Written By: Erin Rose Belair and Jeanette Swanson
Photographed By: Jenavieve Belair
An abundance of taco shops line the streets of coastal and inland San Diego, making it the apparent food staple on this side of the border. While the concept and creation of a taco appears relatively simple, it takes a restaurant that gets the anatomy of a taco to put together something worth talking about. We went fishing for the tastiest fish tacos in San Diego and put together this list of the 14 best fish tacos in San Diego.
San Diego’s India St may be known for its Italian restaurants, but fish lovers know it for the Blue Water Seafood Market. This full service fish market and grill doesn’t believe in pre-portioned items, seeing that each item ordered from the restaurant side is hand cut from their seafood cases. Each seafood taco is awarded a generous portion of hand cut fish before it is marinated in homemade chipotle butter. Every taco is made with a fresh corn tortilla from the tortilleria next door and they’re each garnished with melted cheddar cheese, cabbage, red and green onions, tomatoes and their famous white sauce. Owner Judd Braun suggests adding fresh avocado for an even more spectacular taste.
3667 India St
San Diego, CA 92103
This restaurant has one of the most envied locations in North County. Its proximity to the popular Carlsbad seawall makes it too enticing to pass up, even after a run. The tacos’ ingredients of cabbage, salsa fresca and special sauce seem almost too simple, but with just a few bites you’ll understand why Norte is a North County must for a fish taco fix.3003 Carlsbad Blvd Carlsbad, CA 92008 760.729.0903
Imagine a beach shack that hasn’t been weathered by the salt and sand and you’ve got Hapifish. Located in Encinitas between Leucadia and Encinitas Blvd, fresh fish meets Mexican food and a taco that pairs Baja flair with freshly cut salmon poke. A must try are the salmon poke tacos made with cucumber, takuan, sesame slaw and a house made avo-tomatillo sauce. Don’t forget to come in for “Hapi Hour” where you can affordably pair $1 hot or cold sake with the salmon poke tacos or any other fish taco on the menu.
190 N Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
This lovely La Jolla eatery is nothing short of fab-u-lous! The spot pops with colors and invites you to come in and kick back for a while. It’s an order-at-the-counter kind of place where you can watch/ help them dress your dish, then sit and enjoy. We love the casual nature, the open-air vibe and the great seating. Puesto uses all natural meats and sustainable seafood to make only the best tacos, bowls and salads. They serve organic sodas, delicious Micheladas (a Spanish beer concoction which you have to try) and a lovely collection of cocktails made with an agave wine base. Yum! We decided to try their lobster tacos, and I must admit, we chose right. The seafood was perfectly cooked and nestled inside a fresh made-to-order tortilla, then topped with black beans, crispy onions, cream de cilantro, jalapeño and sliced avocado. You can also order ahead by calling in or placing your order online and then pick it up.1026 Wall Street La Jolla, CA 92037 858.454.1260
At the north entrance of Old Town, Casa Guadalajara welcomes taco seekers with its appealing décor and charm. Ensenada Fish Tacos are a must try fish taco plate on Chef Duran’s extensive menu. What sets these tacos above most others is the tender fish you’ll bite into through the fried, crispy spicy batter. Savor your bites of pescado blanco with cilantro lime fiesta cabbage next to the three-tiered water fountain on the outdoor heated patio. This place does not disappoint.
4105 Taylor St
San Diego, CA 92110
Since 1992, South Beach Bar & Grille has been a fish restaurant staple in Ocean Beach. On the fish taco side, you can choose from wahoo, albacore, shrimp, shark, lobster, Baja fish, oyster, calamari and their world famous mahi. While a majority of tacos on our list are served on a corn tortilla, South Beach uses a soft flour tortilla for their scrumptious tacos. All tacos are very reasonably priced and they ring in even cheaper on Taco Tuesdays; just $2.75! While this Ocean Beach favorite is open daily until 2 a.m., the crowd is strictly all ages until 6 p.m.
5059 Newport Ave
San Diego, CA 92107
San Diego became aware of a worthy, new taco shop when owner Doug Sondomowicz accepted an invitation to participate in the 2011 Del Mar Food Show’s Best Fish Taco TKO Challenge. The collaboration of Chef Juan Munoz and now Encinitas General Manager, Cody Nielsen, brought to life a fish taco identifiable by the sweet, spicy flavor of their Fish Shop Seasoning and a tropical salsa. The award-winning mahi mahi taco is still a highly ordered item at all three locations and your pooch can even be your lunch date on the dog-friendly patio.
1775 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
Ran by four siblings, Brigantine is a family operated business with six locations in San Diego County. What began in Point Loma by Mike and Barbara Morton in 1969 has rightly earned a status of one of San Diego’s most favored seafood and oyster bars. On a menu heavily emphasized by seafood dishes, you can try the namesake Brigantine Fish Tacos with a hearty helping of crispy fried fish, or the mahi mahi Fish tacos with a Mexican slaw. Brigantine doesn’t try to change with the trends and that’s perhaps what has made it a success since 1969.
2725 Shelter Island Dr
San Diego, CA 92106
Kotija Jr. Taco Shop
It’s likely you’ve been to this taco shop if you live in Del Mar. While the restaurant can get exceptionally busy during lunch and dinner hours, the prices are decent and the fish tacos are something to be spoken of. The portion of their fish tacos is impressive and they’re topped with a mouth-watering white sauce. Not only is the white sauce mouth-watering, but I think it might also be a binding ingredient for the smaller ingredients within this hand-sized taco.
2690 Del Mar Heights Rd
Del Mar, CA 92014
Fat Fish boasts an affordable dining menu by the beach. Taco favorites include the crispy fish tacos and crispy shrimp tacos. Both favorites are served on warm, handmade flour tortillas and topped with salsa fresca, cabbage, mixed cheese and a special white sauce. The crispy shrimp tacos are on special every Tuesday during happy hour for $1.50 in the bar and the crispy fish tacos are on special every Thursday during happy hour for $2.
4474 Mission Blvd
San Diego, CA 92109
With three locations, those near Pacific Beach or Hillcrest can choose from roughly six seafood inspired tacos. The fish tacos here are a colorful masterpiece with fresh cabbage, onion, tomato, avocado and cheese on most all of their seafood tacos. The tortilla’s size is generous, allowing the eater to fold up the taco to get as much of a bite as possible. You may even have a little tortilla left over to pinch up runaway ingredients on your plate.
703 Turquoise St
San Diego, CA 92109
This taco shop may look unassuming, but sometimes those serve up the best food. Cradled in a flour tortilla, Rudy’s fish or shrimp tacos are something to be eaten in pairs. Cabbage, white sauce, green salsa and tomatoes are the usual suspects in a Rudy’s fish taco. If you like what you eat in restaurant then you’ll be appreciative of the attached market where you can purchase a little of Rudy’s to go.
7662 El Camino Real Ste 102
Carlsbad, CA 92009
Out in Leucadia, on N Coast Hwy 101, is a traditional fish house with a menu that’s tailored to what’s biting. The grilled fish taco, inspired by northern Baja’s classic fish taco, is the restaurant’s best selling seafood taco. When ordered, a corn tortilla from Los Reyes Tortilleria is filled with mahi and dressed with cabbage, crema and pico de gallo. Guacamole is served on the side in addition to a spicy green tomatillo salsa or a fiery habanero chile sauce. Or try Chef John Baker’s personal favorite–the chipotle Baja fish taco. The piece of fish is first fried crispy in a beer batter, topped with cabbage, chipotle crema and pickled red onions.
1468 N Coast Highway 101
Leucadia, CA 92024
Go Fish! 14 Fish Tacos in San Diego Not to Miss