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The true cross-border spirit

La Taqueria Vegiee vegan shrimp and fish
  • La Taqueria Vegiee vegan shrimp and fish

La Taquería Vegiee

2036 Avenida Ocampo, Downtown Tijuana

The word “vegiee” is misspelled, but the vegan attitude at La Taqueria Vegiee is fully pronounced. Vegetables pretend to be meat and seafood at this 100 percent vegan local inside the aforementioned Gastro Park. They serve tacos or tostadas of asada, adobada, shrimp, Ensenada-style (fish), or gobernador (shrimp and cheese) that closely resemble the non-vegan variety. Salsas to complement. I have heard meat lovers say they wouldn’t have know they are eating vegan food.

KoMe Taqueria

KoMe Taqueria

KoMe Taquería

8174 Calle Séptima, Downtown Tijuana

Around the corner from 7th Street and Avenida Revolución sits an experimental taco restaurant that looks similar to the dozens of simple taquerías in downtown Tijuana. But KoMe, a fusion of Korea and Mexico cooking, provides a completely different experience. Korean barbecue meets a traditional Mexican taquería with handmade corn tortillas filled with a variety of meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated Korean style. Tacos are topped with kimchi, cilantro and onions, and salsas engineered to match each meat. Tacos go for $1.50–$2; they also offer mulitas, huaraches, and quesadillas for double the price.

La Carmelita Cocina de Hogar

La Carmelita Cocina de Hogar

La Carmelita Cocina de Hogar

2036 Avenida Ocampo, Downtown Tijuana

Inside the hipster food truck collective known as Teléfonica Gastro Park are a handful of scrumptious taco options. Chef José Rodrigo Figueroa brings to the table traditional Mexican plates inspired by grandma’s home cooking served on colorful, rustic dinnerware. Le Carmelita Cocina de Hogar's menu features soups (sopa de fideos is a popular choice), pellizcadas (sope-like concoction), tortas (can’t go wrong with lengua), enchiladas, enmoladas, and, of course, tacos. There are three kinds of tacos to choose from; each goes for $2 or all for $5. Choose from roasted cauliflower covered in house mole topped with sesame seeds on a bed of Mexican red rice, grilled nopales with panela cheese, or pork cubes covered in a green tomatillo and chile morita salsa.

Otto's Grill taqueso/quesotaco

Otto's Grill taqueso/quesotaco

Otto’s Grill

2036 Avenida Ocampo, Downtown Tijuana

There are two seafood taquerías inside Teléfonica: the “high urban kitchen by author” Tacosteño, and the simple red shack known as Otto’s Grill. I prefer the latter by a wide margin. Can you really call it a taco if there is no tortilla? Introducing the “taqueso,” by Otto. Instead of a tortilla, they roll your choice of octopus, shrimp, or marlin in crusty burnt cheese that functions as the shell. The usual taco de mariscos toppings become a small side salad. Their tacos follow the same burnt-cheese gimmick — a small quesotaco inside a tortilla. They also have a variety of tostadas and fresh seafood. For $2.50 you can get one of the best spicy tuna tostadas in town, with sesame seeds, chipotle aioli, chunky pieces of tuna, cucumber, and chives.

Corazón de Torta Guisados y Grill

2490 Commercial Street, Sherman Heights

Next to a Mexican mechanic and muffler shop by the 25th and Commercial trolley station sits a new food truck run by border native and Tijuana foodie Antonio “Tony Tee” Ley. Focusing on authentic “abuelita style” cooking, the menu is crafted by the chef of TJ truck La Carmelita and includes their popular roasted cauliflower with mole. For $2.50 you can grab tacos de birria and asada like the ones found on the streets of Tijuana. For a dollar more, try a short-rib taco in red guajillo salsa or a crunchy chicharrón prensado (compressed pork rind) taco with morita salsa. Tortas, small burritos wrapped in tinfoil, Mexican candy, and other delicacies are also available. Ley achieved local fame after appearing in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. To bring the true cross-border attitude to this venture, Tony Tee hired all binationals who cross daily to work.

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