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Tijuana Taco Safari with Ed’s Manifesto: NY Steak Tacos with Mayonnaise and Salsa at a 57-Year-Old Institution

2:02 PM PST on March 8, 2022

What exactly defines a Tijuana-style taco?

A thick scoop of un-watered down guacamole that is purposely not seasoned to not outshine the rest of the taco? (After all, using limón in Michoacán, Mexico's avocado capital, is considered sacrilegious.) Is it using handmade tortillas made from nixtamal? Is it honoring carne asada and actually using carbón to grill meat over an open fire? Taco nerds and these days even Roy Choi have thought about this question since the first euphoric moment that someone took a bite of a taco in Tijuana, probably at a Poblanos offshoot featuring all these fine things.

But what if we told you that a TJ-style carne asada taco can also be an extremely thin-cut New York steak on a tortilla with mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, and a fiery adulterated green salsa? Well, taco followers, this is Tijuana-style, too, and the way tacos have been done at the Tijuana taco institution Tacos Don Esteban since 1965.

For the fourth stop in our Tijuana taco safari series on Youtube with Ed Calderon, the urban survivalist took us to his spot for new york steak tacos in zona centro. Ironically, just a few businesses away from the touristy (and still very delicious) spot Tacos Franc. The place specializes in the aforementioned curious style of TJ-style tacos. Before you dismiss a taco for having mayonnaise in it, remember that Tijuana is a city that doesn't give a fuck about what you think about whether their tacos are authentic or not.

Calderon philosophizes on this very topic on the way to this taquería, "There is a weird freedom to Tijuana that is captive and fascinating to people who are not from here; Tijuana is never anyone's first choice, but they still always end up here." Baja California only became a state in Mexico in 1952 and is still creating its traditions (a state like Jalisco, which has been a part of Mexico since 1823, has over 100 years of food traditions over Baja California.)

Fellow Tijuanense and chef Jose Figueroa summed it up best in Tijuana's episode of Broken Bread: "We work with what little we've got."

And if you can get over your skeptical mayo usage ways, Don Esteban's historic TJ taco will be an object of desire that you will find yourself craving in the middle of a weekend and considering driving to Tijuana just to eat. It is perhaps the poster child of a fronterizo (border) taco, a taco that doesn't quite fit in ni aquí ni alla, because it doesn't need to.

Tijuana's tacos are in a class of their own.

Check out the episode below.

Tacos Don Esteban. Av. Pio Pico 1230, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico

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