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Hometown Hungers: Best Fish Tacos Outside of San Diego

No need to surf down to San Diego — or Mexico, for that matter — to find perfectly battered fish tacos. These hopping spots across the country offer classic takes on the signature beachside dish.
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Batter Up

Baja fish tacos might just be the perfect fusion food. Their origin story begins in the Mexican state of Baja California, where locals reportedly learned about tempura-fried fish from Japanese fishermen working in the vicinity. This regional specialty — battered and fried fish served in corn tortillas slathered with a cabbage slaw, crema or mayo — began popping up at many a roadside stand in the 1960s. No one knows for sure exactly where this taco was created, but it’s a classic in Ensenada, San Felipe and other seaside spots. Today it’s a phenomenon that people on both sides of the border crave, having spread from Baja to San Diego and then beyond. Check out these Food Network-approved spots across America serving classic spins on the Baja fish taco.

 

Photo of Hugo's fish tacos courtesy of Penny de los Santos

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The Original El Taco, Atlanta

This spot dishes up fresh Tex-Mex eats in a colorful, family-friendly setting with a playful vibe (there’s even a wheel of tacos!). Despite the focus on Tex-Mex fare, the kitchen sticks close to authentic Mexican tradition when it comes to the fish tacos, which are made in the Baja style. This simple yet delicious rendition channels the flavors of Baja with its fried fish and creamy caper mayo. Each taco comes topped with a bright crest of spicy pickled chiles reminiscent of escabeche, that classic Mexican condiment found at most taquerias.

Photo courtesy of The Original El Taco

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Little Water Cantina, Seattle

The little fry stands along Baja’s seashore serve as an inspiration for the fish tacos offered at Little Water Cantina, as Chef-Owner Shannon Wilkinson used to surf and camp along that sandy stretch of Mexico. His version of the dish is loaded with Alaska cod dredged in a house beer batter made from a mixture of rice flour, maseca, cornmeal and all-purpose flour, along with a flurry of spices and a generous pour of local Rainier beer. This combination makes for an airy coating that still lends plenty of crunch. Each taco comes adorned with a vibrant mound of toppings: house-pickled red onions, cabbage dressed in an orange juice vinaigrette, a traditional fire-roasted salsa verde and pickled habanero tartar sauce.

Photo courtesy of Amelia Armstrong

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Gran Electrica, Brooklyn

Sampling the dishes at Gran Electrica is like winding your way through Mexico, as the owners of this hip Brooklyn spot wanted to highlight some of the country's more renowned regional dishes, starting with Baja. Chef Robert Stauning believes the secret to a soul-satisfying fish taco lies in the batter; it needs to be bold in flavor and yet delicately crisp in texture. Stauning’s formula has been greeted with much favor, as the Pescado Estilo Ensenada is touted as the most-popular taco option on Gran Electrica’s menu. Each one comes colorfully adorned with a bright flurry of slightly pickled cabbage, along with a healthy squirt of housemade chipotle aioli.

Photo courtesy of Gran Electrica

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