Before you even step inside Tijuana, you know you're in for something different. A six-foot-tall dia de los muertos skeleton statue greets you with a flashy grin and a sombrero on his head. Here, at Tijuana, expect the unexpected.
Like many of us, owner Eike Frantz "chose" Florence while studying here. As a student, he copped some cash on the side by selling Italian silk ties in Mexico, where he fell in love with a woman, a cuisine and a culture. What he did not love about Mexico was a mix-up at customs that ended in his brief incarceration.
He returned to Florence and opened Tijuana with his wife Adriane in 2001, intent on introducing not only authentic Mexican food, but authentic, well, everything to his clients. Every single knick-knack and element of décor, from the thick margarita glasses to the Jose Cuervo barrel tables, religious statuettes crowding nooks in the brick walls, iron cast chandeliers and vibrant artwork, was hand picked and shipped from Mexico. In over a decade,Frantz has shipped over 10,000 kilos of goods to Florence.
Let's just say your craving for salsa will be satisfied. Tijuana honors the Tuscan tradition of keeping it fresh with no frozen foods anywhere in sight. Every single item on the menu is made to order and all prep work is done that morning. The menu features everything from classic favorites (loaded nachos, tacos soft and hard, and the "fajitas still frying on your table"), some Tex-Mex, a little BBQ in your burrito, as well as truly down-home Mexican fare, including tinga poblana, molcajete and more.
Authenticity and flair is guaranteed with the almost entirely Latin-American kitchen staff hailing from Brazil, Peru and, of course, Mexico. With a 10-page menu, you'll get what you want and pay for what you ordered: there's no coperto here.
Wash down your spicy meal (you can choose how piccante you want it) with any of the 10 margaritas. The drink list is extensive, so sub the marg with a Cerveza Dos Equis, Caipiroska or Coke from the antique Coca Cola fridge, complete with slogans in Spanish. Stocking the bar with only premium liquors, Frantz cautions "Don't expect any 'five shots for five euro' deals here."
Tijuana's original location is so popular that Eike and Adriane decided to open a Tijuana 2 in the Porta al Prato area. Same menu, bigger space, so it's perfect for larger groups and intimate dinners alike. Both locations attract an eclectic crowd of Florentines and expats as well as a long list of regulars from around Tuscany. So drop by and become a regular yourself, amigo.
Tijuana / Via Ghibellina 156r. Tel. 055 234 1330
Tijuana Mexica Grill / Via il Prato, 57-59r. Tel. 055 28 7247
Open every day starting at 7pm
Happy hour from 7 to 8pm