Tijuana – Authentic Mexican Food

Stan Farrow

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Way back in the 1990s Ibizan local Tony Torres, inspired from his visits to Mexico, opened a Tex-Mex restaurant underneath the Hostel Alicante in San Antonio. The food was authentic, but what made it an instant success was the atmosphere. Tony employed very loud and interactive staff, played Mariachi music and even had a selection of different sized sombreros for adults and kids to wear.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Tony decided he could make some improvements to push the atmosphere and authenticity even further and relocated to a purpose-built venue right by the shouting man at the turn of the millennium. He built it from the ground up with excessive attention to detail, and I’m still reminded of Spielberg’s classic movie, ‘Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom’ as I walk in many years later to see if the food and atmosphere are just as good as they used to be.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter through the doors is that the restaurant looks like it has been chiselled out of a cave. Aztec relics adorn the faux rock walls, and there are indentations everywhere full of little treasures. There’s even a rope bridge, which only children and extreme sports nutters would even think about crossing. The music is still Mariachi and what do I spy over there by the stairs? It’s a bundle of sombreros, which are already diminished as I scan the tables and see them on various laughing heads.

The atmosphere is still raucous, fun and friendly. You would feel just at home here with your family or a group of mates. I take a seat and instantly get a phone call from another table. I had forgotten that each table has an old fashioned phone connected to all of the other tables. Host Tony comes over with a menu and he still has the boundless energy he had when he first dreamed of this concept.

With location and atmosphere ticked, it’s time to check out the food. Now I have a slight aversion to beans which has always scuppered my enjoyment of most Tex-Mex places. Fortunately, Tijuana is as authentically Mexican as they come and I have plenty of options. I’m tempted to try the €13.90 set menu, but then I spot two of my favourite things.

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For starter, I’ve gone for Spicy Chicken Wings – you have 2 choices, and I bypass the BBQ sauce and opt for Spicy. It comes in a little terracotta bowl and the wings are covered in the sauce and herbs. Moist with a crispy skin, the wings are everything I hoped for. My only complaint is the flavour seems to have seeped into my fingers, but then what can you expect?

For main, I’ve pushed the boat out and am soon eating what is honestly one of the best Sirloin steaks I’ve ever had the pleasure of chewing. It’s easily up there in quality with some of the best grill places on the island. The sides are Mexican rice and potatoes so I feel a little bit healthy, but that soon goes when I have dessert. I’m absolutely stuffed, so have plumped for Hierbas. At least having that acts as a sort of shield for the amiable host, and Tony doesn’t force Tequila on me like the rest of the restaurant. I leave feeling contently full and a little jealous of the other diners. They seem to be having too much fun! Next time, I’ll bring a posse.

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