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Fish Tacos: A Southern California Specialty

October 10, 2010

Mike Whatley
Fish Tacos: A Southern California Specialty

Natives of Southern California will likely argue that they have the best and most authentic tacos in the country (although El Paso might beg to differ).  Tacos, however, can be found almost everywhere in the United States.  One does not need to come to Southern California to encounter a regular beef, chicken, or pork taco.  The same cannot be said of a fairly unique spin on a traditional taco that you are unlikely to find in other areas of the country: the fish taco.

Please don’t stop reading—I know the idea of adding seafood to a taco may sound gross to some, but it can be quite good if done right.  The original concept appears to have come from Baja, Mexico and

involved very cheap fish that was deep fried and served on a tortilla with white cream sauce and cabbage.  Admittedly, this does not sound like the most delicious meal ever.  Fortunately, different restaurants have creatively changed the format of the taco and the fish used in it over time.  Despite the many different versions, most keep cabbage as a key ingredient to give the taco a crunch that other soft tacos lack.

But where can one go nearby Claremont to get the best fish tacos and without getting poisoned (after all no one wants bad fish)?  After a review of various places, three different tacos stand out (ranked in order):

1. Wahoo’s Cajun Fish Tacos (Rancho Cucamonga). If you are up for a little drive, Wahoo’s will not disappoint.  The Cajun blackened tacos feature either Wahoo or Mahi Mahi (depending upon what the restaurant can get fresh that day) that is marinated in spices and then cooked until the fish is tender and flaky.  The generous quantity of fish is placed on a small tortilla with a light amount of cabbage and a refreshing pico de gallo salsa on top.  Wahoo’s is generous with the portions in the taco, so you will likely need a fork to finish and several napkins to clean up the mess you make.  Try the taco combo, two of these fish tacos along with a gigantic portion of rice and black beans for $6.25.  Two tacos may sound small, but this meal is large enough that you will certainly not leave hungry or unhappy.

2. Rubio’s Chile-Lime Salmon Tacos (La Verne). Salmon is a long way from the cheap white fish used in traditional fish tacos, but Rubio’s wins here for creativity.  Significant chunks of lime-marinated Salmon are mixed together with grilled corn, a spicy cream sauce, and the traditional cabbage.  A single one of these tacos is $3.79—quite a steep price for a single taco with no sides—so instead try the Chile-Lime Salmon burrito ($7.59).  The burrito has all the features of the taco plus guacamole and larger chunks of salmon (as well as simply being over twice the size of a taco).  You may be skeptical of salmon in a burrito or taco but this combination of salmon, corn, and spice won’t let you down.

*A general note on Rubio’s: while this dish is excellent, the majority of the food is not cheap and not better than Chipotle.  If you’re in the mood for a chicken or steak burrito, you are better off elsewhere.

3. 99 Cent Fish Taco at Senor Baja’s (Upland and Pomona, both on Foothill). Want a cheap traditionalfishtaco?  You should check out Senor Baja’s on Wednesdays (the 99 cent deal is only Wednesday).  For your 99 cents you will get a deep fried piece of white fish with an ample amount of white sauce and cabbage on top.  Despite being deep fried, the fish is not dripping in grease and is fairly good when combined with the sauce and the very spicy salsa that Senor Baja’s provides.  The taco is not the tastiest dish in the world, but if you are looking for a less exotic rendition of a fish taco, it is a safe bet.

*Note on Senor Baja’s: if you go to the one in Upland, do not be scared away by the fact that it is located next to the infamous Popeye’s that has a B health rating.  Senor Baja’s itself has an A rating and is clean inside.  You should go there, however, for the fish tacos (the fried ones, do not “upgrade” to grilled, you will regret it) and skip the rest of the menu.

If you love your tacos and do not hate fish, you need to try fish tacos at least once while in Southern California because you are unlikely to find them elsewhere.  This list provides two creative versions and a more traditional cheap one and should give you a good taste for this unique twist on tacos.  Is this list missing an excellent fish taco in the Claremont area?  Please add it to the list in the comment section.

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