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The search for great FISH TACOS continues...please help!

Fishheads Jul 4, 2005 08:53 AM

Hi Chowhounders,

This being summer, I'm on my best-fish-taco quest. Any votes?

This past week, I have had a chance to try CAFE DE LA ESQUINA, the Mexican food outpost on Lafayette and Kenmare, as well as MERCADITO on Ave B.

They were very different. Esquina's were grilled fish with just a hint of creamy sauce and some cabbage. Mercadito's were fried with more generous with their sauce. The cabbage and sauce blended together better at Mercadito's.

I think, overall, I prefer grilled fish to fried. But Esquina was too stingy with the sauce, causing the overall effect to be blander than Mercadito's. I thought with Mercadito's tacos, I could detect different spices -- more of a concept involved.

Anyway, I'm not really into trekking all the way to 10th Ave and 47th to ltry DELLE VALLE's version. So if there are any other fish-taco options that aren't so far out, please share!

P.S. Is PAMPANO'S TACO OUTPOST worth a try? For those of you who have been there, how would they compare to the versions I described above??


  1. d
    dan o'connor Jul 4, 2005 01:20 PM

    Barrio Chino
    253 Broome St
    New York, NY 10002
    Cross Street: Between Orchard Street and Ludlow Street
    Directions: F at Delancey St

    I had fish tacos here about six weeks ago when I was very hungry so can only say that I remember them as delicious and only disappointed by the size of the order relative to the price, around eight dollars.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dan o'connor
      chris Jul 13, 2005 06:07 PM

      i concur on both the quality and taste, again though not authentic.

    2. b
      Bill Strzempek Jul 4, 2005 01:26 PM

      Love the fish tacos as Alma in Brooklyn, they are on the brunch menu, not sure about nightly.

      1. p
        Peter Flom Jul 4, 2005 04:21 PM

        There is (or was) a Mexican-Japanese fusion place (yeah, sounds weird, but lots of good food) that had fish tacos.....it was on either Ave A or Ave B and 12th st.......I haven't been in a year or two, and have forgotten the name.

        Does anyone know what I am talking about?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Peter Flom
          EV Andrew Jul 4, 2005 08:20 PM

          Gone. Closed a bit ago.

          1. re: Peter Flom
            HamsonNYC Jul 4, 2005 08:26 PM

            Was it Komodo?

            1. re: HamsonNYC
              Peter Flom Jul 5, 2005 12:51 PM

              Yup. Komodo was it. Is it still there?

          2. l
            LK Jul 4, 2005 05:04 PM

            Don't think anyone mentioned Miracle Grill... I think fish tacos are on the menu at both locations, and they are good.

            3 Replies
            1. re: LK
              kimi Jul 4, 2005 07:07 PM

              Try TORTILLA FLATS on Washington and West 12th(?). They always have a fish taco entree.

              Also, worth a try is Mi Cocina on Jane and Hudson. AMAZING!

              1. re: LK
                ann Jul 13, 2005 04:26 PM

                I second the recommendation for catfish tacos at Miracle Grill-- def. not for Baja purists but crunchy crust and the asian slaw that comes on them are great.

                1. re: ann
                  catherinejones Aug 10, 2006 07:37 PM

                  i had the fish tacos at miracle grill in park slope recently -- disgusting. not at all the right place to go for fish tacos, in my opinion.

              2. d
                dkstar1 Jul 5, 2005 10:09 AM

                The mini red snapper tacos at The Stanton Social are worth ordering.

                Link: http://www.bigapplediningguide.com

                1. a
                  adamclyde Jul 5, 2005 11:51 AM

                  Sadly, you are out of luck.

                  Definitely, don't go to pampano's. The "fish tacos" are terrible. Flour tortillas for a fish taco? That's heresy. That's something I'd expect from somewhere like Taco Bell. The flavor/texture/ingredients don't even resemble a baja fish taco.

                  Let me embark on my diatribe on real baja fish tacos this part of the country. Simply, they don't exist. Period.

                  I know that there are a lot of places that sell something they like to call fish tacos. And I'm sure they all have some sort of seafood in a tortilla and call them fish tacos. However, fish tacos are a unique and particular item. I'm not one to be nazi-like crazy about authenticity of items, but a fish taco is just too sacred to screw with.

                  the fish tacos I know come from Baja. And there simply aren't many mexicans that have emigrated here who herald from Baja. Probably some, but not a critical mass.

                  Here is how I would describe a real fish taco:

                  * First, the fish. It is a thinish white fillet, battered and deep fried. Grilled fish is NOT a fish taco. Sure, places like Wahoo's in California (or a lot of hip fusion-y places here in NYC) call them fish tacos, but it just ain't the real deal. The batter is light and crisp, while the fish inside is moist and tender. Almost good tempura-like...

                  * Second, the tortilla - it HAS to be a corn tortilla... and fresh. There isn't an alternative. Flour has absolutely no stinkin' right to come into contact with fish. Period.

                  * Third, it has to have shredded/julienned/whatever you call it, green cabbage. Fresh and crisp. The texture is everything.

                  * Fourth, the sauce. It is a creamy, spicy sauce/salsa. Not tartar crap. Not straight salsa. Not just mayo. Best way to describe it is a spicy blend of mexican crema and salsa.

                  * Fifth, and easiest, the accompaniments. Lime, cilantro... that is about it. Doesn't need much more, but it's gotta have them.

                  Now, I know I haven't tried every place in manhattan that sells what they bill as fish tacos, but from everything I've read, heard and tried, I've yet to find anything that is close to a real fish taco.

                  Please, please, someone prove me wrong and point me in the direction of a good baja fish taco East of the Mississippi. Until then, forgive me if I'm not too excited to run to the latest place in NYC that has decided to sell "fish tacos."

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: adamclyde
                    tweedy Jul 5, 2005 12:00 PM

                    I agree with everything in your diatribe. No fish tacos around here--period. That Pampano place is wildly overrated.

                    1. re: adamclyde
                      jesse Jul 5, 2005 12:17 PM

                      green cactus, a small owner/operator owned chain out in Long Island, serves the closest thing to Baja style fish tacos that i've had..

                      in Grand Central, the mexican place with a Z serves something that's decent, and in a pinch will help to quell a craving for a few days, but for the real deal you've got to head out of the city..

                      1. re: jesse
                        adamclyde Jul 5, 2005 12:31 PM

                        yes... out of the city and on a plane...

                        Thanks for the nod to the green cactus.

                      2. re: adamclyde
                        Fishheads Jul 5, 2005 01:24 PM


                        Thanks for the detailed description of Baha tacos. I've never had them in Mexico -- the best fish tacos I've had were at George's On The Cove in San Diego, California.

                        HOWEVER: At this point, I don't even need AUTHENTICITY -- I just want a decent fish taco. Corn tortilla? Fine. But I won't DIE if it's a flour tortilla either. As long as the fish tastes decent. And the sauce and cabbage fresh, not stale.

                        I'm not quite on your level of pickiness -- just searching for something tasty.

                        Thanks again for explaining, though!

                        1. re: Fishheads
                          adamclyde Jul 5, 2005 03:50 PM

                          That being the case, then some of the recs folks have offered (besides pampano's) would probably fit the bill for what you are looking for.

                          My issue with pampano's isn't the quality of their fish. I'm sure it is fine. It's just that when I tried their fish taco, it didn't even resemble a fish taco. At least nothing I'd ever had. And not that it was a completely new way of doing something... it just wasn't good.

                          Speaking of good experiences with fish tacos in Calif... the best fish taco's I've had outside of Baja were in East L.A., at Tacos Baja Ensenada, on (I think) Whittier Blvd. Man, they are awesome.

                          1. re: adamclyde
                            Fishheads Jul 5, 2005 04:28 PM

                            Since I won't be able to get to California or Mexico anytime soon, another Chowhounder recommended JUANITA'S ON RIVINGTON Street.

                            Any other positive words about Juanita's?

                            1. re: Fishheads
                              adamclyde Jul 5, 2005 10:29 PM

                              sorry... I've personally never been to juanitas. but please let us all know how it is by posting back. Who knows... maybe it is the place that will change the fortunes of the fish taco in NYC.

                              We'll see...

                              1. re: Fishheads
                                chris Jul 13, 2005 06:05 PM

                                i haven't had the fish taco's, but what i did have was disgusting at juanita's.

                                barrio chino makes a great squid taco but i think their fish taco would disapoint people looking for authentic baja.

                          2. re: adamclyde
                            Diana182 Oct 18, 2006 04:15 PM

                            TACO TACO
                            2nd Avenue between 89th and 90th
                            "Baja Style Fish Tacos"
                            EXACTLY AS YOU DESCRIBED - except for the tortillas - Ask them for corn. They will sub it out for you.
                            So delicious I commute all the way from Hoboken to eat them.

                            1. re: adamclyde
                              svinas Jun 21, 2010 07:23 AM

                              Try Pinche Taqueria!!!

                              Pinche Taqueria
                              227 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

                            2. r
                              Ricky Jul 6, 2005 02:10 AM

                              Baja Fresh and the Cactus Fresh knockoff have great fish tacos, unfortunately you have to travel to Queens

                              1. a
                                Andrew Jul 6, 2005 04:59 PM

                                Le Esquina, the new mexican retro-hipster joint on Kenmare between Centre and Broome serves up a nice version albeit not very traditional. A small fresh grilled filet of fish on a skewer served on warm tortillas with some condiments. Nice flavor but not very large for the price.

                                1. j
                                  Jerry Jul 6, 2005 05:54 PM

                                  I mentioned it in your last post.

                                  El Parador Cafe on east 34th street.

                                  Excellent food in general, great selection of tequila, I know nothing about fish tacos and have no idea if what they serve is a "correct" fish taco, but I do know that what they serve is really, really good.

                                  Have taken all sorts of people to this reastaurant and with only one exception (my father - actully his only issue was with one dish, unfortunatly it was the entree he ordered.) everyone loved it.

                                  1. r
                                    Redseapedestrian Jul 12, 2005 10:02 PM

                                    Outer Borough Alert: Bonita on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg. Excellent fish tacos!

                                    1. w
                                      worm Jul 31, 2006 07:46 PM

                                      What about Florencia 13 on Sullivan and Houston? Anyone tried their fish tacos yet?

                                      1. t
                                        tatiana_nyc Aug 10, 2006 07:31 PM

                                        San Diego expatriate who is ALWAYS on the look for good fish tacos. Here are the ones I have tried:

                                        Mercadito: tiny but the best in NY. fried, like they should be
                                        La Esquina: bland and grilled
                                        Blockheads: surprisingly, not awful(for NY). fried.
                                        Old Devil Moon (Ave A and 12th): second to Mercadito, though much better the first of two visits. chopped avocado was great touch. fried.
                                        Florencia 13 - OK, nothing to write home about. everything else there looked pretty good though, I want to go back.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: tatiana_nyc
                                          GM007 Aug 14, 2006 05:33 PM

                                          Re: Fish Tacos..Let's give credit where it's due. Went to Mercadito, tacos okay but stingy..went to Florencia 13 Restaurant and by far they have all the right indredients for the fish tacos and have to tell you they were the best! So anyone looking for Great Fish Tacos, that is the place to go!!

                                        2. c
                                          catherinejones Aug 10, 2006 07:39 PM

                                          Bonita in Williamsburg (Bedford between South 2nd and South 3rd) is the place to go for fish tacos. seriously.

                                          1. w
                                            worm Aug 11, 2006 09:25 PM

                                            Looking back on the years I lived in SoCal, it's too bad fish tacos were so cheap. If the price had been more prohibitive, I would have been forced to figure out how to make a half-way decent one on my own. I tried a few times, but my batter was all wrong. Those guys on the beach in Ensenada made it look too easy. Anybody here able to make a good fish taco in their own kitchen?

                                            1. f
                                              flaneur Aug 12, 2006 09:16 PM

                                              I agree with Redseapedestrian.

                                              Try Bonita in Williamsburg. Hands down, best fish tacos I've had in NYC.

                                              As for fish tacos at La Esquina: if you want something healthy-tasting that's fine, but otherwise, don't bother: they're tasteless. The mere fact that the restaurant menu and staff are inconsistent in telling you what type of fish they'll be using at any given time for their fish taco illustrates just the standard of care that goes into making it. It's better than buying a taco at taco bell, but that's not saying much. I'd stick to the grilled corn at La Esquina; but definitely NOT worth your time or taste buds for the fish taco.



                                              1. n
                                                ningerma Oct 10, 2006 06:06 PM

                                                There is a great little taco stand on 3rd Street just west of B (between A&B) - it's called Snack Dragon and they sell $4 fish tacos. They use Sole - includes a delish red cabbage concoction on top, lime, cilantro, fresh blue corn tortilla - Superb! I'm totally obsessed with this place now. I just found it and am planning on going there once a day for the next month. :)

                                                I also had one steak taco too which was equally delish. The black beans had some sort of interesting flavor - almost floral? And the place is adorable. They only open at 6pm, but they are open late night Friday & Saturday nights until around 4am i think.

                                                Check it out! Enjoy the fish taco!

                                                1. a
                                                  Aiceegray Oct 17, 2006 09:23 PM

                                                  Pampano's taco outpost is delicious and you can't beat their lunch special. $8 for 3 tacos including that fish taco you are craving!

                                                  1. g
                                                    gaucho25 Oct 18, 2006 04:27 PM

                                                    Hmmm... I love Rubio's. I'm going to SoCal in 2 weeks and can't wait! In the meantime, I like Bogota's fish tacos in Park Slope. Fried just the way I like it.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: gaucho25
                                                      jamie2742 Oct 18, 2006 08:18 PM

                                                      Sorry, but no self respecting San Diegan would frequent Rubios. It would be a like a New Yorker claiming that his favorite slice came from Rubio's (Steve Carell, I'm looking at you).

                                                      That said I agree with the other posters from SD in this thread. A true Baja-style fish taco is tough to find here. Oh well, it's not like we don't have tons of other options.

                                                      Of course, we could all move to SD and lament the paucity of decent Italian food. ;-)

                                                      1. re: jamie2742
                                                        JillNoel Nov 17, 2008 05:16 PM

                                                        How about Dos Caminos on Houston & W. Broadway. I only ate there one time, but I'm from Arizona where I can get fantastic fish taco's several places and I loved the fish tacos at Dos Cominos.

                                                        1. re: jamie2742
                                                          mrnyc Nov 17, 2008 05:34 PM

                                                          well, it's equally true that new move-ins to san diego might not know that for fast food style fish tacos RUBIOS used to be pretty good & well regarded there. yeah, that was quite a while ago.

                                                          the last fish tacos i had were from GOOD in the village. they were indeed very good, but waaay too expensive. from menupages:

                                                          Market Surf Tacos (2) daily catch with red onion, cabbage & lime cilantro sauce - basil creamed corn & tomato. $22.00.

                                                          1. re: mrnyc
                                                            mcporkbun Nov 18, 2008 05:56 AM

                                                            Just had the fish tacos at Pinche. They are decent, breaded fish tacos. Up there with mercadito's for me. I put La Esquina's at a close second.

                                                      2. r
                                                        RussianGirl Nov 18, 2008 05:58 AM

                                                        I wonder about the new taco truck on 60th and 3rd. I've been reading great reviews on this board and happened to walk by Sat afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to see them working. Granted I had already eaten lunch, but couldn't resist. Ordered a chicken soft taco ($2) and it was delicious. Does anyone know if they have fish tacos?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: RussianGirl
                                                          jackieparis Nov 18, 2008 07:39 AM

                                                          The fish tacos at Grey Dog's Cafe on University Place are excellent!

                                                          1. re: jackieparis
                                                            maggiej Nov 18, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                            I like the fish tacos at Mole just below Houston.

                                                        2. w
                                                          worm Jul 19, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                          Rockaway Tacos--but it is in Rockaway.

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