great tacos, but not my personal favorite. I’m aware of the existence of Los Arcos, a family-friendly chain and a Tijuana favorite. It is not the best for a single guy who likes to show foreigners around. I had a horrible experience at El Negro Durazo; I will never return. (Even without that experience, that place wasn’t for me.) Alga Bien has better and more creative tacos than some other places, and a variety of craft beer in el malecón de Playas (the boardwalk by the beach). But they play pop music incessantly, and they play it loud. I like going to Mariscos Machatlán to add some variety to my usual seafood taco spots. I’ve taken tourists; they enjoy the old-school feel and the colorful mural, but they are not impressed as with other spots.

Place

Alga Bien and La Cerve

Avenida del Pácifico #441, Tijuana, BC

Caldos Don Tony has been running for more than 40 years. This famous soup shop opens in the wee hours of the morning, between 1 am to 4 am, outside Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón, a church on 11th Street. I’ve only been there once, but I was too drunk to recollect how good the soup was. All I remember is that I was incredulous that I was watching a bride in all her white wedding dress glory with the whole party eating seafood broth at around 3 am. That’s the type of city Tijuana is; if you crave seafood at those hours, you can find it. All I know about the place is what I hear from taxi drivers. They say that it’s not the same as it used to be, but they also say it’s still legendary.

Place

LionFish

Erasmo Castellanos Q. 1857, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, Tijuana, BC

My ex-girlfriend loved LionFish; it was her favorite restaurant, mostly because they served as many chiles toreados as she desired. They mimic the menu from La Cevicheria Nais and other restaurants, but at a value. The place is decorated with cheesy neon signs, and it has grown in size and popularity since I started going. They now have a second restaurant “LionFish La Terraza” in the third part of Tijuana. I’ve visited numerous times with friends, but given the choice, there are many other places I would rather be.

Not C-Biche in La Cacho. I’m not sure if they were having a bad day when I visited, but I left without looking back. Perhaps Puerto Cocina Urbana in Zona Río. They had Belching Beaver’s Phantom Bride on tap when I visited, just one of a great selection of craft beers. The oysters were on point, I got a shrimp al pastor quesadilla that had a nice paprika kick with a tinge of pineapple, and a massive tostada with a seafood medley.

There are many places I’ve never been. I still haven’t been to Mariscos Ruben or Erizo Marketo by Chef Plascencia. Mariscos La Guerrerense from Ensenada just got here a few days before I finished writing all this. It is next on my list.

New places open. Classics fade away. And I am sure many more gems are missing. Everyone has their own favorite Tijuana seafood place. But after a decade, these are mine.

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