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Jun 25, 2001 03:39 AM

Rubio's Baja Grill, Santa Rosa

  • m

The many mentions of this chain restaurant for best fast food made me curious enough to try this Friday night. The Santa Rosa branch is in the mall and outdoor seating under palapa shades well-suited for this warm evening.

This was lobster fiesta night and the lobster taco was discounted to $1.99. With a fish taco at $1.89 and the $1.00 "in combo" for a portion of beans and chips, I had dinner in no time.

The beans were pretty good and well-seasoned, although canola oil can't quite make the grade. The chips were thin and really crisp with good flavor, but the problem is that most of them were broken. The salsas at the help yourself bar came in three flavors - green, mild and the hot one made from roasted peppers. None of them were compelling enough to get more chips. I think I'd skip the "in combo" next time.

The battered then deep-fried mahi mahi in the fish taco was cooked to order and just right. The lobster was grilled with some red sauce and garnished with guac. Both tacos were topped with freshly cut shreds of cabbage, salsa fresca and something called white sauce. I could get into all of this except that the corn tortilla was so odd. The tortillas were nice and thick, chewy but also tough. And they were a dark color, more tan than beige. What's the story on these?

Overall, this was good quality for the price. This is probably the best food available at the mall and not a bad choice for a quick shopping break to dine al fresco. Now if they just had the poolside swim up margarita bar...

Rubio's Baja Grill
1016 Santa Rosa Plaza
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
707 546 3267

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  1. It was funny to see this post, because I recently asked about Rubio's on the LA board, but your write up is a much more complete, and interesting response. I do look at the SF board quite a bit, and I generally give it the highest marks for the quality and quanity of those who post. My wife and son and I are coming for the SF Gift show in early August. Since we are staying at the Marriott on 4th St. this time I am strongly considering a reservation at Fringale, especially given some of the mentions it got in the recent SOMA restaurant discussion. Our son is 13, does that present any special difficulties? We won't have a car, so close is good. What about The 5th Floor as an alternative? I have been intrigued by it since it opened. I always read everthing you post, Melanie. Thanks for all the great info.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Mike Kilgore

      Gee, thanks, Mike! The SF community is doing a great job on reporting local culinary happenings, there's so much to cover. Rubio's may be more of a San Diego phenomenon too, and there aren't that many posters from SD.

      Here's a link to a SOMA discussion from April for a few more ideas. The Marriott on 4th (only a couple blocks from Hotel W) is an easy walk to Union Square and Chinatown too, and centrally located with good public transportation links. No need for a car to see a lot of the City from here.

      I haven't been to 5th Floor. Pricewise it will be a step up from Fringale and more formal.


      1. re: Mike Kilgore


        Fringale is fine for a 13-year old whom, I'm assuming, isn't a fussy eater. The food is Basque inspired bistro food -- very delicious and not too "fancy" for a teenager.

        Another good place not far from your hotel is Le Charm on 5th St. They offer a 3 course prix fixe dinner ($25.00) that is very good and a real bargain.

        The link to le Charm is:

        Here's a link to Fringale:


        1. re: Nancy Berry

          Thanks so much. I took a look at Fringale just now and it had a very tempting menu. I will check out le Charm later today. The good thing about our son is that he loves Halibut and that seems to show up on a lot of menu's.

      2. Everytime I'm in San Diego, I have to get a Rubio's Fish Taco Especial (or 2). The chain started in San Diego and I think that the SD locations are slightly better than the LA ones (although those are good as well - the one on Sepulveda in MB is very good). Would love to see them open a few places in SF proper. There was also a chain in LA of a rotisserie style chicken (with a ton of side dishes) called Koo-Koo-Roo that I miss as well. I know a Koo-Koo-Roo opened near Market, but I haven't been there yet. Bear in mind that it is a chain restaurant, so the food cant compare to any "homemade" operation, but for good fast food they were always reliable.

        1. r
          Randy Salenfriend

          Rejoice, there is a Rubio's in SF at the San Francisco Centre. Many years ago when I lived in San Diego, I frequented the original Rubios. In those days, it was simply a tiny little spot in Pacific Beach but oh those tacos!! Following my relocation to the Bay Area, alas, many pretenders but no one could replicate that tasty ethereal creamy sauce, crunch of the cabbage and the muy delicioso quick fried fillet.

          Last Labor Day when visiting friends in San Diego, they asked us where we would like to dine on our first night out. That's right, we eschewed the trendy and frou frou in lieu of scratching the fish taco itch, like coming home. They have not missed a beat, simply larger restaurants with more variety.

          Next, we were returning home from Tahoe and stopped off in Roseville for more Pesky Pescados. One day, the food section of The Chron broke the story, Rubios to open in SF Centre. Ummmm, head down there immediately. There are not too many things I can think of that our SoCal brethren do better than we do but fish tacos are one of them. Viva Rubios, viva San Felipe, viva Ensenada.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Randy Salenfriend

            Come to think of it, two on the extremely short list of things I miss about LA are crab enchilladas and lobster in guacamole that we used to get somewhere east of the Silver Lake District where my Auntie Laura used to live. Also, the green corn tamales this time of year.

          2. There is a nice article in the latest issue of Saveur on Rubio's and the origins of fish tacos. Also a recipe for the fish batter. Saveur is one of the only food magazines that actually has content worth spending some time with.

            6 Replies
            1. re: gordon wing

              I musta let my subscription lapse. Haven't seen a Saveur for a couple months. Could you please summarize the origins of fish tacos? Does it discuss regional differences, e.g., Baja vs. Matzalan?

              Rubio's in Santa Rosa had the article in Gourmet by the Sterns displayed in several spots.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                In 1983 Rubio's Fish Tacos ( later to be Rubio's Baja Grill) was born. He helped to popularize the fish taco but he didn't invent it.Rubio got the recipe from the owner of his favorite fish taco stand in San Felipe in Baja. As served in Baja, it's a soft corn tortilla, filet of shark that has been battered & deep fried, then topped with shredded cabbage ( not lettuce ) and drizzled with a spicy chile salsa and a mayo based white sauce. (loosely based on tartar sauce?) Others say maybe in Ensenada, Tia Magui, got a recipe for a beer batter from a mysterious Japanese man. Along this line, there were several Japanese in Ensenada and the batter for the fish is inspired by tempura batter...shark was popular because it was cheap and good, cabbage instead of lettuce because of no refrigeration and the white sauce was inspired by tartar sauce. Is that confusing enough?

                1. re: gordon wing

                  Thanks, Gordon! The same article was mentioned on the Boston board, but you heard it here first, folks.

                  I noticed that Rubio's uses a single thicker tortilla, rather than two thinner ones. Is this their own style? The taste was sort of roasted, like the corn kernels or meal had been toasted.

              2. re: gordon wing

                I always notice that people get their Saveur issues at least a couple of days before mine arrives. Strange.

                1. re: srf1

                  Is your mail carrier a chowhound? Might be reading it for a couple days...