Ban the thought of filling up on nachos, rice and beans when dining on a budget in Tijuana. You can save the bucks for fine dining, and there’s plenty of that here, and still explore the city through it’s more modest eating establishments. Here are five places with fine brews and some of the best food in Tijuana. You will eat very, very well!
After 9/11 it wasn’t easy to enjoy Tijuana’s culinary scene, but cross-border systems are being stream-lined and now heading over for a day or dinner is becoming simpler. Long before the 1970’s spring break bacchanals in Tijuana, the city was the west-coast Prohibition escape for celebrities and mobsters. During WW2, it was the drinking hole for the Pacific Fleet. Tourism dried up with terrorism fears as new passport restrictions were enforced. Recently innovations have made visiting Tijuana much easier (Border crossing tips here) and cartel business has moved south of Mexico City. The area’s opened up again to its glorious heart – full of feasting and celebrating life through serving the best food in Tijuana.
Here’s a few of the fantastico places to find great meals and drinks that will help you save money for shopping and more travel:
1.Mercado Hildalgo – The oldest open marketplace in the central city buzzes with activity every day of the year. It’s most fun to visit during the holidays, when sugar skulls and decorations abound for Dia de los Muertos and other Mexican Celebrations. Fresh fruit, cheeses, cafes and bakeries surround a central parking area where a permanent Chapel rises and seasonal altars rotate below. If you’re courageous, look for roasted crickets or Tequila imbued with rattlesnake!
2.El Taller, Baja Med Cocina – Not far from the Racetrack (now greyhounds rather than horses, and casino.) Their celebrated pizza innovations slice easily with the thin crust and fresh, original ingredients (escargot anyone?!) A bit trendy, the open kitchen and lengthy dining room is often packed.
3. Telefonica Gastro Park – Set up in a large lot at the base of the old Telephone building, this food truck/small business courtyard is packed with fresh, local and creative drinks and bites, many based on traditional recipes. Black Zapote tea anyone? Craft beers, long tables and hammocks make it a perfect hangout for a meal with friends. Save room for coffee and desserts!
4. Norte Brewing Company – Not everyone enters through the parking garage but it’s easier to manage than finding the Norte Brewing Companyentrance via a narrow passage set deep off Avenida Revolucion. The effort is worth it for the breezy space looks out over rooftops and the beer is stellar. Flavors rotate but inventive beers such as Foreign Club Robust Porter (Nitro y CO2,) Penthouse IPA and the thickly delicious, Sugar Daddy Chocolate Oatmeal Stout just might be on tap. If you’re a true craft beer afficianado, and very lucky, ask about Súpermash, which uses the nugget of the hop flower. The blooms come direct from Rancho Loza-La Casa Del Lupulo, precursors in the cultivation of organic hops in the valle de Guadalupe.
5. Hua Huis, Restaurante de Mariscos – Now that the Tijuana airport bridge is open you can walk in and out of the country, airplane reservation in hand, simply enough. It’s a great convenience but you miss visiting Tijuana. Should you be heading in or out of the U.S. at the Otay Mesa border crossing and find yourself hungry, stop at the blue storefront of Hua Huis. The seafood is traditionally prepared as ceviche, grilled, or marinated, and the meats are tender as well. A small bar keeps drinks flowing too.
Here’s a brief video on where to find some of the best food in Tijuana:
Where to find the best food in Tijuana for casual diners:
- Mercado Hildalgo – The central market isn’t far from the CECUT cultural center in the Zona Rio.
- El Taller Baja Med Cocina: Full bar, sauces and salsas, and famous for their Pizza Baja Med
- Telefonica Gastro Park: Full courtyard surrounded by food trucks and temporary vendors. Dog-friendly and open to all ages.
- Norte Brewing Company: In Zona Centro off steps from Avenida Revolucion.
- Hua Huis, Restaurante de Mariscos: Seafood specialties served minutes from the Tijuana Airport
Thank you to our Binational Liason, Juan Arturo Saldaña Angulo with Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau. The trip sponsors, Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and Rosarito Beach Hotel. And the transportation provided by Ticketon and Turismo Express.
I hope that you enjoyed this post and will share! Three images to pin:
Thanks for the recommendations! We have been to the Mercado Hidalgo but not to the other places in here. Time to go back to Tijuana son.
I hope you do visit soon, Ruth.
Great article and photos, but fried crickets? No thank you!!! 🙂
Thanks, Marilyn, I understand about the crickets. Strange but I can handle odd mollusks and small bites of insects but ask me to swallow a greasy spoonful of Menudo (tripe!) or pork rind and my tummy buckles.
Wow! I had no idea that there was such a great food scene in Tijuana. I’d love to visit and check out the markets.
Thanks, Sue, I hope you get a chance to come down and see for yourself!
What a great overview of the TJ food scene. You have a few places I haven’t been to and am excited to check out.
Why thanks, Alexa, couldn’t have done this without you!
Interesting collection of Tijuana dining spots. Mercado Hildalgo looks like a lot of fun, but I think I’ll pass on the roasted crickets/
I can understand about the crickets but there’s so much more to see and taste. You’d love it, Donna.
I’m all for food and whenever I travel, I always search for the best foodie spots! Thank you for this list, I’ll be bookmarking it in the future when I visit Tijuana. 😀
Great to hear, Aileen. There’s always something new to try south of the border.
It’s been ages since I’ve been to TJ. Looks like you’ve uncovered some tasty discoveries!
You’d enjoy the food scene, Carole, plus there’s so much more to explore in the city.
Loved you video Elaine! Really captures the experience 🙂
Thanks so much,Gary. I’ve got a long way to go with editing but enjoy the process, so your words mean a lot.
Thx for this post, Elaine. I haven’t been to Tijuana for a very long time & my memories weren’t all that favourable. Your post has made me want to revisit this Mexican border town.
Let me know when you want to go. I’m certain there are chocolholic spots to be explored!
mmm getting hungry already looking at these, not even gagging at the fried cricket one. Craving to experience the lively bustle of Mercado Hildalgo now
I think, being the intrepid adventurer you are, Mercado Hildalgo would tickle you.
I really regret that I did not visit when I was in California though I thought about it. Seems like a great place to try out new (at least to me) dishes and experience quite an authentic cuisine.
Dear Arzo, you’ll just have to return!
Looks incredible. I definitely need to add Tijuana to the list.
The beer and cocktail scene is perfect for you, Mags!
The food looks innovative and delicious. It’s very hard to find Mexican food (or Tex-Mex) where I live. Thanks for all the choices of places to eat.
It is a very innovative food scene, high and low!
Such lists are really helpful. I remember landing in a town of Greece and not sure where to have food.
I am not sure when I will get to Tijuana but definitely this will be helpful to those who are trying to get there.
Landing in a new town hungry is never easy unless you have a local pick you up! I hope you get to visit TJ one day, Indrani.
It looks like Tijuana has plenty of choices in the dining department. The central market looks like a good spot to wander around. What’s the average price of a meal in an average restaurant?
I have visited the central market several times but haven’t eaten in the restaurants there. I imagine a meal, fresh and generous, could be had for under $10 U.S. easily.
Yum! My mouth is watering just looking at the range of dining option available! I really love the dog friendly place – although I’m not sure about the fried crickets at Mercado Hiladgo!
This is a very short list of only the casual dining places and there’s so much more. Fine dining in Tijuana is another whole story.
Thanks for these! I love the sound of an open marketplace, so Mercado Hildalgo sounds like fun! I would love to visit during the holidays, to catch a Mexican celebration. Not sure how I would go with roasted crickets or Tequila imbued with rattlesnake though!!
The Dia de los Muertes celebrations inside the market are something wonderful to witness. I’d like to return for the Christmas and perhaps Easter as well.
As a budget traveller, the Mercado Hidalgo would probably be my first choice in Tijuana but all these places look decent & affordable. Which was your favourite?!
You’d be happily surprised at how affordable eating out in TJ is. My favorite at the moment is Telefonica Gastro Park only because there’s so much to be sampled there and the chefs are remarkable.
Wow, I had no idea Tijuana was a major tourist zone now and with amazing food, things have definitely changed since I last visited oh, just about 30 years ago.
You’re long overdue on a Baja Norte visit, Noel!
I’ve never really thought of Tijuana as a foodie stop. Thanks for opening my eyes and tempting my taste buds!
Definitely a food hub and these are only a few of the casual spots. There’s a vibrant Baja Med and Cuisine scene going on in the city as well.
All of these locations looked and sounded amazing. I think I would be most excited for the Mercado Hildalgo. I love open marketplaces!
The Mercado Hildalgo is only one of several marketplaces. Another in downtown winds through walkways and courtyards. So much to explore!