A Food Writer’s Top Tips for Visiting Tijuana
Bill Esparza’s favorite spots in the Mexican city.
Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.
Meet the Insider: Bill Esparza, author of L.A. Mexicano
Bill Esparza is a food journalist, fixer, and owner of Club Tengo Hambre, a culinary tour company based in Mexico. He’s appeared as a food expert on countless television shows, including Netflix’s Street Food USA. His work covering Latin American cuisine has taken him around the globe, eventually winning him a James Beard Award. Here he shares his tips for one of his favorite, most underrated cities in Mexico.
Start your culinary adventure by taking a stroll along Avenida Revolución, also known as La Revu; here you can taste the “original tableside Caesar salad at Caesar’s” and grab “Mexican craft beer flights at local breweries and scope out local art inside Pasaje Rodríguez.” Then, take a detour to Calle Sexta “for a bar crawl. While you’re there, take a peek at the banners outside El Foro Antiguo Palacio Jai Alai to catch a Mexican pop show,” or buy tickets to “a banda show across the street at Las Pulgas.”
“Kool Restaurante is a fashionable space” for everything from “Mexican craft beer to stylish cocktails made with a range of Mexican spirits to both natural and classic wines from the Valle de Guadalupe and beyond. Savage feels like a modern Tijuana classic, with creative, refreshing cocktails” and a zonkey-stripe decor that plays on the city’s iconic zebra-painted burro mascot.
For curios from all over Mexico, slip into Emporium, where you’ll find “talavera, silver from Taxco, jewelry, and a fine selection of guayaberas.” Inside Mercado Hidalgo, you’ll find “artisanal cheeses from various Mexican states, coffee from Veracruz, traditional sweets, and local kitchen accessories,” all great keepsakes to tote across the border.
Full of charm and old-world glamour, Hotel Lafayette puts you in the center of the action of La Revu, where revelry invented by American Prohibition remains to this day. Quartz Hotel & Spa offers a wellness spa, gym, and pool, and downstairs The Park Tijuana is a great spot to meet friends for a drink.
Oryx Restaurante is the latest hot spot to enjoy modern Cali-Baja cuisine in Tijuana, based on fresh ceviches, local produce, and roasted meats. To continue the street food theme, Tras Horizonte has an innovative menu of fire-roasted surf-and-turf tacos, smoky aguachiles, and a mezcal speakeasy out back.