Book — Confessions of a Tour Guide: Chapter 19. An Actual Guide Part 1: Tacos + Beer. Nevermind… Cocktails.

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Chapter 19. An Actual Guide Part 1: Tacos + Beer. Nevermind… Cocktails.

 

I’m almost done with my text for the taco issue. I went to food porn places that some dude on Instagram name @Baja_Cali_Food posted. His food porn always made me salivate… so I went to check out the places. One of them (El Nuevo Tecolote) is one of the best tacos I’ve had. The rest were more than okay… but I still prefer my neighborhood tacos.

Up next, going to San Diego to take pictures of tacos by other writers and the cover photo. 

I have a sweet gig going. 


 

This is my third year doing the taco issue. And it will be my second taco cover…. Tacover… 

 

Dumb.

 

The first tacover was at my friend’s taco/torta truck named Corazón de Torta. I didn’t choose the location, someone in the office did. Turns out they are cousins.

 

A sneaky way to make the cover.

 

And my hand was on the cover.


 

Corazón de Torta was barely opening and it wasn’t that great… but I’ve been back recently and holy shit… I can easily say they have the best tongue taco in the region, better than most of Tijuana, and only beaten by Birrieria Guadalajara in Ensenada.

 

Guadalajara has the best tacos de lengua I have ever tried. 


But this is not about Guadalajara or San Diego. This is mostly about Tijuana and just a bit of Ensenada. I do declare sir! Tijuana has the best tacos in the mother fucking world.

 

Just hands down.

 

Best fucking tacos in the world. 

 

And I’m going to take it a step further… 

 

We even have the best fucking beer in the world.

 

An outrageous fucking claim… but that’s the reason I live here.

 

And it is all insanely cheap! Especially if you earn dollars.

 

Fuck do I love this city.


 

And most people only come to fuck prostitutes and leave.

 

Not knowing the food and beer paradise behind the dirty streets.

 

It’s fucking crazy how much food and drinking there is.


 

Tijuana’s cocktail game is not to par with other places in the world. I can only name less than a handful that prepares great cocktails and just a dozen places that can perhaps make a cocktail.

 

Let’s get that shit out of the way.

 

Nortico, the speakeasy behind Oryx Capital probably has the best cocktails… but they pricey!

 

It’s a great experience to take people to Oryx… then lead them to the bathroom… and to the secret green wall. Every once in a while I meet people that know about Oryx and still don’t know about the speakeasy. Drinks here are going to cost $10+ each. That’s fucking dollars. So yeah. Pricey but worth it.

 

Tras / Horizonte follows closely. They had a bartender from San Francisco that ended up being an alcoholic and fell in love with a girl that I dated briefly… now they live somewhere else.

 

Fucking Tijuana.

 

Anyway. Their cocktails are flashy, very inspired, and good… but lack the alcohol taste. I’ve probably drank a couple and felt nothing. Also. Pricey. Drinks are actually better priced than the food… Maybe because Tras / Horizonte used to be Kokopelli, which used to be so fucking good and cheap. And now it hurts to pay almost triple for their tacos… when a few years back were better and way cheaper…

 

By the way.

 

Everything might have changed by the time you read this. Everything might change fucking tomorrow.

 

This city changes way too fast.


 

What I try to do in my tours… is download the map of the city that my brain has… into other people’s brains.

 

But that’s impossible.

 

We’re not machines… not just yet.

 

But I do have a map similar to Metroid Prime’s Gamecube style of mapping. The 3D map. If you played the game you know the joys of navigating that map. In fact… they did everything in that game. It should be played more. I should play more Metroids…


 

Continuing with the cocktail list… let’s keep it simple. The other two were not in downtown Tijuana… and downtown is my stomping grounds.

 

Bar Nelson. Find me there on a regular basis… though less and less each day since there is no oxygen in the bar, only cigarette smoke. I’m going to die of lung cancer before any of those fucking smokers. 

 

Bar Nelson is fucking cheap. Cocktail experts… not really. It’s a divey bar and the main bartender and owner knows what they are doing. They can whip up a cocktail. Erica makes a great fucking margarita. And everyone goes for the “especiales” which used to be called “mamadas” years before. 

 

They’ve had the same especial for decades. Old people go to Nelson. Young people go to Nelson. It’s a spectacle.

 

And I’m that asshole that plays jazz in the jukebox. 

 

It happened yesterday.

 

The bartender, Liz, lost the toin coss, so she said “go play jazz.” She hates jazz. Almost everyone hates jazz. I don’t get it.

 

I enjoy it. A lot. But who knows… 

 

Yesterday though… I took it too far. Four jazz songs in a row is too much for bar attendees. I heard what I presume was a gay patron shout out “who is playing this crappy music?” I can tell he was gay because of the way he said and the way he looked. Yes. My gaydar is semi-accurate. I can also tell because the whole table seemed to be gay. His shirt was on too tight. And he had GREEN fucking hair in a stylish fashion.

 

Nelson. Boom. Roasted.


 

La Justina and Cine Tonalá both are newish have fancy cocktails and they are doing a decent job (but a bit pricey). La Justina is much better at it, but their food got stupid small and expensive. It’s more enjoyable to just get a couple of drinks and munch on their free popcorn with ash and salt. 

 

Don’t try the old fashioned at Cine Tonalá. I told the owner this and she told me they made it better. It’s still not good. I’ve had better old fashioned at dive bars in the US than this fancy cocktail place. I got to tell her again… but I’m not buying it. She’ll serve me one, once she comes back from Europe.

The rest of the cocktail menu is pretty good. They have mezcal and some gin drinks that are refreshing. Their beer menu is a fucking mess. The food is hit or miss. Some of it is delicious and well priced, some of it is way overpriced for how tiny it can be.

Try this one, the Santa Tlali (maracuya mezcal):

My ex used to love the beet and spinach salad with goat cheese. I enjoy their burger… dare to say one of the best in town. But that’s not saying much. Tacos are what’s best here… burgers… not so much.

I mean… I’ll probably take In N’ Out over almost any burger in TJ. I just tried a burger in San Diego at a place called “The Friendly.” They don’t give you options, they just serve you this dirty greasy fucking double cheeseburger that would make Randy from Trailer Park Boys proud. Dirty greasy bomb perfection for $5. I could munch on those fuckers forever and then die of diarrhea.


 

That’s pretty much it for cocktails! All dive bars carry the standards, but not every bartender knows what the fuck they are doing besides opening beers and pouring tequila shots.


 

Oh shit!

 

Almost forgot… 

 

El Tinieblo inside La Cevichería Nais… That place has a smokey old fashioned made with mezcal that is fucking killer.

 

They also have “mezcalitas” margaritas made with mezcal and they are all fucking tasty as fuck. There’s the “pulp friction” which is a chamoy based margarita (again… with mezcal, called mezcalitas). La cuchi cuchi which is like the classic mezcalita, a mango one, a spearmint one that is perfect to cleanse the palate for whatever the fuck you are gonna do next. 

 

And the food is fucking amazing. The ambiance is great too. The service is a bit too much, they take your napkin away as soon as you barely wrinkle it. Dudes. Relax. I don’t need my barely dirty napkin taken away immediately.

 

The cocktail list is extensive and it has never disappointed.

 

So yeah.

 

For the best cocktails in downtown… El Tinieblo (which is getting remodeled right now) inside La Cevicheria Nais (which is your only option right now due to the aforementioned remodeling).


 

Honorary mention. Caesar’s Restaurant. 

 

I actually don’t think I’ve ever had a cocktail here. I just know I trust that they can actually do good work. Caesar’s is a Tijuana staple. The place where caesar salad was invented. Though it has changed. It was acquired by the Plascencias in 2011 (I believe) and remodeled. It’s a bustling success. They have great live music on some nights. Their menu is extensive and most of it is delicious (avoid the salmon fingers… DO FUCKING go for the tuetano aka bone marrow or for their oysters Rockefeller). The best thing about Caesar’s… It’s not that expensive. 

 

It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting with the publisher/editor of one of the only surviving real surf magazines out there, The Surfer’s Journal. 

 

He read my articles before and wanted to chat with me. I ended up hanging out with the guy at Caesar’s for a couple hours drinking and snacking. We had a couple beers each, a couple shots of mezcal, Rockefeller oysters, and something else… I forgot. But the check was $28 or something like that. He was happy.

 

We then went to Valle de Guadalupe the following day to Finca Altozano for his interview with Javier Plascencia, Tijuana’s most coveted chef.

 

That’s the second time I’m in his presence, but the first time I actually sit with him at a table. He is a fucking chill guy living the best life you can possibly imagine. Busy as fuck. But who wouldn’t want to be him…? The “inventor” of Baja-Med. The trendy tasty cuisine of this region. Octopus is his strength. 

 

Octopus is the strength here. And seafood in general. And tacos.

 

Fucking tacos. That’s what I was going to write about and look how fucking deviated I got.


 

Other honorary mention, the classic of classics, Dandy Del Sur.

 

I started going there lately in exchange of Nelson. The main reason is… NO SMOKING ALLOWED at Dandy’s. I can breathe.

 

It’s a classic. Almost legendary. People come from far to drink at Dandy’s. 

Dandy’s: where the legendary Anthony Bourdain set foot to have a drink with la Señora Aida whose birthday is one day before mine. They have their picture framed in the bar.

 

And I got a VIP card.

 

I didn’t do anything to deserve it but pay 250 pesos (around $14 at the time I bought it). It guarantees a 2 x 1 in any first (national) drink every day. The card pays for itself in 7-10 visits. It has other perks, but the best is the 2 x 1.

 

They suck at cocktails. They are strong and not well mixed. They also have their own “especial” but I haven’t bothered to try it. 

 

I know about their cocktails because they have specials depending on the day. 3 whiskeys for 90 pesos ($5). Straight up shitty whisky. 

 

Palomas 2 x 1. Fucking shitty as palomas.

 

Cuba libres. Shitty. 

 

I’m not sure if they can actually prepare actual drinks. I guess I’ll have to venture into cocktails there… but I rather just get a couple of beers 2 x 1 and get out.

 

That’s what I did yesterday.

 

After visiting the new Mamut taproom on Calle Sexta. What used to be Praga 2. What before was the shitty strip club that I mentioned with Hudson and Penner.

 

Right across from Dandy del Sur. Near La Cevichería Nais.

 

All this shit is nearby. And there’s still dozens of bars and restaurants that I haven’t ventured. 

 

And that’s just fucking downtown Tijuana… when I go to other regions of the city it feels like I went to another fucking city.


 

I have a sexy photo shoot in an hour and I haven’t had breakfast. This turned out to be about cocktails. Next will be about tacos. Or perhaps beer. 

 

Beer is going to be extensive… should save that shit for last.


 

About the sexy photoshoot… this is newgrounds for me. I had a friend model for me a couple times and she is sexy as hell, but it was more urban wear that looked like an American Apparel ad or something. Not really because AA likes to use exotic and really young looking chicks. This girl has a rocking body, but a tomboy feel. The point is… it was sexy, but not as sexy as the next.

 

I did a different sexy shoot with a different friend. She got semi-naked… the only problem is she isn’t that hot. It was still a fun shoot and turned out some great frames that she liked. So that she is happy means I’m happy.

 

And today… in an hour or so… yep… An hour. 

 

Another friend designs lingerie for “suicide type” looking chicks. You know… like goth lingerie. So I’m meeting two models who I have no idea who they are and taking pictures at a laundromat for a lingerie brand.

 

I’m sort of nervous… sort of excited… 

 

Let’s see how it goes. 

 

I’m not getting paid… so I should actually do some real work after (and I have two paid gigs lined up this weekend…I’m set).


 

Double Date Tour Success – I Should Have Brought My Camera

I’m still continuing to give tours, I’m just not really calling them tours. The tours I give are usually much different than the rest of the other tour guides. I tend to befriend everyone that goes on my tours and it just doesn’t feel like I’m a tour guide. That’s why I say I’m not doing them anymore. I don’t know what to call them…

I had a blast yesterday in a sort-of double date tour.

I have done this before. A couple wants to tour around Tijuana and wants someone to show them where to go. The problem is that just as one tour guide is that I don’t want to be third-wheeling. It would be really awkward. So whenever I am presented with this circumstance, I invite a lady friend with all expenses covered to go out. This time, I asked a friend, who I just found out that she is my neighbor, to join us in this Tijuana Adventure.

We met Ryan and his wife Meara right under the arch on 1st street. Ryan and Meara have been married for 8 years (or was it 18?) have been together since their college years. Ryan from Minnesota, Meara from Oregon, they have lived all over the USA and have traveled quite a bit from all the stories they told me. And since they are keen of traveling, they have been to Tijuana more than just a few times sans my help (they even have Global Entry).

My friend/date, works retail up in Hillcrest, so she is used to crossing everyday and living the border lifestyle. However, she had never been to some of the places I took the tour on.  And what fancy feast did we have (not the cat food).

Since Ryan and Meara have been to Tijuana a few times, they already knew my favorite breweries, so they wanted to see much more than craft beer besides Plaza Fiesta and Norte. This made me venture into new territory as well, keeping the name of this website to a real ADVENTURE.

First stop was Nelson bar, a Tijuana classic and one of the oldest bars in the city (also, the first building to have a working elevator). They wanted to see what cocktails Tijuana offers so this was a must stop. Nelson’s is known for having Especial, a simple drink that consists of light and dark rum, splash of sprite and coke (on a highball glass with salted rim).

We hit up La Justina next for a bite to eat and more cocktails. I always get the Snake Oil here, which is bourbon, fernet, coke and two roasted marshmallows (in your hipster mason jar glass). We sampled some of the menu including tacos de lengua, there steam buns (which are amazing), oysters, and a tostada served on a bean sauce.

After a short walk, I showed them Bresca (that resembles North Park to my taste), and Colectivo 9. But we were looking for cocktails, so we went to El Tinieblo, the bar behind la Cevicheria Nais. The Mezcalitas here are amazing (margaritas but made with mezcal). I know they have other drinks that are great, but they haven’t upgraded their menu and I always forget to ask for the ones that are not in there.

We then took the long walk to Teléfonica Gastro Truck Park. No cocktails here, but we enjoyed a few craft beers and Ryan and Meara split a hot dog from Humo. After that, we enjoyed another long walk through the maze of La Cacho towards CazaClub, a restaurant that I knew about, but had never been inside (I used to live across the street from there). Cocktails here were good, but way too sweet. I got the “Homenaje” (Homage) which was bourbon with basel and tobacco leaves and honey. I expected a smokey taste, all I got was sweetness. The other drink I tried was the Coco-rosa, a pink frosty drink that tasted like a piña colada/Brandy Alexander but without the grated nutmeg (and if I’m going to have a girly drink, put some nutmeg please, I love that touch on girly drinks).

We did heavy walking through the eve, because after that, we walked to Plaza Fiesta. I took them to the newest craft beer tap room, El Sauzal. They had some DJ playing good dancy music but too loud for us to enjoy a conversation. Here I tried their Bob Barley beer, but I was also already pretty drunk, details are fuzzy, all I can say is that it was good.

We stopped by the other new tap room from Rosarito, Los Reyes Brew. Both Ryan and myself opted for their double IPA while the girls chose water. I had a glass of water as well and… well… it was really nice good cucumber water. About the double IPA… it didn’t taste like an IPA. It was too syrupy and had no hoppiness to it. If an IPA is not hoppy, I’m not happy (especially a double). Still fairly drinkable.

And for the last stop… Paralelo 28. I had Silenus’ Xanthos IPA and like I mentioned on the beer guide, it is one of my favorite beers in Tijuana. We parted ways after that, taking an Uber home and Ryan and Meara to the border.

When I got home, my neighbor had a party going. I stopped by for one drink (some random wine in a plastic cup cuz my neighbor got mad after grabbing a glass). The party went until 5:30 a.m. I didn’t. Wine kills me and it did it’s job fine. I went to bed and did not hear the roaring party.

FOR THIS WHOLE ADVENTURE, I didn’t have my camera. I thought about carrying it everywhere, but for some reason, I opted against it. Not going to happen anymore, next time I’ll bring my camera with me so this is not just a wall of text.

The only picture I have is of this morning. The small community patio of the apartment building woke up like this. I can only imagine what my neighbor’s apartment looks like (apparently it got vandalized… )

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My cousin says I should be a new form of Anthony Bourdain. And that’s kinda what I’m going for. I don’t know how much Anthony Bourdain would charge to join him in an adventure, but I would like to think it’s nothing. I am still going to give tours, but tours are reserved for awesome people that don’t cancel on  me.

I have also invited other writers to share their Tijuana Adventures to give this blog diversity and include everything that what Tijuana can be. Another friend is also designing a logo, so far he only provided this:

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It’s better than what I have done, but I think it can still be way better.

Let’s see how this goes!

Thanks for reading and let me know if you like the new Tijuana Adventure.

Matingas