The border town of Tijuana, Mexico, is known for a lot of different things. Those of us who’ve spent significant amounts of time there might bicker about what aspects of the city’s reputation are deserved and which are exaggerated, but there is little argument on one point—the street food is amazing.
Tacos are, of course, the cornerstone of this cuisine, and in well-trafficked areas, the streets of TJ are lined with food stands where giant slabs of seasoned meats hang impaled and slow roasting on vertical spits. Meaty fillings are sliced straight from the slab into double-decked, handmade tortillas; garnished with fresh onions, cilantro and salsa; and served with a side of radishes and whole, grilled green onions.
Tijuana-style street tacos are the foundation upon which J’s Tacos and Beer is built. The taqueria, which opened in a guacamole-green building at 900 Cherry St. last November, has as its particular specialty adobada, prepared traditionally on a spit in the kitchen. The delicious roast pork is flavored using a recipe developed in Tijuana decades ago by the family-owned business’ patriarch, Jovito Hernandez.
J’s is a brick-and-mortar extension of Mi Taquito Grill, a taco truck that’s served delicious Mexican food in north Chico since 2017. The Hernandezes also own and once operated a truck in Paradise called Burritos El Caporal, which they now rent out to former long-time employees; it has served burritos at the same Clark Road location for nearly 15 years.
The menu at J’s is simple and centered around just a handful of items: tacos, loaded french fries and mulitas—small quesadillas stuffed with cheese, meat and vegetables. Each of these items include a choice of adobada, ribeye steak or grilled mushrooms. They also serve these items in bowls (with rice and beans) or on top of nachos.
Jose Hernandez, son of Jovito and the man often found behind the counter at J’s, said the restaurant’s tortillas are made in-house daily, that the produce is the freshest they can find and that all sauces are made completely fresh with no canned additives or bases.
During a recent visit, I sampled the adobada tacos ($3 each, or—as I chose—four smaller, street-style tacos for $7), a ribeye mulita ($7) and a side of rice and beans ($4.50). The tacos were served with all the traditional fixings as well as a delicious avocado salsa. Biting into one, under the light of a neon Corona sign with banda music blaring from a large-screen TV, definitely conjured happy memories of time spent in taco shops off Avenida Revolucion.
The mulita, with its remarkably tender meaty filling, was delicious as well. The beans were good, but the light, fluffy rice was subtly amazing; at first bite, I thought it might be a little bland, but by the third bite, it was sublime.
If you’re thirsty for more than soda, J’s serves homemade micheladas (spicy, limey, bloody beer cocktails), craft and Mexican beers on tap and bottled beers served singly or—also per Baja California tradition—five or six to the bucket.
Since opening, the bar also has offered occasional live music, pay-per-view boxing nights and DJs. The younger Hernandez said J’s plans to do this more regularly in the future.
That’s just one of the changes in store. The restaurant closed July 1 and will reopen July 11 with a few new menu items, Jose said, including several breakfast dishes and some new lunch/dinner entrees. The restaurant has been open 3-10 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays; after the break, it will be opening earlier for breakfast service.
“We appreciate the love and support we’ve gotten since we opened,” Jose said. “It feels like a good time to step back and look at everything, ramp it up and to give people reasons to keep giving us that love and support.”
J’s Tacos and Beer
900 Cherry St.