After a night spent out late on Sixth Street or in the pulsating, mind-altering nightclub known as Clássico, the body needs two things: restorative caffeine, and something chile-spiked and offal-y. The latter is easily found anywhere in downtown Tijuana, with menudo and birria practically bursting out from every corner, but the former is surprisingly hard to find.
While there's something to be said for a steaming mug of spiced, sweet café de olla in a market fonda or standing at a cart selling tamales, most coffee in Tijuana is truly awful; it's made from instant crystals or is so weak it might as well be water. Starbucks and its local predecessor, D'Volada, do a lot of business, but let's face it, Starbucks is rascuache and D'Volada's more about smoothies than quality coffee.
It was with an audible chirp of my internal caffeine-positioning system, then, that I drove past Das Cortez, on Calle Brasil in the oh-so-hipster neighborhood of La Cacho, south of downtown on the hill with the giant Mexican flag you can see from ten miles away.
Run by Jethro Sepúlveda and Javier López Encinas, Das Cortez is absolutely tiny, a coffee bar that's maybe six feet by three feet, with a small patio next door with a few seats. People drive up, double-park flagrantly, and get their coffee to go, or to drink standing on the corner.
It's all espresso-based drinks, and it's all GOOD espresso-based drinks. The coffee they normally roast is called Dama Rossa, a blend of five different beans, all 100 percent shade-grown Arabicas from Veracruz state in eastern Mexico. The milk is organic and steamed to order (unlike a certain mermaid-type chain coffeeshop we could mention), and there are a couple of sandwiches and pastries available for order.
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They do make frozen and cold drinks, including a hell of an affogato (espresso and ice cream!) but start with just an espresso, a shot with crema nearly half a centimeter thick. They'll sweeten it for you if you want; just sip it, because it's the best espresso in the state. If you're more of a cappuccino drinker, you can get one made that's the equivalent of any morning cappuccino in Italy.
Das Cortez just celebrated its first anniversary, and they're planning to add locations and open a roasting facility. I can't wait; while La Cacho's really centrally located to almost anywhere in the city, I want easy access to that coffee anywhere in Tijuana I may roam; y ¡a la chingada con Starbucks!
Brasil 8920-B (corner of Durango, four blocks east of Fundadores), La Cacho, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico; 011-52-664-104-1954; dascortez.com. Open Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.