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One of the Best Taquerías in Tijuana Is Surrounded by Prostitutes, Addicts, and Horny Gringos

The "nameless taquería" is located in the Zona Norte of Tijuana, a go-to spot for drugs, sex, and other forms of debauchery. Even better, it happens to serve some of the best tacos in the region.

Tony Ley

This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in July 2015.

A few years back, I was invited to act as a tour guide to Anthony Bourdain, a.k.a. "the modern adventurer and conqueror of palates," for his show No Reservations. We went to the bars in downtown Tijuana to drink mezcal, beer, and tequila, followed by tacos at Las Ahumaderas, a typical local taquería. Everything seemed perfect. But ever since then, people—well, just the haters—keep bugging me about taking the great Anthony Bourdain to that taquería because, according to many of them, it's not even close to being the best in Tijuana.

I got all sorts of hate messages on social media, even when I had nothing to do with the choosing of the taquería. The production team of No Reservations chose the place, basing their decision on local people's suggestions. Although to be honest, it was not that bad. The taquería's owners put up a very ugly and pixelated picture of our visit; now, every time that I go there, they give me free tacos. It's worth dealing with the funny text messages that people send me whenever they go to the place and see my picture on the wall.

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The nameless taquería. Photos by the author.

But, where are the best tacos in Tijuana, then? I don't know and I don't care. There are many delicious taquerías in almost every corner of this beautiful border town, and unlike many other parts of the country, the tacos here are made with meat cooked over coal. People from Tijuana have no idea about those street tacos of Mexico City, where the meat floats on a pool of fat. Here, we throw the meat on the grill and wait for it to get that smoky flavor, and then add a bunch of fresh guacamole on top of it. And that's a motherfucking Northern taco!

However, if you want a taquería that truly expresses the ambience of this city, then you should go to "the nameless taquería," a street vendor located on the corner of Coahuila and Niños Héroes streets in the north of Tijuana. There is no other taquería that lives up to the old cliché of Tijuana's debauchery like this one.

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The north of Tijuana (Zona Norte) is located right next to the American border, a few kilometers away from San Diego, California. But unlike "America's finest city" to the north, Zona Norte is very tolerant of prostitution and drugs (and pretty well-known worldwide for this same reason). It doesn't sleep 24/7/365, and it's always ready for anyone looking for a good time. The nameless taquería never sleeps, either.

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Near those roasted meat tacos, there is an endless perverted party: pushers, prostitutes, drag queens, deported pimps, addicts, and the main customers: the horny gringos that pay in $1 bills.

But Zona Norte is not that bad. I mean, it's not that bad if you don't care about seeing human trafficking victims walk around dressed as schoolgirls, drag queens waiting outside stinky motels, gringos (male and female) prostituting themselves for 20 dollars, bums, and tattooed ex-cons that look straight out of a movie with Edward James Olmos. There's a very peculiar charm to all of this.

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The nameless taquería is the official provider of this perverted Disneyland. All day and all night, it supplies it with birria and carne asada tacos. "Here, there's always a dead body coming out of a trunk in the mornings," the people from the taco place tell me, referring to a new wave of violence stemming from drug-dealing gangs exerting control their lucrative business.

Within the taquería's repertoire, the birria (lamb) tacos are the best. The meat is transported by bicycle from the nearby kitchen. If you ask for "golden" tacos, they fry the corn tortillas in the lamb fat to make them crispier and give them more flavor. For toppings, they typically stick with just a bit of sliced red onion. The carne asada tacos are served with a big dollop of guacamole over a double tortilla. The meat for the adobada ones is cooked in a trompo (like shawarma), which weighs 100 pounds and is the biggest in the city, according to the employees; the tacos are served with a big portion of roasted pineapple. There is no way around it: you eat two of these tacos—which you can get for a mere 50 pesos (about $3), plus a soda—and you are full.

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All the people that criticized me for taking Bourdain to Las Ahumaderas can honestly go fuck themselves. Do they want the most representative taquería in Tijuana? Then go to Zona Norte and eat birria tacos around whores and drug addicts, because those are the true staples of the city: a mix of American and Mexican culture, with a strong dose of debauchery.

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The nameless taquería is a witness to the sad lives of the people who work and roam around the city hungry. It's not the most appropriate place to bring your family, but the last time I was there, I met a 20-year-old American girl who was eating tacos with her boyfriend and her father, whom she took to a brothel as a Father's Day present.

I hope the guy liked his tacos. I'm not sure about his experience at the brothel, as I didn't go with them. I didn't feel like a foam sex show at 4 PM on a Tuesday. And even less so after my birria tacos feast.