Although Baja Taqueria in Piedmont is thousands of miles from Appalachia,it’s a place even a Tennesseean would feel at home on a Monday night. “Doesn’t Mexican food and bluegrass music just make sense?” asks Baja Taqueria owner and musician Jeffrey Mogalian with a sly grin. Mogalian started welcoming the Monday night bluegrass jams five years ago, when the musicians were left homeless after a Marina District bluegrass bar shut down. “When Paul sold (Paul’s Saloon),” says mandolin player Jerry Barush, “there was nowhere to go.” Strangers who have become friends over the years ring their fiddles, guitars, mandolins, basses and banjos — and enjoy the house special, fish tacos.

The random band members take turns leading the rest in classics like “Pea Soup Reel,” “Goodbye Ol’ Pal,” “How Mountain Gals Can Love” and “Wabash Cannonball.” Word spread like wildfire about the bluegrass taco jams. Now, as many as 25 players gather, “and they still don’t step on each other,” says Mogalian. Jam member Tom Lucas even wrote a crowd-pleasin’ number about fish tacos to the tune of “Rye Whiskey.” It goes: “Someone please tell me what’s the matter with me, Pay money for tacos, play bluegrass for free, If I foam at the mouth and climb up the walls, That’s the first sign of fish taco withdrawal.”

The preceding excerpt was taken verbatim from the article “Finding Bluegrass at the Baja” published by SF GATE on Monday, November 10, 1997 and can be viewed in its entirety here.

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