TIJUANA Noted American chef Rick Bayless has put this city on the continent's food map.
In an interview with GrubStreet.com in San Francisco, he waxes about the "amazing chefs cooking amazing food" in Tijuana.
"If people knew it was there, people would just be flocking there," he says. "I have to say, and people always laugh out loud when I say this, but Tijuana is one of the great food cities of North America."
He cites as an example Tijuana chef Javier Plascencia, who he says "is doing brilliant work" in his new restaurant Misión 19, one of several his family owns in the city.
Misión 19 opened in January in a certified "green" building, Vía Corporativo, in the Río zone.
"This is his flagship new thing, very modern," he says. "No one thinks this happens in Tijuana. It's beautiful, and it's in an area that's so sophisticated you can't imagine."
The restaurant combines natural ingredients and products from the Baja California peninsula with wines from Valle de Guadalupe and creates innovative dishes that are drawing raves.
Bayless mentions Mercado Hidalgo, also in the Río zone, "as just spectacular," a place that offers the flavors and aromas from all corners of Mexico.
Bayless specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine and is best known as the host of the PBS series, "Mexico: One Plate at a Time."
The chef says that he's reconsidered his view that Mexico City has the best taco shops in the country.
"I think the Tijuana taquerías are just amazing and there's more variety than there is in Mexico City."
He says that the food in the border is developing its own identity, not necessarily tied to the Aztecs.
"They're just doing their own thing."