Tijuana: Home of the Original Caesar

EDITOR NOTE: On a hot day, there is nothing I love more than a plate of Baja-style ceviche. But a Tijuana Caesar salad?!? The legacy reveals that it was created in Tijuana in an Italian-owned restaurant. The recipe influenced by a Mexican chef while carrying out wishes from his Italian boss. Would it be bad to give credit to both the Italian owner and the creative chef that put it all together?

Ever wondered where the original Caesar salad was created? Well, I know there’s some debate to this, but it’s believed that the famous Caesar salad was created in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico at Caesars Restaurant and Bar. The table side Caesar salad is an iconic traditional dish to the border town and Caesar’s Restaurant sits as one of the three longest running restaurants of Tijuana, Mexico. Caesar’s is located where you least expect it, on Avenida Revolucion in downtown Tijuana. The restaurant is currently owned by the family of Chef Javier Plascencia of Mision 19, Finca Altozano in Valle De Guadalupe and Jazamango. Current chefs at the restaurant are Nadya Hernandez and Manuel Brito.

As you enter the restaurant, your eyes are immediately drawn to the black and white checked floors that make you feel like you’re playing a game of chess. The original wood bar that is still standing from the 1920’s is the focal point of the restaurant with a vintage cash register surrounded by liquor bottles. A lot of the restaurant decorations have been restored or remodeled, but the original look and feel is still present from the prohibition era. I’ve had the pleasure of eating here on several occasions, as an adult and as a child, leaving the same impression every time. The table side Caesar salad is must if you ever get to visit Tijuana, Mexico and it won’t disappoint.

During my last visit, the waiter told us the story about how the salad was created. He stated that there was a discrepancy as to who really created the salad, but no one at the restaurant still didn’t know who the original creator was. He indicated that Caesar’s opened right before Prohibition in the 1920’s, so many locals and foreigners would come to the border town to the casinos and cantinas to get illegal beverages. Due to the amount of thirsty visitors, the restaurant became very popular and was known to be one of the poshest places to be. Owner, Mr. Cesar Cardini met Livio Santino and hired him as the chef during the restaurant’s booming casino era. According to the server, the restaurant was running out of food supplies, but customers were still coming in for food and drinks.

Mr. Cardini asked the chef livio Santini to make whatever he could with the ingredients they had. The chef began thinking about some food his mother used to make with old bread, cheese and some vegetables. He created the dressing and threw some lettuce and the Caesar salad was created. One special note, during this era, a famous reporter from Spain went to the restaurant and ate the salad. She loved it so much that she wanted to learn how to make it. They told her that it was a “Caesar Salad” that was crated by the chef and the restaurant owner using left over items from the kitchen. The reporter loved it so much that she published an article sharing the recipe, which is how the salad became famous.

The restaurant continues to stand true to its famous Caesar salad and it’s thanks to a famous reporter who wrote a story of this recipe and drew many to visit Caesars restaurant. In the past, there was some discussion if the restaurant owner made the recipe or the chef. There was also some talk that the chef’s mother was the original creator. In addition, many still argue that the salad was created in Italy, but the restaurant continues to argue that Mr. Cesar Cardini, who was Italian, was the first creator of the salad. Till today, the restaurant workers don’t know who really came up with the recipe, but they continue to honor both Mr. Cardini and Mr. Santini as their version of the Caesar salad.

Caesar's Restaurant and Bar offers a large menu with various dishes and an extensive wine menu. They offer wines from all Mexico wine regions, by the glass and by the bottle. The restaurant would like to continue spreading this recipe with customers, as this was the way they became famous and the table side Caesar Salad became to be, “The” Caesar Salad. So go ahead and get the recipe and spread the love.

Get The Recipe on: Erika Beach

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