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A Big Birthday for TJ

Celebrate south of the border for Tijuana's 125th

By Derrik Chinn

A Big Birthday for TJ

A Big Birthday for TJ

Everything north of the border may be doused in red, white, and blue this month, but another big birthday is underway just south of the border: Tijuana’s 125th. Founded on July 11, 1889, the city has grown from a frontier town to a haven for Prohibition-era party people to a sprawling metropolis. A festival should be happening July 11 (check, but two ways to celebrate on your own are just a five-minute cab ride from San Ysidro.

Ride a Zonkey

More donkeys are said to make their home in Mexico than any other nation. The oldest surviving photo of tourists atop a donkey in Tijuana dates to 1914. Thanks to an entire century of capturing sightseers on burroback, many locals consider it the closest thing the city has to a mascot. But the animals haven’t always worn stripes. Looking to make the gray animals pop against the black-and-white film, the photographers in the 1940s used black and white paint. And so, the burro rayado—or zonkey—was born. Zonkey owners charge around 100 pesos if you take a photo with your phone. For larger groups, they’ll try charging $1 per person in the photo. Bartering is recommended.

Eat a salad

Caesar Cardini was an Italian immigrant living in San Diego during Prohibition but operating restaurants in Mexico. Bombarded by a horde of American Marines and their wives on July 4, 1924, he supposedly whipped up what was on hand, resulting in the famous Caesar salad dressing. Caesar’s Restaurant is now headed by renown chef Javier Plascencia in its original location at Avenida Revolucion and Fourth Street. Waiters still mix up romaine bathed in anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard, black pepper, salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce), and olive oil, tableside in wooden bowls. They’ve also expanded with a tapas bar next door.

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