The Real Baja

The evolution of Food Garden Tijuana

New Flavors, Same Place

The evolution of Food Garden TijuanaImages and video by Brianna Ballesteros
Images and video by Brianna Ballesteros

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Food Garden is part of a global trend, an improved version of what are commonly known as food courts, or food halls. Food Garden has many offerings in a single spot, with gourmet food, elaborate meals, local flavor and everything is freshly made.

Food Garden Founder, Ricardo Nevarez Martinez, was inspired on a trip to Malaysia, where he noticed that all restaurants and stands work together, and together made up a community where all benefited. He was inspired by this concept.

Ricardo has been involved in the culinary field for a while. Originally from Durango, he started to work on projects in Tijuana to promote a positive change in the city. He mentioned that within this industry there are three commitments: quality, employment, and social responsibility.

All of the food stands within Food Garden have a maximum of one or two other locations, and are comprised of people that are passionate about food. Opening up shop in Food Garden is a great opportunity for those that are just getting started, because the initial investment and rent overhead can be a barrier for entry for new arrivals, and this is a sort of launch pad for those who want to get their feet wet.

Food Garden offers something for everybody: everything from typical Mexican food, crepes, and even vegetarian hamburgers.

Urban food has always been a staple in Mexican culture. The food industry is the second largest employer in the country, and this city’s growth in particular has been fueled by cuisine.

A now famous sign at Food Garden reads “Keep Tijuana Tasty” and was inspired by similar phrases in other cities like Portland, Oregon which says “Keep Portland Weird, ” a city that is peculiar, weird, but that is the essence of the city and the residents are proud of it.

Food Garden sells many local products such as beer, cheese, bread, marmalade, desserts. On Saturdays and Sundays a farmer’s market where local companies sell articles. On Friday, beer is 2 for 1 and music is played by local talents.

In the words of Ricardo Nevarez, “For me, Tijuana is a city full of flavor, there are people from all parts of the country. People come to work or for various reasons, to try out the food. People like wine, beer, and are foodies; the people of Tijuana know how to live well, enjoy life, when compared to other cities that are focused on work only. I think Tijuana is becoming prouder of itself, and that is something that didn’t used to exist so much. Before, people just stopped here on their way somewhere else. When something isn’t yours you don’t take care of it, but when you feel like it belongs to you, it is different.

Another sign, the “Thank you, Tijuana, for….” sign invites visitors to fill in the blank with chalk. The purpose of the sign is to stand out to those that pass by, and as a way of thanking the city. The first year, the sign said “Before I die, I want to….” This sign has inspired other places around the city, and was inspired by other similar examples around the world.

Social media has played an important role. The Tijuana Makes Me Hungry facebook group has more than 18,000 members where members comment, give their opinion and share dining experiences. According to Ricardo, Tijuana before the food movement and after are completely different cities. There are restaurants that open and instantly are successful, and lots of this hinges on social media.

Food Garden has received tons of support from social media. Before, success was based merely on word of mouth, but this has been taken to another level, and whatever we write reaches many people.

Tijuana has become the food capital of the country, and has truly been put on the map because of its food. This is something that attracts tons of tourism and also promotes local commerce, aiding perceptions that people once held of this city.

VIDEO : The Taste of Food Garden Tijuana

*See more of Food Garden on this gallery

*For more news about Tijuana and Tourism, visit "Bienvenida a Tijuana"

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