The owner of Primera Taza in Boyle Heights, Chuy Tovar, is an expert on Mexican food trends. Through his social media posts, I became motivated to visit Tijuana and sample what there is to offer. What held me back is that I knew that I would have to research my trip. Fortunately, a company called Club Tengo Hambre took away that barrier.
Club Tengo Hambre is a US company that specializes in leading roving supper clubs in various Mexican cities: Tijuana, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada and Mexico City. On Twitter, I happened to see the ad for their Tijuana afternoon outing. Since it was during Labor Day weekend and I didn’t have plans, I signed up with my credit card. The price was $75 per person.
I departed early Sunday morning and because I encountered no traffic, I arrived to the San Diego area well ahead of schedule. Our meetup location was the McDonald’s in San Ysidro. Our Club Tengo Hambre host, Violeta, arrived and introduced herself. To warm everyone up, she had everyone introduce themselves and state where they were from.
Despite the fact that I failed to fully follow their directions by printing out the required immigration document ahead of time, we moved across the border quickly. Violeta had arranged to transport us via a private van. She proudly displayed a shiny bottle of La Fiera mezcal and said that was a premium mezcal that is exclusive to Club Tengo Hambre. Violeta distributed some cups and each of us had enjoy a few sips of this delicious smooth and smoke flavored beverage.
We boarded the van within a short distance of the border crossing and picked up a couple at the designated pick-up location in Tijuana. The couple had been vacationing nearby and signed up for the food tour. Two people in our group were celebrating their respective birthdays.
Our first stop was at El Paisa, a bold blue mobile kitchen parked on Francisco Javier Mina. The outside of their trailer featured the seafood they offered. El Paisa prepares their mariscos Sinaloan-style. Violeta ordered octopus, sea snail and shrimp tostadas. We passed the tortilla chips around and enjoyed how the flavors nicely melded together. One person in our group visited a nearby store and purchased some beer and shared them. How nice was that?
We boarded our van and took a short ride to Telefonica Gastro Park. This is a food hall with combined exterior and interior space. Food trucks and shacks are lined up along the outside perimeter. Tables and shade umbrellas make for nice alfresco dining and the music had everyone in a good mood. Walking towards the back, you enter the inside of the building where there is a bakery and a vendor selling desserts.
Most people head to the back because that is where craft beer is available. They go under the name of Lirica and had a list of about 20 different brews. Given names like: Windy Hill, Coconut Vanilla Stout, Mulligan and Honey, I suspected they were marketing their brews for Americans. I selected the Peyote, a Pale Ale. I was happy with my selection as it was full bodied and smooth.
For food, Violeta ordered the taqueso, an exclusive from Otto’s Grill. They take your choice of octopus, shrimp or marlin, add cheese and form this into a rectangular shape. Ours was made with marlin and placed on top of a taco. The result is crusty burnt cheese that functions as a shell for the seafood in lieu of a tortilla.
Voleta also ordered a couple of sashimi dishes. One had sizeable pieces of fresh tuna mixed with red peppers and olives. For me, it was like a Spanish tapa dish because I think they used piquillo peppers. The other sashimi dish more closely resembled poke because it had diced cucumbers, tomatoes and white sesame seeds. Everyone was quite happy with the selections.
Teorema Cervecería was our next stop. Violeta offered us a flight of beers and one of our choosing in a glass. A jenga game was brought to our table. Everyone except for me seemed to be quite familiar with the game. The person that dropped the stack had to take a shot of mezcal. Needless to say, we were quite happy after stopping here. I enjoyed the Quadrupel and the Nitro Stout.
Our last stop was at Taconazo. This was an opportunity to sample the types of tacos you would find in LA. Carne Asada and Al Pastor tacos quickly arrived to our table. The marinades they use on both meats is quite delicious and with the fresh corn tortilla, it was much better than most that I’ve experienced in the LA area. One person on our group took it took it to the next level by ordering a torta with shredded braised beef.
Violeta was the consummate host. She was vivacious, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the areas we visited. She obviously cultivated relationships with many of the businesses we frequented because they greeted her warmly.
Tijuana’s vibrant culinary, arts and craft beer culture has landed the city on the New York Times’ list of the 52 Places to Go in 2017. Tijuana ranked No. 8, right after Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and before Detroit, which it called “a comeback city set to make good on its promise.” If you are interested in visiting Tijuana, I highly recommend you contact Club Tengo Hambre.
Places mentioned in this review:
- El Paisa, Francisco Javier Mina 1695, Centro, 22010 Tijuana
- Telefonica Gastro Park, Boulevard Aguacaliente #8924, 22000 Tijuana,
- Teorema Cervecería, Avenida Revolución #1332 Tijuana
- Taconazo, Paseo Ensenada 712, Jardines Playas de Tijuana, 22500 Tijuana
Club Tengo Hambre