Are you looking for the best tacos in Tijuana? Aren’t we all? Tijuana, arguably, has some of the best tacos in Mexico representing a lot of regional styles. People come from all over the world to party and eat tacos in Tijuana. It is a legendary experience that you aren’t likely to forget.
Interestingly, Tijuana is the largest municipality in Mexico with more than 2 million people. Tacos are an integral part of the culture and local identity of the city. A sense of community is formed around local taquerías (taco shops) and a good deal of the population eats tacos several times a week.
Even though I have lived in Guadalajara for over a decade, I grew up in San Diego and learned Spanish in Tijuana. I have been looking for great Tijuana tacos since I was 15 years old. Tijuana is a great city that is misunderstood by people who have never actually been there.
I hope this article encourages you to get a passport and go on a taco tour to Tijuana. There are some world-class culinary experiences for those willing to cross the line.
An Overview Of The Best Tacos In Tijuana
Tijuana is one of the most diverse cities in Mexico. The geography of the northern border is a defining factor in the development of the city.
Tourism has been an important part of the local economy since the 19th century. The wildly successful novel Ramona, published in 1884 by Helen Hunt Jackson sparked a wave of interest in traveling to Mexico and Tijuana just happened to be down the street.
The prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s turned Tijuana into the second most important gaming center in the world. The entertainment industry brought people to play but also to work. To this day, the economy in Tijuana brings Mexicans from across the country to work. Many of them can cook too.
In my opinion, Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Tijuana are the three best taco destinations because of their diversity. You can find Mexican cuisine from just about every corner of the republic in one place. Just look at the names of the taco stands, El Poblano, El Mazateño, and El Tapatío, among many other regional distinctions.
Best Tacos In Tijuana
I hope you are hungry because this list is full of the best tacos in Tijuana.
It is a generally acepted fact about Mexican cuisine that tacos are king.
Make it a point to try something new. Don’t get me wrong, the carne asada tacos at Tacos El Franc are delicious but try to mix it up and order something that you haven’t tried before.
A great way to do this is with a campechano taco. Campechano is a mixture when referring to tacos or cocktails. Ordering a taco campechano is often times a mixture of half beef and half chorizo sausage. At Tacos Fitos, the campechano is a mixture of beef birria and tripe, which are the two most popular tacos at the taquería.
1. Tacos El Franc
Start here. If you are just planning your first trip to Tijuana to eat tacos, start with Tacos El Franc. It is a great example of the style of tacos that Tijuana has become famous for. Tacos El Franc is the best taqueria to get your feet wet and test the waters of tacos in Tijuana. I imagine that someone who has never visited Tijuana before crosses the border, gets tacos at el Franc, and instantly falls in love with Mexico.
Tacos El Franc is constantly packed and there is a party atmosphere. There is no alcohol sold here but a lot of people are coming and going from the local bars. It gets loud.
They are hard to miss on a Friday night. They set up some tables on the sidewalk, the right lane of traffic becomes a drive-thru, and the viene-viene parking helpers span the entire block. There are usually some musicians working for tips on the sidewalk outside. It is a party and even the people waiting in line are excited and talking to one another.
The carne asada taco at Tacos El Franc is legandary. People come to Tijuana just to eat here and then head to the borderline. They use an interesting marinade of orange juice, garlic salt, cinnamon, and oregano but the quality ingredients make all the difference.
Each table gets a little plate of cucumbers, radishes, and limes. The cucumber comes peeled and the fluorescent green color signals a fresh, crisp flavor. They pay extra for the freshest ingredients from avocados for the guacamole to the meat for the tacos.
- Tacos Address: Blvd Sánchez Taboada 9257, Zonaeste, Tijuana
- What To Order: Carne asada taco and a campechano de tripa taco
- Pro Tip: Get there early because the lines can be intimidating at peak hours
2. Tacos Fitos
Tacos Fitos is one of the finest examples of Baja California-style birria. They are so good, that they have creative rivalry between fans of Jalisco-style birria and Baja-style birria.
Tijuana-style birria is made with beef while most authentic Jalisco-style birria is made with goat meat. And that isn’t the only difference. Tijuana-style birria uses stewed and shredded cuts of meat and a broth with a higher fat content.
The tortillas are dipped in the birria broth before being warmed up on the comal painting them red. The oily broth adds a ton of flavor to the birria. It is added to the tortilla beforehand, it is added to the taco, and you need to get a small cup of the broth to dip the tacos into. The broth is incorporated into every stage of the taco.
The taco guys (taqueros) put on a show throwing a laddle full of broth into the air and catching it in the taco while they wrap it up in paper.
This is one of the best places to try a tripe taco for the first time. The tripe is mild and tastes more like the broth than like tripe. The campechano taco comes with half beef birria and half tripe.
The tripe is the perfect complement to the beef adding an element of umami. Tripe is actually quite mild and takes on the flavor of the birria spices and adds texture.
Tacos Fitos is located across the street from Mercado Hidalgo. Getting tacos and exploring the market is one of the coolest things to do in Tijuana.
- Tacos Fitos Address: Francisco Javier Mina 1695, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana
- What To Order: Tripa taco and tacos campechanos
- Pro Tip: There is a private parking lot 100 ft down the block
3. Erizo Marketo
Erizo Marketo has evolved and grown into one of the best seafood restaurants in Tijuana. It was opened in 2009 by Javier Plascencia as a simple testiment to the Baja-style street vendors selling shells, ceviches, and tacos.
Erizo is a very comfortable restaurant to visit. Sonora Street has plenty of parking because of the Chapultepec mall so if you can’t park in front of the restaurant you can park a half block away at the mall. The restaurant is beautiful and there is even a view of the country club golf course.
This is the restaurant that convinced me to try a taco with tripe in it.
The Taco Goloso is a mixture of white fish, cecina de res (salt-cured sheets of beef), and crispy tripe. It is garnished with radish, avocado, and some chiles toreados. Tripe is just a mild complement but it really works well with the surf and turf combination taking on their flavor but adding texture.
The Taco Tijuanero is the picture garnished with pico de gallo salsa (cilantro, onion, tomato). That is grilled octopus, spicy shrimp, and cecina de res on a bed of beans and cheese. The surf and turf thing gets me every time. I love the combination of the salty cecina with the seafood. It just works.
Javier Plascencia throws some fun parties at his restaurants. There is a food festival or a party coming up all the time. They invite chefs from all over the place to cook and have a good time. Follow his social media profiles to see what is in the works. You can always find a great taco at a Javier Plascencia event.
- Tacos Address: Calle Sonora 3808-2, Chapultepec, Tijuana
- What To Order: Taco goloso and a sea urchin shot
- Pro Tip: If there is no parking in the spaces in front of the restaurant I park in the Chapultepec Mall parking lot.
4. Tacos El Gallito
Back in Guadalajara I’m not used to seeing these really large taco restaurnts with so many different taco options. Not only do they have a lot of different types of tacos but they are done really well.
Suadero is one of my favorite types of tacos. It is cooked like carnitas is cooked in a cauldron of park fat. There are a ton of different cuts of meat simmering in the pork fat just sharing all the juices. Suadero is a very traditional style of tacos from Mexico City but they are done excellent at El Gallito.
One thing to keep in mind when ordering adobada tacos is that al pastor and adobada are two different things. Look at the color of the adobo and the thickness of the choice of meat on the trompo. I can’t find the quote, but Lalo Villar of La Ruta de la Garnacha on YouTube is the person who brought to my attention the differences between Pastor and Adobada. They are similar but they are not the same thing. Eat the tacos de pastor in Mexico City and then eat the tacos de adobada in Tijuana and tell me they are the same thing. There is a night and day difference.
Make sure to try the taco de adobada at El Gallito. It is a classic Tijuana style that is hard to find outside of Baja California. El Gallito has one of my favorite tacos de adobada. The adobo marinate is flavorful and a delight to the taste buds. Their tortillas are some of the best fresh tortillas I tasted in Tijuana and the slice of nopal is cooked perfectly. It makes the perfect garnish both visually and palatably.
Tacos El Gallito is located in food rich Otay Constituyentes neighborhood on a lateral street of Blvd. Lázaro Cárdenas. That is the east side of the airport on the road that goes to Tecate.
- Tacos Address: Blvd. Lázaro Cárdenas 606, Otay Constituyentes, Tijuana
- What To Order: Tacos de adobada or a California burrito
- Pro Tip: Stop here to eat before getting in the Otay Mesa borderline
5. Mariscos El Mazateño
Mariscos El Mazateño needs to be on the list of travelers who want to get off the tourist track. It is situated in a located in a blue-collar, middle-class neighborhood and is wildly popular. There is a very large tianguis street market on Saturday and parking is very difficult.
It is so worth it to schedule around the busy times because the food is so good.
La Mazateña taco from Mariscos El Mazateño is easily one of the best tacos in Tijuana that is worth crossing the border for. Beautifully butterflied shrimp are fried and passed through a chile sauce that uses chile de arbol but isn’t as spicy as one would expect. It has more flavor than raw heat. They are served quesadilla style with a mild white cheese melted on the comal.
Each taco costs $90 pesos but comes with generous portions.
Something that everyone remembers about El Mazateño is the little cup of seafood broth that the servers put on the table with some chips. It is one of the richest and most flavorful shrimp-based broths that I have tried in my life. It is perfect to dip your shrimp taco into like it were a salsa.
If I lived in Tijuana, I would work Mariscos El Mazateño into my weekly routine. Two big tacos make a perfect lunch.
- Taco Address: Calz del Tecnológico 473, Tomas Aquino, Tijuana
- What To Order: Camaron enchilado (chile shrimp)
- Pro Tip: Be aware that on Saturdays there is a large tianguis street market with very limited parking
6. Xolo Tacos
Xolo Tacos is famous for birria and bone marrow tacos. The birria broth is intensely flavorful and deep red color. The broth is used to hydrate everything that goes into the taco. The tortillas are dipped in the broth painting them red before they are heated up. The taco gets a spoonful of broth ladled on top. The beef bone is dipped in the broth before the marrow is scooped out into the taco. It feels like a gluttonous, over-the-top experience.
The restaurant group has a small chain of good restaurants in odd locations. I know of one brick-and-mortar taco shop in Downtown Tijuana but the Otay location is a palapa and the Loma Blanca is an open-air food cart. Every one of the locations is super comfortable with the red plastic tables and chairs covered by a shade awning.
- Tacos Address: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Campos Deportivos, Tijuana
- What To Order: Bone marrow birria taco
- Pro Tip: Go to the Cuesta Otay location or the Loma Blanca location on the free road to Rosarito
These guys are absolute taco legends in Tijuana. They operated a trailer in Downtown Tijuana for a decade building up a cult following for serving delicous, exotic tacos with funny names. Kokopelli is the god of mischief and their tacos feel mischievious.
Today, the taco is just called the gringo. Back at the old taco stand, it was called something like ‘gringo en tuxedo de vacaciones.’ It is chile relleno taco with shrimp dusted in chile powder. The taco is called a gringo because the chile relleno is made with chile California AKA chile Anaheim.
The other taco that people go crazy for is the kraken. It is a grilled octopus taco in a Mexican basil pesto.
The newest incarnation of Tacos Kokopelli is called Tras Horizonte. It is a full on, huge restaurant with ample parking that serves Sunday brunch and Friday night cocktails. While the tacos are the star of the show, there is a deep menu of unique recipes.
- Tacos Address: Río Colorado 9680, Marron, Tijuana
- What To Order: The gringo or the kraken
8. Los Arcos
Los Arcos is the first restaurant that I got really excited about visiting in TJ. My friend’s parents would always hype it up. If they knew you were going to Tijuana they would ask if you were going to Los Arcos. It was almost expected that if you were going to Tijuana for any other reason, you had to just stop at Los Arcos while you were there.
Originally from Los Arcos restaurant group, the taco gobernador even has a trademark on the name. The Los Arcos restaurant group is from Sinaloa and they made the taco for the governor in the 1990s, Francisco Labastida Ochoa, just like his wife used to make. The governor loved the tacos so much he named them the taco gobernador.
The taco gobernador is a shrimp machaca quesadilla with rajas of chile poblano and onion. The corn tortilla is cooked on the grill which gives it a smokey taste.
The taco gobernador is really just the beginning of the extensive menu at Los Arcos. I am a sucker for the whole fish at Los Arcos to make tacos out of. You get a huge stack of tortillas, salsas, garnishes, and a big, beautiful red snapper or pargo to ‘taquear.’
After Sinaloa (Cuiliacán and Mazatlán), Tijuana was one of the earliest restaurant locations. Expanding to anther state is complicated but Tijuana fell in love with Los Arcos. To this day, Los Arcos Tijuana is one of the most important restaurants in the portfolio.
- Tacos Address: Blvd. Salinas y Escuadrón 201 1000, Aviacion, Tijuana
- What To Order: While fish and a taco gobernador
- Pro Tip: Get your car washed at Sharky’s next door before heading back home
9. Taquería Las 3 Salsas ‘Las Ahumaderas’
There are a lot of good tacos de adobada in Tijuana and Las 3 Salsas certainly has one of the best. What they do better than anymost anyone is the grilled beef tripe taco.
Las 3 Salsas is the last taquería on a row of taco shops called Las Ahumaderas because of all the smoke their grills put out.
I thought that Las 3 Salsas was the best taco shop in a alley of great tacos.
- Tacos Address: Av. Guillermo Prieto 2620, America, Tijuana
- What To Order: Grilled tripe taco, adobada taco, or campechano taco
- Pro Tip: Go late at night after a pub crawl. Its a classic late-night dive
10. Tacos El Paisa ‘Las Ahumaderas’
Tacos El Paisa is one of the most famous taquerías in Tijuana. This is where Anthony Bourdain ate the night he was rolling around in a pink limosine. That same pink limosine that broke down in the 6th Street bar district, blocking traffic, and needed a jump start there and then.
Las Ahumaderas is a mandatory stop if you are looking for a through Tijuana taco tour.
- Tacos Address: Av. Guillermo Prieto 9770, America, Tijuana
- What To Order: Get the taco campechano like Anthony Bourdain
- Pro Tip: They are open until 4 am making it a great late night spot
11. Tacos de Birria “El Sabroso”
- Tacos Address: Av. Aguascalientes 2237, Col. Madero, Tijuana
- What To Order: Taco de birria and a consumé (broth)
- Pro Tip: Parking is a nightmare. Take Uber from somewhere else
12. El Frances
- Tacos Address: Paseo Playas de Tijuana 1442, Costa de Oro, Tijuana
- What To Order: Taco de tripa and taco de suadero
- Pro Tip: There is a medium-sized parking lot next door
Tijuana Taco Map
Sometimes it is easier to plan your taco tour around a neighborhood. The traffic in Tijuana can be challenging especially at rush hour so planning to stay in one geographic area can save some time.
I would definitely look up the best tacos in Playas de Tijuana before hitting the beach. You will want to know who closes early and who opens late so you can arrange both.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tacos in Tijuana
I see these questions come up all the time when people start talking about tacos in Tijuana.
Is Tijuana safe?
No, not particularily. Tijuana has a complicated history of security. Travelers need to take some basic precautions in order to maximize their injoymnet.
I recommend taking a look at the full 6,000-word article on safety in Tijuana to learn how to avoid the most common risks and scams.
How do I get to Tijuana?
Tijuana is easily accessible from San Diego. I consider San Diego and Tijuana to be one metropolitan region spread across two countries.
I prefer to drive to Tijuana from San Diego but I have been driving in Mexico for entire adult life.
If you prefer not to drive in Mexico, there is plent of parking on the US side of the border in San Ysidro and you can walk across the border in a few minutes. Taxis and Uber are plentiful once you cross to the Mexican side of the border.
Many people use the Cross Border Xpress bridge to access the Tijuana Airport from San Diego. If you arrive at the airport a few hours before your flight and have some time to kill, Otay Mesa has some great tacos just a short taxi ride away.
Final Thoughts About The Best Tacos In Tijuana
Tijuana has a long history as a tourist and taco destination. The entertainment industry has over a hundred years of history and the city is one of the most diverse places in Mexico.
There are so many great tacos in Tijuana that you need to go in with a plan. The Tijuana taco tour planning is on line with the Mexico City taco planning. There is a lot of traffic and getting from Playas to Otay can take a while.
Make it a point to choose a neighborhood two or three taquerías that are all open at the same time within walking distance. Downtown, Playas, and Otay all have dozens of great options if you want to plan out a delicous taco tour.
I highly recommend that you make sure your passport is valid and plan a trip to Tijuana. I am going to be putting out a bunch of content about Tijuana because it is such a fun and exciting destination that is often misunderstood. Get to know the real Tijuana starting with the tacos.