If you love crisp, creamy Caesar salad, you may be surprised to hear about its origin in Tijuana, Mexico. While some may relate the iconic salad to Roman dictator Julius Caesar, it is not from the ancient world. The Caesar salad was actually thought-up in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico by an Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini. The craziest part, though? You can still eat the original salad recipe in the same Tijuana restaurant today:

Caesar’s Restaurant, located in Tijuana’s Hotel Caesar, still serves its iconic, world-changing dish. The spot recently wrote on Instagram: “The classic Caesar salad is a Tijuana tradition that transcends.” Over on its website, the restaurant proclaims itself as “where the world famous Caesar Salad was born,” describing how it pays tribute to “founder and inventor of the famous salad, [Cardini].”

Ahead, find out about the fascinating Tijuana origin story of the Caesar salad, the Old Hollywood celebrities who flocked to Mexico to try the dish, and even recipe tips from Cardini’s daughter.

The Caesar salad was reportedly invented in a Tijuana restaurant by accident

As reported by Food & Wine, chef Cardini was born near Lake Maggiore in Baveno, Italy, and moved to North America in the 1910s. The Italian expat opened a few restaurants in California during this time, including spots in San Francisco and San Diego. However, everything changed when the United States ushered in its Prohibition era in 1920, halting the production and sale of alcohol.

At that point, Cardini could no longer serve alcoholic drinks at his San Diego restaurant. However, he could open up a spot south of the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The chef did just that, opening up Caesar’s Tijuana to a bustling crowd of Mexican diners, U.S. travelers, and Old Hollywood starlets. In fact, actor Clark Gable allegedly dined at the restaurant, and chef Julia Child raved about it in a book.

Cardini’s Tijuana restaurant was a success, but its creation of the Caesar salad made it a sensation. Incredibly, though, legend says that he came up with the recipe by accident.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the unofficial story says that Cardini invented the salad on July 4, 1924. That night, hungry pilots from San Diego came into the restaurant looking for a meal. However, the hotspot was running low on ingredients to make their standard dishes. What to do? As the story goes, the chef threw together whatever he had on hand: ingredients like romaine lettuce, croutons, olive oil, limes (not lemons!), and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The result— the birth of the Caesar salad, of course.

As per Cardini’s daughter, Rosa Cardini, her father came “right to the table with the cart and tossed each ingredient in the correct order.” Interestingly, as shown in table-side videos of Caesar’s Tijuana today, the restaurant’s waiters still seem to serve it to patrons in the same way.

Still, there is a bit of hubbub regarding the Caesar salad origin story. Food & Wine explains that there is some debate about whether Caesar Cardini or his brother Alessandro Cardini thought-up the dish. Others say it was a Cardini employee named Livio Santini who made it, while others attribute the recipe to a Chicago chef named Giacomo Junia in 1903.

Baja California chef Javier Plascencia now owns Caesar’s restaurant in Tijuana. Plascencia told L.A. Taco that while the salad was invented “by accident,” the hotspot still makes around 550 of them for patrons each day. Interestingly, as per Plascencia’s interview with the outlet, Cardini’s employee Santini invented the salad based on his mother’s recipe. Meaning, the debate will probably continue forever.

And while Plascencia remembers the original Caesar’s in Tijuana as “a very Italian, old-style restaurant,” he makes one thing very clear. Caesar salad is “a Mexican dish.”

Surprisingly, Cardini’s daughter allegedly said in an interview that there “were never any anchovies” in the original dish. Other tips to make an authentic version? Use “the best” of every ingredient, keep your romaine lettuce dry and cold, and don’t “bruise” your leaves when tossing. You can also marinate your garlic cloves in olive oil for extra flavor.

The more you know!