February 19, 2014

The Caesar Salad

Trivia Question: where was the Caesar Salad invented?

Answer: I bet Tijuana, Mexico was not at the top of your list.

Sometimes we forget that we live a mere 30 miles from the Mexican border. This past weekend we took a trip down to visit our good friends Silvia and Mario who are proud Mexican nationals and live in Tijuana.

This wasn’t our first time visiting them. In 2011 we headed south of the border but did a mad dash to the beach towns of Rosarito and Ensenada and then onto the neighboring valley for a weekend of wine tasting. This time we stuck closer to home and got to see more of downtown Tijuana. On one hand, Tijuana on a Sunday feels quiet and abandoned. The bars and clubs that Tijuana is famous for are closed for the day. On the other hand, the city was buzzing with vendors and little street markets.

Our destination for the afternoon was Hotel Caesars – built in 1927 and situated right on Tijuana’s main thoroughfare. It’s no longer an operating hotel, but the restaurant on the first floor is still going strong. Believe it or not, it was here that the yummy Caesar Salad was invented.

Upon entering the restaurant, you’re transported from the battered streets of Tijuana to a beautiful interior with a wood coffered ceiling, checkerboard floor, long wooden bar, and old black-and-white photographs from yesteryear covering the walls.

At 1:30pm, we started eating early by Mexican standards. Normally they eat their biggest meal of the day, which they call ”dinner”, around 2:00 or 3:00. Surprisingly the salads are made right at your table on a cart that they wheel around the restaurant. 

A Caesar Salad fun fact is that the dressing is served over a plate of full romaine hearts. The lettuce is not cut up like we are accustomed to. There are also no croutons…just one small piece of toasted bread on top. I guess you could consider that a mega crouton.

Maybe we didn’t have the most authentic Caesar Salads – I had to ask them to hold the raw egg on mine, and Steve and I both opted out of the anchovy paste – but it was close enough! They were delightful.

And if you’re wondering if Caesar’s had other things on their menu, the answer is oh yes! It figures we would go all the way to Tijuana, Mexico to have our first ever Beef Wellington. Delicious!

It was 43 years ago that my parents made this same pilgrimage to the home of the Caesar Salad. It’s been on our bucket list for quite some time, so thank you to Silvia and Mario for ensuring that we’ll get at least one question right the next time we play Trivial Pursuit.