Ricky Piña is still the undeniable fish taco master of Los Angeles. Since his outdoor operation first popped up a few years ago in Silver Lake, Ricky has continued to impress critics and locals alike with his Baja-style shrimp and fish taco offerings.
Working off an old Piña family recipe, Ricky's batter is crispy at the edges without shattering in your mouth. The plumper bits offer more substance without feeling overly bready or salty, and there's the thin veil of hot pepper heat coming from within the entire mixture. The white fish flakes off smoothly, offering up a large creamy interior just begging for a dab of salsa.
Tacos Baja Ensenada (East LA)
Across town, Tacos Baja Ensenada represents the 'old guard' of Baja-style fish tacos, if such a thing exists. Their East LA outpost is constantly buzzing with walk up eaters and phone orders, but you'll quickly excuse an errant elbow or two in the name of great fish tacos.
The regular fish tacos arrive battered in large chunks and dripping with toppings. The white seabass is gentle, serving largely as a backdrop for the taste and textures of the surrounding ingredients.
The Amazing Baja Tacos from Tacos Baja Ensenada
For as tasty as the regular fish tacos are, the Baja Tacos are even better. A gigantic value at $3.25, the griddled flour tortillas emerge with a heaping golden mound of both seabass and shrimp, crispy and warm beneath a pile of shredded cabbage, tomatoes and a thin, slightly spicy crema. These bad boys will stand toe to toe with Ricky any day of the week.
Via Mar Seafood (Highland Park )
A few miles away in Highland Park sits a true fish taco gem: Via-Mar Seafood. Known as much for their fresh catches in ceviches and cocktails, the tacos are not to be overlooked. Your only option to order is the walk up window outside, but a few patio booths under a rickety awning help to keep you out of the sun.
The tacos here are gigantic, especially the shrimp. The fish is a fresh and vibrant tilapia, not the usual weak stuff you'd find in your supermarket. The batter is light and brittle, with a noticeable sweetness to it, not unlike a freshly fried donut. It's not a dealbreaker, but your first bite may be a bit of a surprise.
Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada (Los Feliz)
While still tasty and deeply browned, both the fish and shrimp taco options here suffer from a lack of seasoning before hitting the oil. The batter provides a nice crust and you can still get plenty of satisfying mileage out of warm and crispy seafood, but without the fantastic salsa bar, the tacos can fall a bit flat.
The tacos at El Siete Mares are largely unassuming. The fish tacos, filled with smallish chunks of pale white meat, are fried in clusters instead of heftier individual strips. The result is reminiscent of fast food popcorn shrimp, but with less of a cornmeal crunch and a bit more of the pasty taste of flour at points.
Despite a healthy local following, Las Brisas in Boyle Heights simply can't stand up to the competition. Dipped in a crunchy breading instead of a more traditional batter, the fish taco arrives as one long, flat piece of tilapia. With so much real estate to chew on, the seasonings need to be more pronounced but, sadly, not even the pale orange crema and limp greens can offer much solace.