Since opening in 1981, Tijuana’s first American-style shopping mall—Plaza Río on Paseo de los Heroes in Zona Río, less than a mile from the San Ysidro border crossing— has never been far off from any of its Southern Californian counterparts, right down to a food court with the usual forgettable spread: burgers, subs, sushi, stir-fry, and other fast-food fare.
That all changed in May, when Foodgarden—the city’s landmark outdoor food court, starring an array of the city’s internationally acclaimed Culinary Art School graduates—opened a second, larger location on the mall’s southeast corner. Designed by Tijuana architect Manuel Martinez, the posh cafeteria houses 12 eateries including a Sinaloa-style pozolería, French rotisserie, Lebanese deli, fonditas serving omelettes stuffed with marlin and cochinita pibil and pork belly on ciabatta, and a mini-incarnation of Erizo, poster-boy chef Javier Plascencia’s Baja-inspired fish market.
Local craft beer and aguas frescas flow freely, as does a refreshing switch from the Muzak in the mall. On the afternoon of our visit, the sounds of Pink Floyd and Grimes filled the air.