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Tijuana: One Year After Anthony Bourdain

Tijuana, one year after Anthony Bourdain

By Tony Tee, reprinted with permission of San Diego Red

Tony Tee and Anthony Bourdain 'do' Tijuana.


In January of 2012, I received a phone call that could only be described as one of the coolest phone calls in my 30 or so years of existence thus far. Local film and television producer Ivan Garcia called me and advised me he had suggested my name to be a night-life guide to Anthony Bourdain during the filming of “No Reservations” Baja episode. I said ‘yes’ immediately but was somewhat in disbelief about the matter. I knew right away it wasn’t because of the numerous emails I had sent the show in the late 2000’s telling them how interesting and unique the state of Baja California was.

It couldn’t have been because of those emails more than 4 years ago. Or could it?

Rumors had been circulating in the first weeks on 2012 and, to be more precise, my friend and blogger Jason “Tijuanalandia” Fritz had been vehement about his sources confirming all over social media. Rumors and only rumors until one magic day I got an email from the production company that makes the show asking me to hang out with the world famous chef/author and drop some knowledge about Tijuana which pretty much confirmed it. I held my breath, thought about what was written, let it all sink in and finally came to the realization of what was happening. I WAS GOING TO HANG OUT WITH ANTHONY BOURDAIN! Needless to say the whole situation seemed surreal or even dream like. I was crossing the border by car looking at my smart phone emails and asked the Tostilocos (Bourdain actually tried and liked ) vendor to pinch me so I could awaken from this slumber. The man looked over and smiled but never pinched me. I tried to carry on the rest of my meaningless day and existence like nothing was different but could no longer resist, even though the email said to not tell anyone, I told my mama. –

Why would they ask me to host such a well known man in the city of sin ( Tijuana )? People may or may not know this, but for the last six years I have played a part (unknowingly) in somehow helping to destroy certain stereotypes about the notoriously raunchy Tijuana nightlife scene. I am a party promoter. I have booked and done shows with hundreds of internet relevant dj’s and music acts from dozens of countries.

It’s been known around town that I am fun to drink with and know the spots to do it right at. Apparently those credentials and my reputation around town are enough to host a world class Gringo, writer and chef like Bourdain, lucky me.


The producers of the show told me to meet Bourdain on the last Friday of January 2012, 7pm at the legendary downtown Tijuana dive bar, Dandy del Sur. At first he seemed rigid and uninterested but after downing Tequila shot after shot we got into the chat zone perfectly. He is as cool as he seems to be on the show, maybe cooler. Right away he was curious to know about the uniqueness of being smashed up between two cultures and countries and I was eager to tell him about it. We spoke about Tijuana past, present, future, drug trade, tourism and other subjects for about ninety minutes, 6 shots and 4 beers each. We made our way across the street to the Tijuana Hipster Mecca known as La Mezcalera, downed the Mezcal sampler and made our way to what was probably the funniest/coolest part of the whole damn show, the pink limo incident. By this time we were pretty drunk and

I surprised him with a 1987 pink Lincoln Continental limousine and to quote the man himself “ the effing thing didn’t start.” The limo battery was dead and a huge crowd gathered to see the freaks inside of it, we finally got a jump start and went to Las Ahumaderas to eat some tacos. The next day we hung out at the Caliente race track. Bourdain was hung over, we lost our bets, they did not come through on providing monkeys riding greyhound dogs as promised and the Caliente rep kept bugging us to wear hats with the brand on them on camera. It’s easy to see why this segment never aired on TV and only made it to the travel channel website.

One year later, Tijuana is at best — the same as it always has been. It’s very hard to gauge any measurable results from having No Reservations or positive stories about Tijuana from other huge media outlets ( NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal ) like we have had since the airing of the episode. Strong stereotypes and horror stories still exist and will continue to exist about violence, drugs and cheap hookers. Let’s face it, the city finds itself in a geographical location that will always allow those stereotypes to exist. We can’t hide where we are and why certain kinds of people find it easy to take advantage of the situation and promote or indulge in drugs and prostitution. If anything, maybe we can have learned to embrace it and laugh about it. The show did help kick start a food trend that had already existed and will continue to thrive. The Baja Med cuisine was heavily featured on the episode. Aside from a local soccer team winning it all in Mexico ( something that people from other than this region simply don’t care about it ) the food scene is the only thing that has really benefited from the show.

On a personal level, the show has gotten me recognized every single day. A Las Vegas elevator on the strip, a karaoke bar full of American tourists, the super market, restaurants, the street and a whole bunch of bars are only the some of the places I have been recognized.

I will live on in reruns of the show on the travel channel (only reason worth watching travel channel). The taco place I took Bourdain to in Tijuana has immortalized me forever with a huge five foot poster of me and the chef during our visit. Tacos de Swaggdero for life. is designed as the first portal in Spanish that provides information/entertainment and news in SanDiego and the Tijuana / Baja California region. Our main objective is that you find all the information that you need in SanDiegoRed and BECOME  your preferred portal. We are committed to working tirelessly to meet your expectations and deliver the best website in Spanish. Contact or call (858) 454-511.

Edgy, exciting and a weird combination of hip and retro, Tijuana is a magnet for those seeking off-beat travel adventures.  Let us know what your favorite Tijuana adventure has been! is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

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About Carla White

Carla White is a freelance writer, public relations/marketing consultant and event organizer based in Ensenada, Baja, California. Carla and her husband Jim moved to Baja in 2003 from the Los Angeles area believing that, thanks to the internet and satellite communications, they could continue working from home while enjoying a richer, more affordable lifestyle. So far, they’ve been right. Connect with Carla Google+

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