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Interview with A Gringo In Mexico

A Gringo In MexicoHey South Bay! I know at least fifty percent of you have roots in Mexico. Another fifty percent might not, but you very likely venture to Tijuana and Baja for business.

You also probably want exotic weened getaways. Well, A Gringo In Mexico has an exquisite website that tells you all the remarkable sights to see in Tijuana and Baja, Mexico.

Scott Koenig agreed to let me interview him for South Bay Compass to tell me more.

I’ve been a fan of his website for some time and last week I emailed him to ask about a Ensenada “hot spot.” Scott immediately responded with a wealth of excellent and concise information that got me to my destination.

Here’s Scott in his own words:

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Dayton, Ohio. I moved to San Diego about 20 years ago and now live in La Mesa with my wife and 6 year old son. In addition to blogging on Mexico – my pastime – I run a small creative services agency, aka my “real job”.

How did you get interested in Baja travel?

I ventured down to Tijuana and Rosarito Beach a few times a year when I first moved here in the mid-90’s. But back then, I was still in my 20’s and it was all about the party. So free margaritas and 2-for-1 tacos on Revolución. Karaoke night at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Margarita-fueled brunches at La Fonda. We pretty much stayed on the gringo circuit and didn’t venture out much from our routines.

In a round about way, our early family trips to San Miguel de Allende, Michoacan, the Yucatan and other culturally-important destinations in Mexico spurred my further interest in the culture of Baja California. In these places you’re confronted with Spanish colonial architecture, grand Mayan pyramids, a history of conquest and revolution, Day of the Dead rituals and traditional cuisine. There’s an indigenous heritage here, but otherwise, Baja California is a region of migrant families from other states in Mexico. They bring their culture with them, but sometimes you have to get off the beaten path to find it. Really, the best of Mexico is here to sample within a 90 minute drive from the border.

Aside from its cultural bounty, Baja California is also a very beautiful and tranquil place, largely unspoiled by development and rampant commercialism. It’s a great spot to kick back and just relax. We roll down as a family for a long weekend pretty often. A major metropolitan center, wide open beaches, wine country, cheese caves and some amazing food made from the country’s freshest product is right here in our backyard. And it’s very affordable. We can enjoy our time in Baja for about half what we would spend in Southern California.

A Gringo In Mexico

In action at Punto Siete restaurant, Tijuana, with Su-Mei Yu of KPBS’ Savor San Diego. Photo Erika Santana.

Why did you decide to create “A Gringo in Mexico”?

It started out just as an online Mexican “travel journal” where I’d post photos and fleshed-out entries from a notebook I’d keep with during our trips. My intended audience back then were friends and family. I’d almost gone into journalism as a college major years ago, and I enjoyed getting back to writing, so it became something fun to do in my spare time. At that point, we were traveling to Mexico with our young son on vacations, so I had plenty of material.

In 2013, I began working with to report on events and food in Baja California – the Rosarito Art Fest and a story on food in Tijuana were early ones. All of these posts made it to the Gringo blog, so I began building up quite a bit of Baja content. Meeting the Baja chefs while working on these stories got me interested in the regional cuisine and I started getting invitations to cover restaurants and food events. All of this coincided with a wider international interest in the Baja California food and wine scene, so my timing was good. Though I do a lot of stories on food, I don’t think of as a food blog, per se, as there’s a lot of information on travel, culture and destinations as well.

If you could name the top 5 places to visit in Tijuana, what would they be?

  1. Take a street taco tour – from carne asada to adobada (marinated pork), the variety of tacos in TJ is staggering. And delicious!
  2. Mercado Hidaldo – For 60 years, this is THE spot to shop for everything from piñatas to Oaxacan moles. There are some great restaurants here as well.
  3. Telefonica Gastro Park – A collection of about 8 food trucks in a food court setting that serve everything from ceviche to smoked bacon sausages.
  4. Casa Plascencia – One of my favorite TJ restaurants and a local’s tradition. Must tries are the beef cheek tacos and salt-encrusted trout.
  5. Playas de Tijuana – Just south of the city on the coast road. Check out the section of border fence that juts out into the ocean. Local artists have adorned it with several colorful, hopeful murals.

If you could name the top 5 places in Baja, what would they be?

  1. The Valle de Guadalupe – Baja California’s wine country. The wine, food, people and views are all amazing.
  2. Tijuana – A bustling city with a lot of food and culture to absorb. It’s a big city, but friendly locals are always ready to help out with directions or recommendations.
  3. Tecate – Spend some time here in the zocalo (town square) enjoying a taco and the town’s namesake beer. Get out of town for ranchos, cave paintings and more.
  4. Popotla – It’s all about the seafood here. Sample clams and uni on the beach. Enjoy the local spider crab prepared at one of the village’s restaurants.
  5. San Felipe – The spot to relax. A small fishing town at the top of the Sea of Cortez. Hire a panga to test the local waters.

To find out a LOT more about Scott’s information, check out A Gringo In Mexico. He’s become my #1 choice for tours, questions and information on Baja travel.

Thank you, Scott!

A Gringo In Mexico

A Gringo In Mexico

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One Response to Interview with A Gringo In Mexico

  1. sloanranger February 29, 2016 at 3:10 AM #

    A lovely, informative article about our neighborhood to the south.

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