by Derrik Chinn
Be it birria, lengua, asada, cachete, carnitas, costilla, ojo, pescado or pastor, nothing compares to the international culinary icon that is the almighty taco. Greasy hands down, it is without a doubt Mexico’s gastronomic superstar.
That said, the taco and its grade of deliciousness — much like one’s Kinsey score or underwear preference — is a highly privy matter that varies greatly from person to person. Deciding upon an absolute favorite involves several factors: preparation of whatever type of grilled flesh that fills the tortilla, the masa used to make the tortilla, the presence of a neighboring tire or body shop, which for whatever reason often denotes heightened quality. Even the woman rolling and flattening said masa (and she’s always a woman) into said soon-to-be tortilla plays an essential role; her skill and know-how are of utmost importance to assembling a taco worthy of a ribbon as blue as her eye shadow.
If only this were all as straight-forward as some Einstein formula in which flavor times aesthetic divided by number of bodies crowded around the pastor tower squared equals overall deliciousness. Countless candidates exist, so much that in a city like Tijuana one could easily dine at a different taqueria every day for years and still not exhaust every option. On par with the hunt for the holy grail, the quest would bring about acute diabetes or a series of strokes long before swallowing enough research to crown one lone taco the title of Tijuana’s best.
But that doesn’t stop one from searching anyway.
A few Saturdays ago Turista Libre — along with Life & Food bloggers and Baja poster foodies Kristin and Antonio Diaz de Sandi as cohosts — loaded its trusty bus with 30 or so hungry gabachos from San Diego and Los Angeles for a trek to the four corners of Tijuana in search of the city’s most authentic, incomparable tacos. By no means was this progressive meal an attempt to trick wide-eyed, wider-stomached gringos into thinking they were woofing down the city’s answer to the best tacos, but rather an opportunity to for them to sink their teeth into an array of variations in parts of town they wouldn’t necessarily wander into on their own.
On the menu: quesabirria tacos at Tacos Aaron’s truck outside a Calimax grocery store in El Soler, New York strip and shrimp tacos at Mariscos Tito’s less than a mile from where the border wall trails into the Pacific Ocean in Playas de Tijuana, and pastor and asada at Taqueria La Gloria in La Gloria, a dusty southern offshoot from the free road to Rosarito.
The day wound down with delicious but bizarre ice cream at Tepoznieves in Zona Rio — home of more than 120 flavors that span the tried and true (mango, blackberry, caramel) to the strange and unusual (spicy carrot, lettuce, avocado, rose petal) — followed by a local craft brew sampling at the new Baja Craft Beers Tasting Room off Boulevard Agua Caliente alongside the ruins of Tijuana’s first bullring, where the tap lineup includes more than 30 beers from both Southern California and Northern Baja.
Who’s to say whether our mouths did or did not happen upon Tijuana’s ultimate taco over the course of the day. One thing’s for sure though. We’re all a tad closer to acute diabetes.
Planning on taking the taco tour of Tijuana? Let us know which taco was your favorite!
Derrik Chinn- From unassuming reporter to freedom-loving Turista Libre (free tourist), Derrik Chinn’s reputation as underground concierge to the traveler has grown. Chinn, who has been spidering about in Tijuana with groups of tourists looking for a different kind of Mexico experience, is now sharing some of his insights and perspectives on Baja.com. You can visit him on Facebook.
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