Ten years ago, when you crossed into Tijuana, Avenida Revolución was a seven block long assault on your senses. Street carts frying hot dogs and churros or dishing up tacos varios, annoying touts trying to pull you into stores full of cheap schlock or long shelves of medication, restaurants with prices listed only in dollars, and bars--dozens of them--blaring low-fi music and promising all manner of dubious drinks, two for a dollar.
Then, in 2008, as the narcoviolencia scared off all the tourists, La Revo fell into decline. It's bizarre to see things fall to ruin before your eyes, but upon my return to Baja in 2009, Avenida Revolución was--and still largely is--deserted. Large stores have been converted into impromptu dance halls; the touts are a lot less aggressive. Revolución will return, I'm sure, but it's a shadow of its former self.
The tijuanenses, though, stopped partying only briefly. Tired of waiting for American bros and bridesmaids on "danger" tours to come back, they reinvented Tijuana and its club scene by turning the best part of Revolución perpendicular and aiming it straight down Flores Magón, known to all and sundry as Calle Sexta--Sixth Street. Bars sprang up around old standbys like El Dandy del Sur, people dressed up to go out, and the music started once again, but much, much less naco.
That the bar scene would rebound isn't surprising--Tijuana's always been a party town--but something interesting has happened. Just as the street stands are standing shoulder to shoulder with alta cocina restaurants, the clubs are increasingly intermixed with high-end bars; places that specialize in tequila, in mezcal, and in craft beer. La Sexta has become the drinking hub of Tijuana in refreshing ways, ways that don't involve neon-green "margaritas" served by jaded waitresses to clueless estadounidenses.
Yes, that's right. Craft beer has started to explode in Tijuana, just as it did in its sister city north of la línea. Baja has as many craft breweries as Orange County, but unlike here, the breweries don't have tasting rooms. (The exception is Cervecería Tijuana, a short walk south of downtown on Fundadores.) If you want to drink good Baja beer, you need to go to a beer bar, which is where Tasca comes in.
When I was trying desperately to source cerveza artesanal, I had many conversations with brewers in Tijuana, and every single one of them told me to go to Tasca on la Sexta.
It's a non-descript, slightly cavernous bar located three quarters of the way down Sixth Street from Revolución to Constitución, unremarkable inside except for the fact that directly to your right as you walk in is an absolutely enormous collection of bottled beers, most imported, and some produced locally. If you can't live without a Franziskaner Weißbier, or some fruity lambic from Belgium, this is the place for you.
Still, unless you live in Baja, chances are you want to sample what the beer geeks have been doing. Rámuri, Insurgentes, Frontera, Funes, Zesde, and Cucapá are all good places to start, though availability may vary. Breweries change their production often, so it's best to ask--many of the staff members speak good English.
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There's a small patio in the back where you can light up your (completely legal) Cuban cigar and talk in a slightly quieter atmosphere; there's sometimes live music, and there are occasional tasting parties. The folks behind Tasca run a bottle shop (with on-site drinking, don't you love Tijuana?) called Tasca Boutique where you can pick up the beers sold at Tasca on Calle Sexta.
The prices, incidentally, are low. Normal-sized bottles of local craft brews go for 50 pesos apiece--that's $3.70, far less than craft brews go for at beer bars on the U.S. side.
Tasca is located at Calle Sexta, 1906, Tijuana, B.C.; between Revolución and Constitución; 011-52-664-308-9507; www.tasca.mx. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tasca Boutique (or Tasquita) is located on Blv. Agua Caliente, near Big Boy.