Where to Find the Best Fish Tacos in San Diego
From cheap eats to fancified fillings, San Diego has your fish taco cravings covered.
If you're craving fish tacos, there’s no shortage of places offering their own takes around San Diego. As Mexico’s northern neighbor, we’re spoiled with a plethora of top-notch Mexican eateries, from fine-dining spots to casual California burritos, and including fish tacos, a batter-fried delicacy that originated in Baja California. From there, the dish swam upstream to San Diego where it’s beloved by locals as well as out-of-towners looking for flaky fish nestled inside soft, warm tortillas. From Oceanside to Encinitas, here’s where to find the best fish tacos in San Diego:
Eating fish tacos by the water is a rite of passage in San Diego, and Mitch’s Seafood is one of the best. Made with your choice of several local varieties, nearly all the fish they serve is either caught by themselves or by other local fishermen and is almost exclusively from San Diego or northern Baja waters. Order a local craft brew, grab a seat on the deck, and enjoy one of life’s perfect moments.
Oscar's Mexican Seafood
Picking one fish taco restaurant in San Diego is like picking your favorite song—dang near impossible. But Oscar’s Mexican Seafood holds a special place in our hearts because, well, you simply can’t do much better than Oscar’s classic Ensenada-style battered fish tacos, or grilled if you prefer. There’s also an amazing smoked fish taco dressed in cheese and avocado, and the specialty Atun Adobado showcasing marinated tuna, pineapple, avocado, onion, and cilantro.
When you want to get all dressed up and fancy but you still want fish tacos, Camino Riviera has you covered with their best-selling The Taco, possibly the most glamorous fish taco ever made. A long, chunky filet of sea bass is dipped into squid ink tempura batter, which turns the ultra-crisp crust midnight black and gives it a hint of brine. It’s snuggled into two tortillas, sourced from Gabriel Tortilleria in Barrio Logan, and topped with frisée and edible gold leaf. Pair it with something from the inspired cocktail menu—cochinita pibil, papadzules, and various moles like pipián and mole blanco serve as flavor guides and inspiration. And it’s not a fish taco, but don’t miss out on the Brentwood Corn Ice Cream; it looks exactly like a fresh cob of sweet corn, but dessertified. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
The story of Rubio’s is the stuff of legends and it begins with founder Ralph Rubio. While on spring break from San Diego State University, Rubio and a bunch of friends traveled to San Felipe, Mexico, where he discovered fish tacos from a small vendor. He was smitten with the concoction and in 1986, opened his first shop in Pacific Beach. From there, his concept took off, expanding to more than 200 franchises in four states. While Ralph Rubio is no longer the CEO, you can still taste the original fish taco at all locations.
With eight varieties of fish to choose from, including a seasonal catch plus the option to deep fry or grill (which also includes a choice of seven different marinades, or none at all), Fish Shop has endless combinations of fish tacos, including a trio of Fish Shop favorites: grilled mahi mahi served Spicy Dorado, Pineapple Express, or TKO-style. Go with your gut or ask for suggestions if you’re indecisive about where to begin.
Coronado Brewing Company
Beer is kind of a big deal in San Diego with breweries seemingly in every neighborhood. If your love for beer extends to beer-battered fish tacos, look no further than Coronado Brewing Company. The brewery’s restaurant incorporates its own Seacoast Pilsner into its batter, producing a crispy, light-as-air cocoon surrounding each cod filet. Every taco is dressed with tartar sauce, cotija cheese, pico, and cabbage. Note: Fish tacos aren’t on the menu at the Bay Park location.
You’ll have to travel south of Downtown San Diego to Tin Fish’s Imperial Beach location for unobstructed views of the ocean. The casual eatery, located on the pier, has plenty of outdoor dining options ranging from benches to tables. As for fish tacos, choose from grilled or fried fish tacos with salmon, lobster, mahi-mahi, or cod.
TJ Oyster Bar
South Bay’s oldie but goodie has slowly increased the prices over the years for its basic fish taco, but it still ranks high on best bang for buck based on size and taste. The price of $3.25 per taco crammed with chunky fried filets topped with tomato, mayo, and cabbage means you can order your fill without breaking the bank. For a dollar or so more, you can get grilled fish, mahi mahi, salmon, or smoked tuna tacos.
Kiko's Place Seafood
Fish taco aficionados can find this mobile eatery parked along Mission Center Road next to a gas station. Their claim to fame are their San Felipe-style seafood specialities and fish tacos that pack loads of flavor into every savory bite.
When the fish taco craving hits in the middle of the night, know that Coxitan is always open. Locations in Clairemont, Mira Mesa, Encinitas, and Poway mean you’ll never be far from freshly fried fish tacos topped with shredded cabbage and white sauce no matter what time it is.
If you’re looking for your basic fish taco at City Tacos, their pescado taco hits all the notes— battered fish with cabbage, onion, tomato, and house chipotle aioli. For something different, order the Veracruz mahi. Ingredients like green olives, capers, sautéed cherry tomatoes, and a white wine sauce topping a grilled mahi filet promise you’ll look at fish tacos differently.
The usual beer and fish taco combo pales in comparison to the cocktail menu at the East Village’s Lola 55. The Baja-style fish taco featuring local fish with a chorizo-tomato vinaigrette, frisee, pickled serranos, and purple basil is a taste sensation by itself. You can’t go wrong pairing the taco with the requisite house margarita featuring Lola 55’s grapefruit cordial and Espolòn tequila, or any of the cocktails that incorporates the restaurant’s housemade agua frescas. A fine selection of beers and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.