I had two goals for this past weekend’s road trip to San Diego: SUN and FISH TACOS. Before disappointing anyone else, let me say that no one warned me about SoCal “June gloom.” They told me the weather would be beautiful. They gave me 18 beach recommendations. I envisioned flitting about in a bikini soaking up a nice “proof I was there” tan. Not so much. I spent the majority of the trip bundled in three layers and eyeing every coffee shop we passed. However, the upshot was zero distraction from the second — then only — goal. Three fish taco meals later, I am still coming down off an omega-3 high, and it feels great.
1. The “Ultimate Seafood” grilled mahi mahi taco from Lucha Libre:
In case you couldn’t tell, it’s the bloated blob of cheese and sauce oozing off the plate. If your idea of a good meal is a dairy overload with a splash of fish essence, this is the taco for you. The fish may have been ok, but I couldn’t tell through the assault of condiments. Even the secondary taco we sampled — the “Queso,” named for the flap of crispy grated cheddar inserted between tortilla and meat — was defined solely by the cheese [in this case a positive] and the beef was bland and unremarkable. All in all, Lucha Libre got major points for interior decoration [see Champion’s booth below] and people watching [a line extending out the door at 10pm on a Friday night is inevitably a good scene], but none for food.
2. The fresh grilled catch of the day, from Mitch’s Seafood:
I really liked Mitch’s “serve what we catch” policy, guaranteeing the freshest in-season fish possible. We were treated to, in order of my preference: corvina, yellowtail, halibut, thresher shark [first time trying shark!], and albacore. Unfortunately though, all of the fish was overcooked and dry. If we hadn’t employed a rigorous scientific sampling procedure [MJW and I ate only one taco at a time, so as not to muddle flavors], they’d have all tasted and chewed more or less the same. A huge step up in purity from the Lucha Libre abomination, to be sure, but not the spritely summer taco I was searching for.
3. Generic “fish taco” from the La Jolla Sunday farmer’s market:
The last meal on the last day on our way out of town and, finally, we have a winner! We stopped by the La Jolla Sunday farmer’s market expecting to ogle impeccably perfect produce and stumbled upon a stand serving minced marlin tacos and our winner, the fried fish taco. As unassuming as they come, this was just a nub of white fish lightly battered and fried, served with slivers of cabbage, salsa, pico, and a drizzle of creamy sauce. Simple and delicious.