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Baja style Fish Tacos in OC/LA

vlad Feb 14, 2008 05:39 PM

Hate to be the heretic here ------ but, I am starting to feel that Rubio's fish tacos are fairly unbeatable. Yes, yes, they are an 'evil corporation' chain etc etc yet their fish taco especials are, IMHO, incredibly delicious.

I have sampled some of the ostensible 'best' baja style fish tacos in the LA/OC area --- and am still flummoxed. Nothing I have had can compare.

Am I wrong? If so, please edify me.

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  1. Das Ubergeek RE: vlad Feb 14, 2008 07:28 PM

    Of course, it would help if you tell us where these ostensible 'best' are.

    For fish tacos -- not shrimp, but fish -- my ranking would be:

    1. Senor Baja, Anaheim Hills
    2. El Taco Nazo, La Habra
    3. Los Cotijas, Tustin or Garden Grove

    Move up toward LA and there's also Tacos Baja Ensenada in ELA with which one must contend -- but far and away the best fish tacos I ever had were from a fish taco truck on Olympic and Gerhart? Goodrich? A block or two away from TBE. I never have the opportunity to get back there at the same time so I have NO idea if it's still there.

    It's a bit surprising to me that with all the Mexican culture in Santa Ana, nobody ever mentions fish tacos there.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek
      vlad RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 15, 2008 09:43 AM

      Thanks for the tips. I will try those out. (Las Cotijas is on my list.)

      I have sampled the fish tacos (they actually don't have baja style) at Las Barcas in Huntington Beach and found them lacking. Also have tried that place right by South Coast Plaza, I think it is called Baja Tacos. They are totally average.

      Also, took a trip up to Maria's Fresh Seafood in LA at the Grand Central Market, only to be be sorely disappointed. The fish taco there, while large, is pretty crappy.

      1. re: vlad
        Narinda RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 01:44 PM

        I can't praise Los Cotijas enough. I'm a little sad that my sweet little secret is very much out, but such a good thing couldn't stay hidden for long.

        I have some tips for eating there on my blog if you're interested (see my profile).

        1. re: Narinda
          vlad RE: Narinda Feb 15, 2008 03:23 PM

          Just got back from Las Cotijas. Delicious.

          Caveats: Fish was most assuredly, not fresh. Clearly, I don't really expect fresh fish, but one of my tacos stank of old fish. The other two were great.

          Their hot sauce is pretty good --- but nothing on the chipotle salsa that Rubio's has. Plus a dollop of guac on one of those bad boys might just send me over the edge.

          Anyhow, thanks for the Las Cotijas tip. I'll be back there soon.

          1. re: vlad
            Das Ubergeek RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 08:20 PM

            I swear you had the same experience I did -- I was starving, had skipped lunch, and ordered three fish tacos. Two of them were perfect -- one was old and gross. But when I went to the Euclid Street branch, I ordered two and both were fine. Their salsa is boring -- the guy in Tustin didn't want to give it to me, said it was too hot. I made him hand it over, tasted it, it was barely hot at all -- rooster sauce is hotter. So yeah, boo on the salsa.

            You've GOT to try El Taco Nazo. Blows Los Cotijas STRAIGHT out of the water.

            And BTW, it's actually "Los" Cotijas. I have no idea why, it hurts my brain the way "Mission Viejo" does ("ARGH IT SHOULD BE MISION VIEJA WARGLEWARGLE").

            1. re: Das Ubergeek
              vlad RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 17, 2008 02:20 PM

              You sold me. El Taco Nazo is next on the list. Where is the nearest El Taco Nazo in the mid-Orange County area?

              My guess is that 'cotija' is one of what we called 'transvestite words' in Spanish class. Words that look feminine, but their article is actually masculine. For example, el mapa.

              1. re: vlad
                Das Ubergeek RE: vlad Feb 17, 2008 02:25 PM

                There's only one El Taco Nazo in Orange County, and it's in La Habra, just a hundred feet or so south of the corner of La Habra Blvd. and Beach Blvd.

                It's so, so worth the drive -- and if they don't have the chiles sitting out under the dome on the salsa bar, ask them to make more.

                El Taco Nazo
                121 S Beach Blvd, La Habra, CA 90631

                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                  vlad RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 17, 2008 02:28 PM

                  I just put it on my To Do list for this week.


      2. re: Das Ubergeek
        obsessive RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 17, 2008 02:46 PM

        Hi Herr Doktor Ubergeek

        Are all Taco Nazo locations equally as good, or do you recommend one (or more) in particular? TIA.

        1. re: obsessive
          Das Ubergeek RE: obsessive Feb 17, 2008 03:25 PM

          I have only been to two of them -- the one on Garvey (actually haven't been there since it was next to My Hanh in that Godawful plaza and you had to show up before 11:30 AM if you wanted to sit for lunch), and the one in La Habra. The two were indistinguishable so I think you'll be fine.

        2. re: Das Ubergeek
          FoodieKat RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 1, 2008 02:22 AM

          Ha, I thought it was just me. I didn't think that hot sauce at Las Cotijas was all that hot either. The tacos made up for the somewhat bland sauce though. Both tacos were fresh and very good.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            FoodieKat RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 1, 2008 02:25 AM

            I am kind of a Baja fish taco newbie, so am on a bit of a mission. I tried Rubios today for the first time. The fish pieces in their classic taco were tasty, but so tiny, and buried under way too much cabbage. The salsas were bland (except for the roasted chipotle salsa which was surprisingly good), so the taco ended up being kind of a dry mess. The blackened mahi mahi was good, but again, tiny pieces of fish buried in a sea of cabbage. Not bad for a chain, but needless to say it was nowhere near as good as Las Cotijas.

          2. t
            torty RE: vlad Feb 14, 2008 07:50 PM

            In my opinion, Rubio's has interesting salsas and some very thick "corny" tortillas but they are not even really Baja style. You can not taste the fish in that lump of batter. There is no crema type sauce. I am sure others will provide good recs.

            1. y
              yclops RE: vlad Feb 14, 2008 09:11 PM

              Hit four fish taco places two weeks ago when I was back in LA on business. My thoughts:
              --Tacos Baja Ensenada: [TBE's "on the way" from LAX to Woodland Hills, right?] My long-time favorite, but disappointed slightly this time. It appeared they were breaking in a new cook. There was a frazzled younger guy at the fryer, watched over by the owner (dude with the 'stache). The tacos were good, but lacked the magic that only Sr. Stache seems to have.
              --Taco Nazo (El Monte): Pulled into the strip mall and cursed when I noticed TN was gone. Retracted the curse when I saw the spiffy, new freestanding Taco Nazo across the street. I have to admit, I'd always put TBE as #1 and TN as a solid #2, but the sublimely perfect fish and shrimp tacos I had that day scored a resounding upset victory over the perennial champs, and reordered my fish taco world.
              --Best Fish Taco in Ensenada: Not bad. Not worth going too far out of your way for; just lacked the oomph that TN and TBE have. Doubt I'll ever go back.
              --Overpriced Chain Next to Hotel: It's next to the hotel, I said. TN & TBE are 40 miles away, I said. It's late, I said. I seasoned my fish tacos with the bitter salty tears of regret that night, my friends.

              5 Replies
              1. re: yclops
                Das Ubergeek RE: yclops Feb 15, 2008 07:57 AM

                For your next trip, there are many, many El Taco Nazos (should that be "Los Tacos Nazos"?) and many Senor Bajas -- there was a rift in the family and half the family changed over to Senor Baja. I bet there's half a dozen ETNs and a dozen SBs. They're all in the 626/562 area for the most part but one may be closer than the one on Garvey.

                1. re: yclops
                  Cubancoffee RE: yclops Feb 15, 2008 08:05 PM

                  We might be unsophisticated, but we LOVE Best Fish Taco in Ensenada. We go there 2-3 times a month and have never been disappointed. They have a wide selection of salsas, and their prices cannot be beat, IMHO.

                  1. re: Cubancoffee
                    Das Ubergeek RE: Cubancoffee Feb 15, 2008 08:21 PM

                    I swear every time I read that I go "WHERE is the best fish taco in En...damn it, got me again!"

                    We ought to institute a site-wide rule that that restaurant must appear in quotes.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                      Cubancoffee RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 15, 2008 08:30 PM

                      If nothing else, the guy came up with a distinctive, if confusing, name. And since he finally got stools that are the right height for the tables, we like the spare but somewhat funky decor.

                  2. re: yclops
                    ns1 RE: yclops Feb 18, 2008 11:36 AM

                    I actually prefer BFTiE way over TBE. I find their batter much lighter and refreshing. Not as much of a crunch compared to TBE, but spectacular.

                    I'm good for at least 3 when I'm there, and can eat 4-5 if I wanted to overdo it. Their raddish relish is INSANE.

                    I go there about twice a month.

                    Goddamn, I just read that comment again: "just lacked the oomph that TN and TBE have". Need more oomph? then you need more pineapple salsa + raddish relish ;)

                  3. j
                    Jason_Coulston RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 10:09 AM

                    For a uniquely surf-inspired twist on the traditional Baja style fish taco, you might want to look to Catalina Fish Kitchen in Costa Mesa on 17th Street between Superior Ave. and Placentia Ave. They only have this one location which is always a plus in my book and you can enjoy your fish tacos (there are more than a dozen different fish options) with their ultra-spicy "Shark Sauce", sip a lovely draft beer, and enjoy the surf videos on the TV's.

                    R. Jason Coulston

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Jason_Coulston
                      I got nothin RE: Jason_Coulston Feb 15, 2008 10:15 AM

                      Catalina Fish Kitchen actually has 2 locations, the other one is on Magnolia (in between Yorktown and Garfield) in Huntington Beach

                      1. re: I got nothin
                        Jason_Coulston RE: I got nothin Feb 15, 2008 10:17 AM

                        No kidding, eh? Interesting. I had no idea. Sometimes we catch that very campy local commercial they run with the guy in the lobster suit standing in front of that Costa Mesa location. I had no idea there was another one in Huntington Beach. What do you think of that place?

                        R. Jason Coulston

                        1. re: Jason_Coulston
                          I got nothin RE: Jason_Coulston Feb 15, 2008 10:31 AM

                          Haven't tried their fish tacos, but I do like their beer prices. Only tried a scallop dish, and let's just say I won't ever try that dish again and I haven't been back since that visit

                          1. re: I got nothin
                            Jason_Coulston RE: I got nothin Feb 15, 2008 10:49 AM

                            That's a bummer on the scallops. I usually just get the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with rice and black beans. The Habanero sauce is excellent and provides great kick. My wife always orders the shrimp tacos. By the way, are you sure the Costa Mesa location and the Huntington Beach location are the same owners? I tried a Google search to cross reference the two but came up empty. Of course they're a small outfit and apparently not big enough to get a website going (big mistake if you ask me), but all of my search results yielded information on Costa Mesa, not on HB.

                            R. Jason Coulston

                            1. re: Jason_Coulston
                              I got nothin RE: Jason_Coulston Feb 15, 2008 11:20 AM

                              I'm pretty sure they're related. The CM location is referred to on some sites as #1, and the HB location as the #2 (For example, see the link below for places to get Gringo Bandito hot sauce. Sidenote, I really like that hot sauce). I also think I've seen a commercial where they mention both locations. Maybe I'll try they're fish tacos based on your rec


                      2. re: Jason_Coulston
                        vlad RE: Jason_Coulston Feb 15, 2008 11:13 AM

                        Luv CFK. Haven't had their fish taco yet cuz I am always busy demolishing their lobster burrito.

                      3. notmartha RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 07:10 PM

                        I used to like Rubios until I had freshly prepared fish tacos. I don't think Rubio's compare texture wise.

                        My favorite so far is Taco Nazo in La Habra. When you get them fresh you can taste the crunchy batter, and the fish is silky and flakey. They really suffer if you let it sit for so much as 5 minutes - got soggy and limp.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: notmartha
                          Das Ubergeek RE: notmartha Feb 15, 2008 08:23 PM

                          Agree on the sogginess -- it's almost like tempura batter so you need to move fast. Either eat your chiles gueros before the tacos come up, or after. It used to be they would hang out in a heat lamp. Now they make everything fresh and I'm not kidding, I've driven from Orange on my lunch hour to go get those damn tacos.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                            notmartha RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 16, 2008 06:03 PM

                            That's dedication!

                            At least tempura can last a few more minutes. Problem is they top the fish with crema, salsa, etc so by the time I finished my first taco the second was already soggy.

                            1. re: notmartha
                              Das Ubergeek RE: notmartha Feb 17, 2008 09:29 AM

                              Ah -- they put the cabbage on first, so I push the cabbage (and the gloppy stuff) to the side first before I eat anything.

                              I shouldn't have to resort to surgery to make my food last fifteen minutes, but when I do, it's just... sublime.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                notmartha RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 17, 2008 06:23 PM

                                Thanks for the tip. I was considering something more drastic - like placing 2 orders 10 minutes apart...

                        2. l
                          la_vena RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 07:24 PM

                          You should try Holé Molé in Long Beach. Their fish tacos are the best!!!


                          6 Replies
                          1. re: la_vena
                            Raymondo RE: la_vena Feb 16, 2008 05:38 AM

                            I second the rec for Hole Mole. Love their salsas. Great fish tacos. Tuesday is $1 taco Tuesday. I think they now have 4 locations around LBC.

                            1. re: Raymondo
                              mlgb RE: Raymondo Feb 16, 2008 01:35 PM

                              Yup I like Hole Mole too. Only been to the one on PCH.

                            2. re: la_vena
                              Joe Blowe RE: la_vena Feb 17, 2008 09:39 AM

                              I tried Holé Molé (PCH) a few months ago, and it just does not compare to TBE or Nazo. Plain and simple. If it's close by, fine. If you don't feel like fighting traffic for a better fish taco, fine. But to put them in the same league as the aforementioned is sacrilege! ;-)

                              1. re: Joe Blowe
                                mlgb RE: Joe Blowe Feb 17, 2008 10:04 AM

                                HM is better than Rubios. I probably wouldn't travel too far out of my way for any fish taco, but where would be the closest branch of TBE or Nazo to Long Beach?

                                1. re: mlgb
                                  Das Ubergeek RE: mlgb Feb 17, 2008 10:13 AM

                                  There's only one TBE.

                                  Closest ETN is 10316 Alondra, between Woodruff and the 605, Bellflower.
                                  Closest Senor Baja is Alondra and Pioneer, Norwalk.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                    mlgb RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 17, 2008 10:44 AM

                                    Thanks, those are definitely close enough to try.

                            3. y
                              yewneeduhtymeowt RE: vlad Feb 15, 2008 11:13 PM

                              El Taco Nazo in El Monte has great fish tacos for a good price!

                              1. Oishii Eats RE: vlad Feb 18, 2008 10:41 AM

                                I've been to Siete Mares (Silver Lake), Tacos Baja Ensenanda (ELA), and Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada (Los Feliz) and I have to say that the tacos at Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada are my favorite.

                                Eat Drink & Be Merry does a thorough study on these three joints: http://eatdrinknbmerry.blogspot.com/2...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Oishii Eats
                                  ns1 RE: Oishii Eats Feb 18, 2008 11:43 AM

                                  Don't know if that's your site or not, but I totally concur with that review of BFTiE. Love that light batter, and love the fish tacos more than the shrimp ones. I never use the avocado salsa though...just copius, copius amounts of raddish relish.

                                2. w
                                  Waverly SGV RE: vlad Mar 27, 2008 09:26 PM

                                  Finally tried El Taco Nazo in El Monte today. Great fish and shrimp tacos. Nice crunch, not too greasy, but a little too much crema. But the one thing that will summons me back to ETN again are the whole roasted jalapeno peppers found at the salsa bar. Lightly seasoned, flavorful, and melt-in-your-mouth. Mmmmmm...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Waverly SGV
                                    Das Ubergeek RE: Waverly SGV Mar 28, 2008 12:10 PM

                                    Chiles güeros... they are at all ETN branches.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                      Waverly SGV RE: Das Ubergeek Mar 28, 2008 06:54 PM

                                      I had some chiles gueros again today, but at the Harrah's Casino buffet in Rincon. Way too hot, and not at all melty and mellow like ETN's. I think I'm addicted.

                                  2. ElJeffe RE: vlad Apr 1, 2008 09:46 AM

                                    Anything on the West Side?

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: ElJeffe
                                      Joe Blowe RE: ElJeffe Apr 1, 2008 10:48 AM

                                      No. Leave your comfort zone and go East...

                                      1. re: Joe Blowe
                                        kek is khmer RE: Joe Blowe Apr 1, 2008 02:06 PM

                                        Joe Blowe- that is a awesome response!

                                        I like Taco Nazo too but I wouldn't say that Hole Mole doesn't compare. It's Tuesday, time for $1 tacos (sigh, they should always be $1, i miss my LA taco trucks).

                                        1. re: kek is khmer
                                          justagthing RE: kek is khmer Apr 1, 2008 09:45 PM

                                          I had 2 today at Hole Mole today and have turned 3 other friends onto them.

                                        2. re: Joe Blowe
                                          ElJeffe RE: Joe Blowe Apr 1, 2008 05:57 PM

                                          As much as I joke around, I actually do go East quite a bit. I've even gone to restaurants in the Valley a couple times this month. Do you believe that? Normally, I'm like Jonny Drama...only visit the Valley in December thru March and only with a cold towel wrapped around my head.

                                          But for something as simple as fish tacos, a 30 mile drive is tough to get motivated for vs. Wahoo's (not Baja style, I know I know).

                                      2. daylight RE: vlad Apr 8, 2008 02:22 PM

                                        i love love love rubio's fish tacos.
                                        and is definitely one of the things i miss the most about california. :(
                                        you should try a place called "baja fish tacos".
                                        look it up.
                                        the one i used to go to is in laguna niguel, but they also have one in santa ana, and laguna hills (i think...)
                                        DEFINITELY try it out!
                                        i'm still trying to make them myself, but can never get the white sauce right.
                                        i've searched and am yet to try every single recipe out there!
                                        having a fish quesadilla tonight... mmmm...

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: daylight
                                          Das Ubergeek RE: daylight Apr 8, 2008 09:05 PM

                                          The "white sauce" is crema mexicana -- salted. You can buy it at the service deli in every single Mexican market in Orange County, or you can buy Cacique brand (in tall cylindrical white containers) where you would find sour cream even in Vons or Albertsons or Stater Bros. Should cost $1-$2 a pound at the service deli. Just make sure you stir it thoroughly.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                            daylight RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 9, 2008 05:16 AM

                                            i actually have that stuff. (i love it) but there must be something else they put in it...
                                            i have mixed it with "el yucateco" chipotle hot sauce, which is tasty, but not the same...
                                            i'm still experimenting with different hot sauces & mixtures...
                                            (i didn't like mixing it with mayo though...)
                                            thank you for your reply. :)

                                          2. re: daylight
                                            peapod38 RE: daylight Apr 9, 2008 11:41 AM

                                            Hey read about your sauce problem, try 1 part sour cream 1 part plain yougurt, lime juice and chipotle dry season mix, I have had a hard time finding the mix but it should be in the marinade section of the store and it is a dry rub kind of mix, this is as close as I have come to the sauce, good luck!

                                            1. re: peapod38
                                              daylight RE: peapod38 Apr 9, 2008 01:18 PM

                                              thanks peapod. i'll give it a try.
                                              i do have the dry chipotle stuff.
                                              thank you.

                                          3. ROBBARNES RE: vlad Apr 9, 2008 08:24 AM

                                            HAVE TO GIVE MY VOTE ALSO TO RUBIO'S* * * * * 5 STARS

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: ROBBARNES
                                              ns1 RE: ROBBARNES Apr 9, 2008 10:40 AM

                                              wow. just wow.

                                              I actually think del taco's fish tacos are far superior to rubios.

                                              1. re: ns1
                                                Servorg RE: ns1 Apr 9, 2008 11:13 AM

                                                If that's the case you just eliminated any need I might have thought I had to try Rubio's.

                                                1. re: Servorg
                                                  Wonginator RE: Servorg Apr 9, 2008 11:47 AM

                                                  I've tried both the Rubio's and Del Taco fish tacos, and I think Rubio's is the superior one. To me, Rubio's chipotle sauce is one of the best I've found and goes perfectly with their fish tacos.

                                                  Del Taco lacks decent salsa, and their taco sauces don't really go well with their fish tacos.

                                                  1. re: Wonginator
                                                    ns1 RE: Wonginator Apr 9, 2008 12:09 PM

                                                    Yes rubio's salsa is better, since del taco doesn't have any.

                                                    But rubio's has WAY more batter than the del taco one, which detracts from the thing as a whole. It's even worse if it's been sitting there for a while so the white sauce just makes the whole thing a soggy mess, which futher compounds the issue of ridiculous amounts of batter.

                                                    1. re: ns1
                                                      Das Ubergeek RE: ns1 Apr 9, 2008 12:49 PM

                                                      Well, I've had Rubio's and while it's not half bad, it doesn't BEGIN to measure up to El Taco Nazo, Senor Baja or Los Cotijas.

                                                      1. re: ns1
                                                        Wonginator RE: ns1 Apr 9, 2008 01:38 PM

                                                        Very true about the batter, but I tend to prefer more batter. I have a harder time eating grilled fish tacos, and the batter makes it tastier for me.

                                                        But the Rubio's chipotle salsa is a main factor in why I enjoy their fish tacos so much. Before that salsa, I didn't really care for their fish tacos as much.

                                                        1. re: Wonginator
                                                          ns1 RE: Wonginator Apr 9, 2008 02:05 PM

                                                          Fair enough. I'm a light batter person, hence my penchant for BFTiE

                                                      2. re: Wonginator
                                                        daylight RE: Wonginator Apr 9, 2008 01:20 PM

                                                        del scorcho!!
                                                        i had no idea that del taco had fish tacos.
                                                        is this new?
                                                        (or in the last 3 years? that's when i moved to boston from california).
                                                        i love del taco, but can't imagine their fish tacos being better than rubio's...

                                                        1. re: daylight
                                                          ns1 RE: daylight Apr 9, 2008 01:28 PM

                                                          I've been eatin em for 3 years lol. Makes great college drinking food.

                                                          A few chicken soft tacos, a few fish tacos, chili cheese fries when I'm bad...

                                                          Doesn't hold a flame to my personal favorite, BFTiE, or TBE, but IMHO a huge improvement over rubios

                                                          I think you'd be presently surprised, if you can live w/o the salsa. I mean they include a lime with each one! I thought the crunch was WAY better than rubios.

                                                          1. re: daylight
                                                            Wonginator RE: daylight Apr 9, 2008 01:41 PM

                                                            Yeah, the fish taco at Del Taco is a relatively new addition, maybe 2 or 3 years ago. I seem to only get them when Del Taco has their buy 1, get 1 free coupons, but I rarely get it any other time. I do agree with ns1, that the batter is crunchier at Del Taco.

                                                  2. daylight RE: vlad Apr 9, 2008 01:22 PM

                                                    ooh. i just remembered another place that has really good fish taco's. PEDRO'S.
                                                    they're in san clemente though. don't know if you'd go that far south...
                                                    but it'd be worth it... in MY opinion at least...

                                                    1. ROBBARNES RE: vlad Apr 15, 2008 10:44 AM

                                                      ..thanks for the tip for the fish taco tried Rubio and man were they good

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