The "Black Harder," a ceviche tostada made of sole with squid ink for color, is something you'll only find at Tacos Kokopelli, a taco stand that has generated a lot of buzz among local foodies in the seven months that it's been open. The chef manning the charcoal grill trained at Tijuana's Culinary Arts School before working in kitchens around Mexico (and Oud Sluis, a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Netherlands). The soft texture of the sole is mirrored by the creamy the avocado on top, and contrasts nicely with the crisp tortilla.
Calle Melchor Ocampo and Bl. Agua Caliente, Tijuana; Facebook page
Another worthy option is the "Kraken." This marinated octopus with Mexican pesto sits atop a grilled Anaheim chile stuffed with cheese. Try it with the peanut and chile de arbol hot sauce, named castigo azteca (translation = "Aztec punishment").
Calle Melchor Ocampo and Bl. Agua Caliente, Tijuana; Facebook page
Camaron Enchilado (or spicy shrimp tacos) are the specialty at El Mazateño, a busy taco shop near the Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana in Otay. Shrimp are marinated, grilled, and piled on doubled-up white corn tortillas with a thin layer of melted cheese underneath. There's so much shrimp that folding the tortilla and eating it like a traditional taco is challenging. You can load up your taco with salsa fresca, salsa verde, and cream sauce, or try the slightly tangy (and very hot) chile de arbol-based sauce created from a secret family recipe especially for the shrimp taco. At 40 pesos (about $3 U.S.) this is one of the pricier options, but you get a ton of shrimp, a complimentary cup of consommé and a basket of chips.
473 Calzada Del Tecnológico (at Calle Popotla), Tijuana (map)
La Corriente Cevecheria Nais
It doesn't look like much from the outside, but La Corriente Cevecheria Nais is pure seaside chic. With its plastic chairs and colorful tablecloths, it's styled after seafood restaurants in Sinaloa. There's live music in the evenings, but the real attraction is the food. The signature item is the red snapper ceviche tostada (34 pesos, about $2.50 US), with chunks of fresh fish marinated in lime juice, dressed with aioli and chile, and topped with buttery slices of avocado and red onion.
La Corriente Cevecheria Nais: Dining Room
If you're going on a fish taco tour in TJ, make this your final stop and sample some of the other tostadas, like the ahi, scallop, or shrimp, along with a limonada natural and some chips and salsa.
6th Ave and Madero, Downtown Tijuana
Fish Tacos Ensenada
Like most stands in Ensenada, this stand (named simply "Fish Tacos Ensenada") offers shark (cazon) and shrimp (camaron) tacos, both battered and fried in pork lard. About $1 US buys you a cazon taco with two thin-cut and extra crispy pieces of shark. Before frying, the fish is sprinkled with garlic and salt, which gives it a more intense flavor than what's at the other operators, but that's just the beginning. Flavors get bigger and bolder with the addition of any of the six housemade sauces, including a smoldering habanero salsa. For even more heat, there's also grilled jalapeno peppers and toasted chile de arbol.
Juarez and Gastellum, Ensenada
Fish Tacos Ensenada's jalapeños
Roasted jalapeños are standing by, should you need some more heat.
Tacos Mi Ranchito El Fenix
Tacos Mi Ranchito El Fenix and the original location one block south, Puesto Fenix, owned by the same family, are thought to have invented the fish taco. Filets of angelito (angel) shark are dipped in a thick yellowish batter, quickly fried, and served naked on corn tortillas for 16 pesos (about $1 US). The filet is cut thicker than at some of the other operators, and also more flaky and moist. For toppings, there are only the essentials: red and green salsa, salsa fresca, cream sauce, cabbage, and lime. There's seating at the newer location, but chances are, your taco will disappear in less than a minute anyway.
Ave Espinoza and Calle Sexta, Ensenada (map)
Tacos La Floresta
This taco stand is similar to El Fenix, but instead of angelito shark, you get mako shark, cut into thinner strips. The beer-free batter is thicker, and the filets of shark emerge from the bubbling lard with a crunchier exterior. There's also more variety when it comes to toppings, including a tasty chipotle sauce. Apply it generously. Shark tacos are 15 pesos (about $1 US).
Floresta and Av Benito Juárez, Ensenada
Lily's got all manner of mariscos, all sourced from the stalls at the Mercado de Mariscos, located about 20 feet away near Ensenada's waterfront. Fish taco options range from the Governor, a quesadilla with marlin, to battered and fried yellowtail tuna for 10 pesos (about 75 cents). Lily's batter is made without any beer, and has less mustard than most, which allows the flavor of the fish to shine through. You can doctor your taco with about a dozen different hot sauces, plus housemade salsas, ranging from spicy serrano, habanero, and chipotle, to cooler salsa verde and cream sauce.
Located behind the stalls of the Ensenada Fish Market (Mercado de Mariscos), between the Flag Plaza (Ventana Del Mar) and the Port Captain's office.
Tacos Lily's Salsa
Tacos Lily's elegant salsa presentation.
Tacos Lily's Hot Sauce
Lots of options for hot sauce, too, including Tabasco and Sriracha.
Churros at the Fish Market
I have to be honest: the fish market stinks, but you can find relief from the churro cart, and for 20 pesos, you can get a big bag of fresh ones. This is not optional.
Tacos Marco Antonio
Marco Antonio, chef and owner of the taco shop by the same name, is putting his own spin on fish tacos. The shop has over a dozen different types of seafood tacos, including salmon, crab, and five different types of tuna, ranging from tuna ranchero (in a creamy sauce with green chiles) to tuna adobado, a clever take on a taco that's traditionally made of pork. In this case, a BBQ-type sauce of dried chiles, pineapple juice, and pineapple tidbits is mixed with moist yellowtail tuna. It's a hot and sweet guisado that's tasty on its own, but even better with Marco's famous chipotle sauce. The sauce was originally only served on the shrimp tacos (also pictured), but became so popular that you can put it on any taco. Other options at the condiment bar include salsas and hot sauces, plus three different onion preparations. Tacos range from 15-23 pesos (about $1-2 US).
351 Av. Rayón (between 3rd and 4th), Ensenada
La Guerrerense is one of Ensenada's busiest mariscos vendors and has been serving up fresh ceviche for almost 40 years. Located steps from the Mercado de Mariscos, they've got everything from crab salad to sea cucumber, all for about 50-70 pesos ($4-5 US). The "no name special", with sea urchin and clams is a tasty option with contrasting textures and tastes. It's smart to order a few different half-and-half combinations and top them with a dash of salsa, but do a taste test before you commit. Some can be overpowering in large doses. You can also take home salsa by the jar.
1st and Alvarado, Ensenada
La Guerrerense's Salsas
Jars of salsa for sale at La Guerrerense.