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The Story of Don Juanz Baja Beach Tacos

It all started in the sixties. When I was born, my father didn’t want my name to be “Don”. He worried about the possibility that, one day, I might be nick-named; “Don Juan”. Dad must’ve had a lot of confidence in me during my younger days, because when I went off to college, I quickly picked up the name; “Don Juan”. My friends found it amusing and I found it easy to answer to.

During the mid eighties, I was easing out of college and heading for the Wild West. What the classroom couldn’t teach me- Los Angeles did. It didn’t take long for me to realize that every actor gets their start in the restaurant business, so off to work I went, learning everything from the bar to the kitchen…but not so much the movie set.

For fun, I would round up my buddies, hop into my Caprice Classic and head down to the rustic Baja villages of Rosarita Beach, Ensenada and San Felipe. Those road trips to Baja also offered the best in beachside dining. Fish tacos & tacos Al carbón was the special of the day…everyday! One night, I met a taco vendor named, Juan. I tried explaining to him the connection with my nick-name; Don Juan. To this day, I still don’t think Juan knew what I was trying to say, but he sure knew how to teach me to make some great fish tacos- which turned me into a taco connoisseur over night.

The years spent dining and drinking in Baja cantinas from Rosarito to Cabo, gave me the idea to bring the best of Baja back home. Twenty years after my first visit to Baja, I composed a journal of recipes, photos and ideas that reflect its bold flavors. From its aromatic food, fresh fruit margaritas, friendly service, the relaxed colorful atmosphere, to the authentic recipes made fresh daily….the perfect recipe was written and Don Juanz was formed. It is my hope that Don Juanz takes you on a short journey back to my Baja.

For me, food tells a story. It’s important to know the culture behind it and why things are the way they are.

Bueno Apetito!


Don O’Byrne


Juan & I, Rosarito Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico, 1986