From Dusk Till Dawn
Infamous and notorious for its obscenity, Tijuana actually does seem as wild at first glance as the cult Rodriguez film depicts it; however, dusk turns into dawn before your eyes with the first bite of the world's best tacos and the first sip of autochthonous aromatic Corona.
Before we took this trip many people warned us that visiting Tijuana might be dangerous; life-threatening even. If you ever go there, be sure not to eat anything there, drink only bottled water which you can carry from USA, carry your passport on a string around your neck and tucked under your shirt, have only 20 dollars on you, don’t show others that you are a tourist by taking photos of everything around you, don’t talk to anyone and go back to San Diego as soon as possible – this was the advice and the tips we were given or which we read online while pondering about dropping in on Tijuana and even the company which we used for our travel insurance for getting across the Atlantic did not fail to mention that our policy was no good while we were – in Mexico.
Of course, we did the most fun thing imaginable while staying in San Diego on business – we went to Tijuana. We took a 30-minute tram ride to the border between USA and Mexico at nearby San Ysidro and then walked across… At that point, everything looked as we were told – the border was squeaky clean, quiet and orderly on the American side, while the first inch of the Mexican side was haggard, dirty, worn out, rusty and noisy.
Our arrival to Tijuana truly was shocking. But in a good way.
After a few minutes, we forgot everything we heard about the dangerous Tijuana. This is a wonderful, colorful, sunny, kind and warm town where we felt calm, safe and happy. The joyful mariachi music, family-owned diners with unimaginably tasty tacos, Corona which tastes so much better than the type sold in Europe (clearly, several months of maritime transport causes loss of flavor, given that it is produced solely in Mexico), ridiculously cheap catering prices and people who don’t want to juice more dollars out of you, unlike many other tourist destinations throughout the world, but want everyone to have a good time. We had a blast in Tijuana and this is one of the places we will surely return to!
Talking to Pancho, the owner of the diner where we had the tastiest (and cheapest) meal in North America, we forgot about the time. Hours flew by like minutes, we chugged Coronas on the terrace at first, then at the bar, then dancing, while we tried all possible combinations of colorful tacos: turkey, lamb, pork, fish, veggie, spicy, sweet, every kind, packing with flavor of home-grown avocado, the sting of home-grown jalapenos, the aroma of native smoke and the atmosphere of native happiness.
Tijuana is one of those cities where you feel like home and when you do return home, years will go by before you live to see a day when you won’t reminisce about visiting this heaven on Earth.
You can reach Tijuana from America – on foot. The busiest border crossing in the world is located in San Ysidro, just half an hour’s drive away from downtown San Diego. This is what the pedestrian border looks like from the American side…
… and this is what it looks like from the Mexican side. But, don’t be discouraged. Go to the center of Tijuana on foot and follow the signs. The central street is Avenida Revolucion and it will take you 15 minutes tops to get to it.
You will come across dozens of pharmaceutical ‘salons’ along the way, where you can buy all sorts of things without a prescription… There are also lots of dentists, plastic surgeons, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, urologists, gynecologists…
“Say no to drugs, say yes to tacos” is the mantra of the Los Panchos family-owned diner, one of many located on Avenida Revolucion. We stopped by Los Panchos in order to refresh ourselves with some tacos and a Corona, but we hung around for hours!
We first had a classic Mexican starter… The dips are extremely hot and extremely tasty, while the tortilla chips are home-made and taste fantastic.
Lamb tacos and chicken tacos. Ridiculously tasty… There are no words. We could not stop after this, we tried everything on the Los Panchos tacos menu. Lamb tacos are the best. No, fish… No, chicken… Doh, all of them!
Corona tastes much better than the kind sold in Europe, with a mild lime aroma, even before the served slices are shoved into the bottle… We know that Corona is produced solely in Mexico, but it evidently loses its lure during everlasting transport.
This is what the Los Panchos kitchen looked like after our visit. We didn’t take any probiotics prior to our stay in Tijuana, but there was no need either. I can’t recall ever falling asleep so sweetly and calmly like that night after a good time in Los Panchos.
The entertainment offer on Avenida Revolucion is not exclusively limited to gastronomical pleasures…
The Mexican old dweller, a zebra mule, is also fond of street food.