Mariscos El Mazateño: Home of the Finest Tacos de Camarón Enchilados Around
On a weekend morning near the Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana, two hundred tijuanenses are gathered under a blue roof, talking and eating and drinking and causing an uproarious din you'll hear from the main street. Fifty more people are parking and waiting for tables. All 200 people are eating exactly the same thing: tacos de camarón enchilado, spiced shrimp tacos.
This is Mariscos El Mazateño, a weekend morning ritual from everyone from attorneys to students to families to nuns from a nearby convent, and it is such a part of Tijuana city life that you can get a taxi from the border with no more Spanish than, "Al Mazateño, por favor." They'll know--everyone knows, and everyone goes.
Once you sit, you'll order your food and drink and then be brought a foam cup of consomé de camarón, shrimp broth, proof that no Mexican ever wastes anything that might taste good with just a little more work. Those shrimp shells have to go somewhere, and so everyone gets a bit of salty soup to dress with onions, cilantro and lime. You can use your spoon, but nobody will mind if you drink it like coffee.
The menu is short, sweet, and to the point: various tacos, including fried snapper, octopus with or without chile, shrimp with or without chile. If you order tostadas or any kind of ceviche or cocktail, you'll see the cocktail station spring to life: they're fast, and they're excellent, but they're not why there's always a scrum. Ask, though, if they have cahuamanta (a gumbo-like soup made from manta ray) or tuna fin stew; these tend to sell out early.
Back to the tacos, though, the Super Mazateña is what you see most people eating: an improbably large number of shrimp, swimming in dark red chile sauce, tucked into enormous flour tortillas with quesillo (milky, salty string cheese originally from Oaxaca). You'll be given a tub of shredded, salted cabbage, a container of table cream, pico de gallo salsa, limes, and various hot sauces. Dress your taco as you like it, and then eat. One's good; two is better.
The best part about these enormous tacos is the cost: 50 pesos ($4) for a huge taco.
Mariscos El Mazateño is located at Calzada Tecnológico 473, on the corner of Popotla in the Tomás Aquino section of Tijuana. If that's your first stop, it's easier to get there from the Otay Mesa border crossing. They start serving at 7 a.m. and stop when they run out (and in no case later than 5:30 p.m.).
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.