Charbroiled burgers with creative toppings dominate the menu at Baja Burger, a cozy burger shop in a strip mall in Centro. I took the owner's suggestion and tried a burger topped with avocado, Anaheim pepper, and a slice of Swiss cheese that was crisped up on the griddle. Burgers start at 30 pesos (just over $2 US), and you can load them up with as much lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and mayo as you desire. The chipotle mayo is a must—apply it liberally.
All of Baja's burgers are cooked on a charcoal grill that gets good and smoky, imparting the beef with lots of flavor, despite being cooked through. You can also get a veggie burger or sit and watch the local football (soccer) team on the TV while drinking a few beers (under $2 US, each).
Agua Caliente 9150, Marrón, 22015 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico; 01 664 684 0984
Beverly Burgers is a local burger chain, with four locations in Tijuana. Their charbroiled burgers stacked with multiple toppings and low prices make it a popular place among the student crowd. You can get everything from a standard quarter-pounder for about $2.50 US, to a burger topped with a grilled chicken breast, Teriyaki sauce, and a pineapple ring. I tried the Beverly Special ($40 MXN, or about $3 US), a 1/4-pound patty topped with LTO, bell pepper, Swiss cheese, Ranch dressing cut with mayo, and mushrooms (which, strangely, were raw). The Mexican pop tunes blaring on the TV and cheap eats make this a fun spot to stop and enjoy a taste of TJ's fast food burger culture.
The patties are cooked from frozen, so they're not particularly moist, but do have a tasty charred flavor. This is a good spot to go with one of the more complicated options so the beef is a component, not the star.
Calle Brasil #536, Col. Cacho, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico (plus three other locations listed at beverlyburgers.com; 664-378-5254
The burgers at this food truck parked in Zona Rio are huge, no matter which one of the eight options you choose. I went with the La Cachetona ($84 MXN, about $6 US), with four types of meat: a chargrilled quarter-pound beef patty, a chargrilled chicken filet, a slice of ham, and some crisp bacon. There's also grilled onions and mushrooms, Swiss cheese, LTO, and a smear of "Chef" sauce (a Thousand Island-esque concoction). The flavor of the grill really comes through, both in the beef and the chicken.
This burger is one of the more expensive fast-food options in Tijuana, but it's essentially two meals. Eat one of them early in the day and you'll be stuffed until dinner time.
The burgers are huge, but it's still worth adding a side of fries for $20 pesos (about $1.50 US). The thick-cut fries have a thin layer of exterior crispness that yields to a soft, fluffy potato interior.
D. Alfaro Psiqueiros (enter on Paseo de los Heroes or Via Rapida Poniente) (plus two other locations listed at nantliburger.com); 664-194-4953
One of TJ's most unique burger joints is Burger Shop, a restaurant in a converted party bus, parked in Zona Rio.
Inside Burger Shop
Inside the bus, the seats have been recovered in bright red vinyl and flipped around to form four person tables. There's also a narrow counter by the window.
Burger Shop's Kitchen
All of the grilling goes down in the back of the bus, where there's a small grill and just enough space for two cooks.
Burger Shop Patty Shaping
Burgers here are vastly different than any other fast food burger joint in TJ. Two small patties are joined together, with cheese and diced bacon in the middle, then grilled.
Burger Shop is doing a lot of things differently than most fast food operators. They use fresh beef mixed with a house blend of seasoning and diced bacon (in addition to the bacon that's stuffed between the two patties). It makes for a burger with a pork-forward flavor.
Burger Shop: Interior View
The spice blend ends up dominating the naturally-occurring flavor of the beef, making it verge on "meatloaf burger" territory, but at least it's Mexican meatloaf. Even though they haven't quite nailed their burgers, it's great to see fresh beef being used (as opposed to frozen patties) along with a creative approach. Props.
9903 Blvd. Cuauhtémoc Norte, Zona Rio, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico (plus another location listed at burgershop.mx; 403-1630
DCO Restaurant Bar & Patio
The burger at DCO stands in stark contrast to all of the other options in TJ. It's made from Wagyu beef, served on ciabatta with a mound of fresh veggies and cheddar, and because it's made with fresh beef, you can get it cooked to order. That being said, it costs 195 pesos. Still, that's only about $14 US, and it comes with tasty, paper-thin fries. If you want a top-quality burger and a more upscale atmosphere, DCO is the way to go.
10535 Blvd Agua Caliente, Col. Aviacion, 22014 Tijuana, BC, Mexico