Tijuana Picnic
 
 

Sultry Mexican from the folks who brought you Acme and Indochine

By Jasmine Moy

If you’re feeling that undeniable hankering for Mexican but can’t shake the urge for some Asian spice, this new-ish LES spot, brought to you by the team that runs Acme and Indochine, has all your cravings covered. Decidedly more swank than your typical cantina, Tijuana Picnic comes off a bit retro-chic with an alluring art-deco feel, while also serving up some of the most perfectly balanced margaritas north of the border.

Chef Alex Lopez, who’s done time in some of the best Asian fusion kitchens in the city—including Kittichai—keeps you on your toes with a menu of small bites, tacos, skewers, and full entrées. Tortilla chips show up fresh and warmed to start you off, with the perfect heft—not too thin, not too thin—for scooping up the house guacamole, its low habanero heat softened by the sweetness of smoky grilled corn. The fluke ceviche (pictured below) is also a study in contrasts: cured with sweetly tangy passion fruit and gaining some crunch from hearts of palm. Lopez’s duck empanadas, laced with foie gras and cognac, is another standout on the list of small plates.

While it can be tempting to graze your way through a feast of snacks alone, the meats featured in the platters here are too beautifully grilled and flavorfully marinated—think beef in Negra Modelo, chicken in guajillo chile—to pass over. Rolled up in house-made tortillas, the chicken borrows from tacos al pastor while getting a cross-cultural injection from a charred pineapple slice slicked with miso. Meanwhile, the pork chop, marinated in coconut milk and served with a Thai-spiced chimichurri, is relevatory.

After a flirtation with a variety of Asian flavors, desserts veer solidly back to Mexican territory. Churros, freshly fried and served with a thick caramel sauce, are so easy to share that it’s criminal to leave without at least one order

hours

Sun–Tue 6 PM–midnight; Wed–Sat 6 PM–1 AM
Sat–Sun noon–4 PM

price range

$6 (chips and salsa) to $28 (skirt steak)
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