Bol Corona: Gambling on Burritos in Post-U.S. Prohibition Tijuana

Categories: Tijuana Sí!

Bill Esparza

It was 1934, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had just repealed prohibition at the close of 1933, and a year later, Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas would outlaw gambling and close Tijuana's world famous Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel. This was the state of things in Tijuana the year Don Angel opened the Club Corona--the party was over, Al Capone was locked up in Alcatraz; Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka, Rita Hayworth was a 16 year old entertainer in Tijuana clubs; and the Hollywood elite returned home the novelty of legal boozing north of the border. 

Sr. Angel's northern style burritos soon became the hot ticket items on the menu, and in 1940 he changed the name to its current, Bol Corona. This was just the right food at the right time when workers started flooding in to Tijuana during WWII to take part in the Bracero program, which had Mexican workers come north to replace American laborers fighting overseas. Hearty stews and braises wrapped in a handmade flour tortilla were affordable and portable--Bol Corona developed a slightly larger burrito than those found in Sonora, and a winning set of fillings that has helped this franchise endure for almost 80 years, and it's still going strong.

Bill Esparza

Today Bol Corona boasts 6 locations around Tijuana with an updated service and menu that includes a full bar and casual setting. 

There's a classic menu featuring the original items that made them famous: shrimp,  machaca(dried beef), and bean and cheese burritos--also mañaneros, or breakfast burritos, and classic northern guisados like bistec ranchero and chile relleno--oh yeah, you can get a chile relleno burrito here.

Burritos, burritas, burros are northern tacos de guisado. In practice, they are simple fillings wrapped in a flour tortilla, and are understood to be tacos in Mexico--Martha Chapa writes about the burrito traditions of Sonora and Chihuahua in her book, Los Tacos de Mexico--Tijuana's burrito culture is mostly derived from its many Sonoran transplants. The only pendejos that have dismissed the burrito have been non-Latino writers, and non-Latino chefs cooking Mexican cuisine both of which are unfamiliar with the north. I'm talking northern burritos here, not the Chipotle, Calfornia Burrito, Mission Burrito varieties--guacala!        

Bill Esparza
Burros y vino

The burritos themselves are addictive. It was amusing to sit down at a casual restaurant with silverware and Mexican wine to eat burritos, but this was as good a meal as I've had in Baja. The savory machaca was wetter than the sonorense, or nuevoleonese (Nuevo Leon) styles with a smooth texture from sauteed potatoes, and carrots. The shrimp came in a dried red chile stew that let the sweet Sea of Cortez shrimp shine. 

The salsas are excellent with the salsa roja packing serious heat--I was almost sorry I'd ordered wine with such intense spice, but the mini-L.A. Cetto bottle was slightly passed--drinkable--but oddly just sour enough to handle the burn.  

burros (2).JPG
Bill Esparza
Burrito de machaca

Bol Corona's burrito is one of the culinary wonders of Tijuana, and part of its folklore--it has survived the uncertain era after prohibition, the rapid growth of the infamous border town, and the decline of Tijuana tourism several years ago as border wait times, changes in travel requirements, and media stoked fear over President Felipe Calderon's drug war discouraged U.S. citizens from crossing the border. 

Burritos at Bol Corona--100% authentic Mexican, and a historic taste of Tijuana as it was in 1934. 

Bol Corona (various locations), from the U.S. 011-52-664-638-4429/664-638-4430,

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