“Don’t worry, tacos will be flying in your face in a minute.” So said Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA, our leader and the man who anointed Tacos Los Salceados the best tacos in Mexico. We were all suffering from food fatigue, but even after 19 meals in 48 hours, it was clear that Esparza might be right.
A decade a ago, Jalisco native Javier Campos Gutierrez invented a taco that utilizes griddled cheese as the tortilla. Word of his state-of-the-art tacos spread and he soon outgrew his street cart beginnings. Now he draws steady crowds to his taqueria on Avenida Ermita, across the street from Tijuana’s Barbacoa Ermita.
We each received a four-taco platter, but the blackboard menu was so enticing that I couldn’t wait. Enter a smoked trout taco on a devastating flour tortilla with fresh cut avocado, smoky salsa roja and crema. Esparza explained that Gutierrez was previously a saucier, so it was no surprise to find unusual salsas, including a masterful sweet-tart tamarind salsa that didn’t belong on smoked fish, but still tasted really good.
Los Salceados produces several masterful tacos, but it was his dessert taco that blew me away, featuring the crispy cheese tortilla, thin-sliced beef, onions, and mango puree, topped with colorful purees of cherry and strawberry and a sprinkling of chopped pecans. This was a daring combination of savory and sweet elements that complemented each other to the fullest and didn’t lean too far to one side of the flavor spectrum.
We also tried tacos on a thick corn tortillas with sliced New York steak and a complementary taco with shrimp, mushroom and New York steak. Gutierrez’s signature queso taco was very good, but probably not as good as the “dessert” taco, the fried cheese envelope covered with avocado, cream and salsa.
Five tacos were only a fraction of the Tacos Salceados roster, but that was enough to hint at untold treasures and salsas, which will all be devoured on a return visit.
Thank you to the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crossborder Agency, Cotuco (Tijuana Tourism Board), and Tijuana Canirac (Tijuana Restaurant Association) for sponsoring our eye-opening culinary tour of northern Baja. Thank you to Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA for leading the tour and for supplying so much invaluable information.<