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The Caesar Salad Turns 100 This Year

The world's most famous salad, originating in the 1920s, was a solution to an ingredient shortage at a restaurant on Tijuana's historic Avenida Revolución
The original Caesar Salad from Restaurante Caesar’s in Tijuana, Baja California on Avenida Revolución
Photo Credit: Cole Novak

Known to Tijuanenses as “La Revu,” the thoroughfare of Avenida Revolución is paved with one of the most colorful histories in the world. It once served as a type of grown-up Disneyland for border-skipping Americans looking to indulge in more unsavory flavors of fun. Tijuana is a young city—founded in 1889—that hit its stride in the 1920s when, not coincidentally, the United States was embroiled in its experiment with Prohibition. That era allowed Tijuana to cement its reputation as the capital of vice, offering booze, prostitution, and—as the story goes—Caesar salads. Invented at Restaurante Caesar’s in 1924, the famed salad rings in its centennial anniversary this year.

A server at Restaurante Caesar’s making the original Caesar salad from scratch at the Tijuana restaurant on the Avenida Revolución
Photo Credit: Cole Novak

The restaurant, founded on Avenida Revolución in 1923 by Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini, was a mainstay of Prohibition-era Tijuana. It’s said that Cardini cobbled a quick salad together when he ran out of other ingredients, accidentally spawning one of the world’s most beloved bowls of greens. To make an appropriately authentic Caesar, you’ll need the following: romaine lettuce hearts, anchovies, lemon juice, egg yolk, and grated parmesan cheese.

Diners are supposed to dress each leaf individually, eating them like toast. Word on the street is that, up until the early 2000s, chefs at Caesar’s sprinkled the salad with plastic-bottled Kraft Parmesan. They’ve since upgraded to Parmigiano Reggiano imported from Italy.

These days, Caesar’s is a Eurocentric temple to the Tijuana of yesteryear amid a Mexican cuisine–focused culinary revolution. Nevertheless, local restaurateur Javier Plascencia and his family’s Grupo Plascencia snapped up the property when it went on the market in 2011.

To honor the salad’s 100th birthday in July, the restaurant is hosting a party, complete with two special dinners and a festival. “We’re celebrating one of the greatest recipes ever,” Plascencia says. “A lot of people don’t know that it was created here in Tijuana, so we invited chefs from California, France, Italy, and Mexico.”

Those in the know—undeterred by whatever the news may say about Tijuana, La Revu, or the border— keep Caesar’s packed. On a recent Monday afternoon, celebrity chef Adria Marina strolled in to join the lunchtime crowds. Perhaps the more things change in Tijuana, the more they stay the same.

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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