Aside from its wealth of excellent traditional taqueros, Tijuana also hosts a wealth of genre-bending taco interpretations. Tacos Salceados Emrita is one of the best.
Meals start with a complementary bowl of roasted güero (wax) chiles soaked in “black sauce” (something between a Worcestershire and soy sauce popular at Mexican-Pacific seafood joints) and a bowl of spiced crema. The salad bar is exhaustive. Beyond the usual chili sauces and carrots in escabeche, it contains an variety of vinaigrettes and some unrecognizable creamy dressings.
As in many Tijuana taco shops, corn and flour tortillas are both available, flour being tastier. Of the many fillings available, we have yet to find a bad one. Here, you don’t merely have a choice of beef or asada tacos. There are standard carne asada, “New York” steak, and arrachera (fajita-style skirt steak) tacos. Even a nopales (cactus) taco comes with meat. Even the cheese taco and shrimp taco come with meat.
The specialty is cheese tacos, quesatacos, in which meat is wrapped in a crispy cheese skirt before getting put in the tortilla. Of the several permutations, we think the best is with steak on a flour tortilla. The crispy cheese and tender steak match so well with a soft, warm flour tortilla.
If you really want to take a wild ride, try the quesataco dulce, which adds sweet mango, pineapple, and nutty raspberry sauces to the meat and cheese. The clash of flavors takes mixing sweet and salty to its logical extreme. In this case, it would be wise to get a less flavorful meat such as chicken. Or, perhaps it’s even wiser not to order it at all. This one is for the most adventurous, sweet-toothed eaters.
Despite all this taco talk, the best thing at “Ermita” (Hermitage) isn’t in a tortilla at all. It’s potatoes. Specifically, the papas cuadrada (potato square). It’s a square of a potato and meat hash that is topped with a sheet of crispy cheese, then covered with a drizzle of chili mayonnaise and salsas: one of the tastiest new things we’ve had in years. It is halfway between a Japanese Okonamiyaki pancake and a dinner hash, but covered in crispy cheese. You can’t top this papa.