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.).