The Caesar Salad Turns 100: An Ode To Simplicity

July 5, 2024

The now-iconic Caesar salad was invented 100 years ago today in San Diego's neighboring city of Tijuana, Mexico, and the dish is now featured widely on restaurant menus across the world. 

In the grand tapestry of culinary history, where dishes rise and fall like empires, few can claim the universal adoration and timelessness of the Caesar salad. As it hits the centennial mark, we tip our hats to this culinary marvel, a dish that encapsulates the beauty of simplicity and the brilliance of improvisation.

The Caesar salad’s origins are as storied and intriguing as any myth, rooted in the bustling ambiance of 1920s Tijuana. Picture it: prohibition-era Americans, desperate for a good time and a stiff drink, crossing the border to enjoy the freedoms denied them at home. Amidst this backdrop, in a small, unassuming restaurant named Caesar's Place, a star was born.
Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant originally named Césare, found himself at the helm of this now-legendary establishment on Revolución Avenue in downtown Tijuana. On a fateful Fourth of July in 2024, the kitchen ran low on supplies. Necessity, the mother of invention, guided Cardini's hand. What emerged was a masterpiece: romaine lettuce, crisp and vibrant; coddled eggs, rich and velvety; a hint of garlic, anchovy, and Worcestershire sauce for depth; lemon juice and olive oil for brightness; and a final flourish of Parmesan and croutons, adding texture and bite.

Cardini's creation wasn’t just a salad; it was a revelation. It spoke to the power of pure, fresh ingredients and the chef's ability to create magic from the mundane. It was theatrical, too – prepared tableside with flair, making each dining experience a performance, a ritual.
The Caesar salad’s journey from Tijuana to the world stage is a testament to its allure. Hollywood stars, captivated by its charm, spread the word, and soon, it became a staple in fine dining establishments and humble kitchens alike. Julia Child, that doyenne of American gastronomy, recounted her first Caesar salad experience at Cardini's, lending it an air of legitimacy and respectability in the culinary world.
Yet, with popularity comes the inevitable parade of imitators and variations. Some abominations have strayed so far from Cardini’s vision that one wonders if they can still be called Caesar salads at all. But the heart of the dish remains untouchable, a beacon of what happens when culinary genius meets the constraints of circumstance.

Under the guidance of acclaimed international chef Javier Plascencia, who took over Caesar's restaurant in 2010, the Caesar salad is still made with the original recipe in Tijuana to this day. The historic eatery is celebrating the 100 years of the dish this year with a special wine made in Baja's famed Valle de Guadalupe wine region.
In honoring the Caesar salad’s 100th anniversary, we are reminded of the virtues of restraint and balance. It’s a dish that doesn’t need to scream for attention but, rather, seduces quietly with each crisp bite and creamy whisper of dressing. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best dishes are those that let their ingredients speak for themselves, that complexity need not be convoluted.

As we lift our forks to this centenarian, let’s remember Caesar Cardini and his impromptu brilliance. Here’s to 100 years of the Caesar salad, an enduring symbol of culinary ingenuity and the unyielding power of simplicity.

Caesar's is located at Av. Revolución 8190, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. For more information, visit