Restaurateur Michael Babcock’s Favorite Spots in Tijuana

Dylan Chryst WatkissNovember 17, 2021
Share This

There’s much more to Tijuana than cheap tacos and cervezas. Restaurateur Michael Babcock say’s it’s a bona fide foodie destination. “The food scene is really vibrant. It has a mix of deeply rooted traditional northern Mexican food meets [the] San Diego progressive restaurant scene,” he says. After serving as culinary director for Welcome Diner for seven years, Babcock started Instrumental Hospitality Group two years ago and launched Belly, a Japanese- and Southwest Asian- inflected restaurant and bar, in Phoenix. He shares a few of his favorites from his recent trip to Tijuana.

Misión 19
This upscale restaurant has “the quintessential fine-dining tasting menu of Tijuana,” Babcock says. Head chef Javier Plascencia is one of the most revered chefs in Baja California. His father started a chain of Italian restaurants called Giuseppis, so the chef grew up in the industry and has opened a string of restaurants in Tijuana, from fine dining to more casual eateries. 

Tacos de Birria “El Sabroso”
El Sabroso has the best birria,” Babcock says of the trendy dish of stewed meat in a crisp taco shell, served with a rich consommé for dunking. “It’s the breakfast food of the locals… that [reportedly] cures hangovers.”

La Casa de Don Juan
Babcock recommends La Casa de Don Juan for breakfast. It’s a bed-and-breakfast right off the beach, located in an old house. Guests dine in a courtyard area with a fountain. “Right when you walk in, there are ladies baking fresh bread,” Babcock says.

Finca Altozano
Located in the Valle de Guadalupe wine region south of Tijuana, Finca Altozano is Babcock’s favorite restaurant in Mexico. Plascencia is also the chef behind this dining institution. “It’s a bit more of a rotational, seasonal fine dining restaurant,” he says. “Their octopus,” seasoned with lemon and parsley, “is really good.” Babcock also recommends the steak. “They usually have a Spanish ham and cheese plate that is really good… but it’s more about the experience.” Diners overlook a vineyard as they enjoy plates of finely crafted food.


For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.