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Los Angeles: Where to Find the Best Non-Chain Fish Tacos

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Los Angeles: Where to Find the Best Non-Chain Fish Tacos

[Photographs: Paul Bartunek, unless otherwise noted]

There are plenty of taco spots in Los Angeles, but only a precious few dominate in the world of fried mariscos. Sure, many brick-and-mortar taco spots might offer up a token fish taco here and there, but you can nearly count on one hand the dedicated souls who have made the fish taco their calling. This is their story.

Being a town so close to the sea, it's no surprise that many of these taquerias don't need to abut the water in order to deliver fresh, juicy, wonderfully tasty fish tacos. Plus, with a wealth of proper tortillas to serve as the backbone, Los Angeles is a city with several fish taco gems. You just have to know where to look.

One of the Best Fish Tacos in Los Angeles

The Criteria

  • Fish: Be it tilapia, seabass or halibut, the freshness of any fish taco is key. If it's slimy or stinky or translucent, it definitely won't make for a good fish taco, and it might make for a long night at home. Also, don't overlook texture. Fish that's too wet or doesn't bite away easily is a no-go when you've got a heap of toppings to corral.
  • Breading: Quality fish and a stellar salsa bar can elevate most fish tacos to greatness, but a dry or bland batter can also be its undoing. If the batter is too thick or flour-y, you might be left with a tacky paste in your mouth. Too thin and you may never get the fried flavor nirvana you're searching for. And without a dash or two of of salt and some secret seasonings, it's hard to compete in the fish taco world.
  • Tortilla: Baja style fish tacos can be found on both flour and corn tortillas*. Flour tortillas are used at Ricky's Fish Taco, Tacos Baja Ensenada's Baja Tacos, and every fish taco place I tried in Cabo San Lucas recently. Wide and flat, each round disc should also spend some time warming up on the comal, imparting bits of charred goodness without losing structural integrity. There's a lot to hold onto with a fish taco, so the durability has to reflect that challenge.
  • Toppings: Purists may opt only for a touch of crema, but without a tuft of thinly shredded cabbage your fish taco just seems incomplete. If tomatoes and onions are going to be involved, they need to be fresh and vibrant enough to make themselves known without too much interference. Additionally, the thin Mexican crema shouldn't be so watered down as to make the taco soggy, or too spiced up as to detract from the clean freshness of the fish.

* Regarding the flour vs. corn tortilla debate: you'll also find plenty of fish tacos served on double-layered corn tortillas, too.

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About the author: Farley Elliott is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. He blogs about burgers at Beef and Bun and covers the LA comedy scene for LAist.com.

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