Up in the Northwestern corner of Mexico is the state of Baja California. In the most northwestern point of that state lies the city of Tijuana. Tijuana is quite the culinary curio.

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Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad there in 1924. Being a transit point for northbound emigrants, the city boasts great street tacos and regional fare from every corner of Mexico. Mezcal looks like it was ripped out of downtown Tijuana and tossed into Budapest.

The decorations, the wood furnishings, the style of bar design, everything is as wonderful and gaudy and overly bright in color as anything in Tijuana. And, like many notable downtown Tijuana establishments, you descend into a basement to get into Mezcal.

Imagine Mariachi music giving way to weird Mexican polka and you are THERE. Mezcal escapes the formula that so many Budapest Mexican eateries fall victim to and manages a good border Baja menu without slipping into too much Tex-Mex insipidity. There is plenty of Mexican home-style food on the menu, and some adventurous and worthy rarities for the less chili-obsessed.

Drunken beans, people… try them! Also try the guacamole. It is far more Mexican than that chunky, California-invented avocado salad so many gueros think is Mexican. I had to suppress my urge to engage the wait staff in Spanish beyond the names of the dishes. I felt like I was at the storied Margarita Village or Señor Frog’s.

However, the Hungarian ladies tending bar are much cuter than ol’ Jose any day…


— Mezcal Mexikói Étterem, IX Budapest, Tompa Street 14, Tel: +36 20 428 2872, www.mezcal.hu