Food & Drink

The 10 best San Diego fish tacos, ranked by surfers

Published On 08/27/2014 Published On 08/27/2014
Best Fish Tacos SD
Natalie Holtz

If Poseidon, the God of the Sea, were going to eat fish tacos (cannibalism?), he'd eat San Diego fish tacos. Fish tacos are the quintessential San Diego food. And since we make a million Poseidon-worthy fish tacos, the question must be asked: which are the best?

That's far too big a question for any one person to answer, so we assembled a panel of "experts": i.e. surfers, who eat them with just as much fervor as they do California burritos. Eight of them gave us their top five picks, and we assigned points (5 for a first place, 4 for a second, and so on...), arriving at this definitive list of the finest fish tacos in San Diego. So basically, these are the best fish tacos anywhere.


10. Rubio's (5pts, tie)

Multiple Locations
Please stop hyperventilating. Love it or hate it, this chain (with more than 200 locations now) is where it all started. After a surf trip to Baja where he tried his first fish taco in 1983, Ralph Rubio brought the traditional fish taco -- battered fish topped with cabbage and lime -- back to SD. There're locations all over San Diego County and the tacos are $1.25 on Tuesdays. Convenience, price, seniority.


10. Kotija Jr. Taco Shop (5pts, tie)

Leucadia and Del Mar
An absolute North County staple, Kotija nails everything from fish burritos to rolled tacos to menudo. It's your classic hole-in-the-wall taqueria, but better and more beloved than your run-of-the-mills. The fish tacos are traditional "Ensenada-style" and a little larger than average.

Natalie Holtz

10. Mitch's Seafood (5pts, tie)

Point Loma
Located on the San Diego Bay in Point Loma's historic fishing neighborhood, Mitch Conniff's joint brings in all its fish fresh each morning. From its crab cake sandwiches to its calamari, "fresh is the bottom line," says fish taco expert Derek Harline. Bonuses: nine taps, a good selection of bottles, and the wraparound deck overlooking boats parked in the Bay.

Natalie Holtz

7. Mariscos German (7pts)

South Park
Seven days a week, in a parking lot on Grape St, this food truck (it's not fancy) serves classics (quesadillas, burritos) and other Mexican specialties. Order the Baja Trio, which is three tacos, one filled with fried fish, one with shrimp, and one with marlin. Also, if you're craving coconut juice straight from the coconut... well, you can also get that here.

Natalie Holtz

6. El Zarape Restaurant (9pts, tie)

University Heights
This famed Mexican eatery's original spot on Park offers everything from huevos rancheros to scallop tacos to calamari burritos. A single fish taco is 99 cents, making theirs one of the cheapest entries on this list. These guys opened a sit-down on Adams, so don't get confused, but the original location is open until 2am.

Pacific Beach Fish Shop

6. Pacific Beach Fish Shop (9pts, tie)

Pacific Beach
This casual seafood eatery and fish market opened this flagship location in 2010, and has since expanded into Encinitas and Hermosa Beach. The entire menu is solid (lobster lumpia, swordfish sandwiches, fish 'n chips), but their calling card is the TKO Taco. What makes the "Technical Knock Out" Taco punch its peers in the face? The atypical citrus salsa made with papaya, mango, and pineapple, and notably fresh fish that's grilled instead of fried.

Natalie Holtz

6. Oscar's Mexican Seafood (9pts, tie)

Multiple Locations
This relative newcomer has made an impression quickly for tacos and Mexican seafood dishes. Their battered and fried fish tacos are top-notch, but go for the surf and turf taco: a corn tortilla loaded with steak, shrimp, diced tomatoes, red onions, cabbage, and cilantro. The three sauces in squirt bottles (creamy habanero, red pepper, and chipotle mayo) are freaking fantastic. Also, try the mango juice, simply made from freshly squeezed mangoes and a little sugar. 

Natalie Holtz

3. Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar (11pts, tie)

Multiple Locations
A household name in SD, The Brig has been serving quality seafood since 1969. Their six locations do mahi mahi fish tacos (your choice: grilled or fried), and a grilled swordfish taco, which is, in our opinion, the best bet. If you are going to do fish tacos, order a pepper vodka oyster shooter. Pro tip: the Del Mar location's wraparound deck is epic, so go there to drink/eat/embark on awkward Tinder dates.

Natalie Holtz

3. South Beach Bar & Grille (11pts, tie)

Ocean Beach
"It's the combination of sitting upstairs, watching the surf come off of the pier while drinking a beer... or two or three or four, and the sheer variety of different types of fish tacos you can get," said fish taco expert Dave Smith. "There're fried oyster tacos, shark tacos, fried zucchini tacos, etc." Their classic -- the grilled mahi mahi fish taco -- stands out from the school because the fish is marinated overnight in a pineapple and teriyaki marinade. Fun fact: when they founded the restaurant in 1992, brothers/surfers/fishermen John and Mark Thompson named it "South Beach" because that's what the break near the OB jetty was called back then. The rest is fish-istory.

Natalie Holtz

1. Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill (15pts)

Mission Hills
This restaurant and full fish market has been heralded, time and again, as one of the best places to get fish in San Diego... even by Guy Fieri. These guys use 4-5oz of fish to make a mammoth, healthier-than-average fish taco. There's so much fish in this taco, it doesn't really close, per se. About Blue Water, fish taco expert Chris Rinder said, "There're about 20 different selections of fish at Blue Water. So you're not just offered one fish taco. You can get salmon, tuna, ahi, etc." Owners Matt and Judd Braun still do a lot of the fishing themselves, and the shload of fixings -- refreshing, healthy things -- like cabbage, tomatoes, onions, plus white sauce and cheddar cheese, make this taco stand out. Unless you say otherwise, the fish's sea-soning (!) will be chipotle.

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1. Mitch's Seafood 1403 Scott St, San Diego, CA 92106 (Point Loma)

From its post on the dock, Mitch's Seafood is a Point Loma destination for California-centric fish dinners and Bay views. Mitch's has a laid-back atmosphere with prices to match, a menu chock full of simply prepared dishes, and a craft beer and wine selection based entirely in California. Tacos are top billing, and depending on the day, you can expect fillings like octopus, fried oysters, or scallops. If you don’t want to chance it, the grilled shrimp and battered cod tacos are offered daily. In true seafood shack style, service is casual.

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2. Mariscos German 3030 Grape St, San Diego, CA 92102 (South Park)

This South Park food truck, located in the parking lot of a Mexican supermarket, offers up some of the best fish tacos in San Diego. For less than six dollars you can get three fish tacos and a drink.

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3. El Zarape Restaurant 4642 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116 (University Heights)

This University Heights restaurant is tiny, but serves delicious, authentic Mexican food. They're praised for their fish tacos, and have an extensive variety of burritos on their menu.

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4. PB Fish Shop 1775 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

PB Fish Shop serves up the fish of your choice in a variety of ways: fried, in tacos, on a platter, etc. And it's dog-friendly!

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5. South Beach Bar & Grille 5059 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach)

Rumor has it that the best fish tacos in San Diego can be found at South Beach Bar and Grille, just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean in Ocean Beach. Mahi tacos are served with cheese, red cabbage, salsa fresca, and white sauce, piled high on a soft flour tortilla (though corn tortillas are available upon request). The fish is so soft and moist it nearly melts in your mouth, and the teriyaki and pineapple marinade lend a tangy taste that will make your lips pucker. For the taco-averse, you can choose from a variety of fried seafood, like lobster, wahoo, shark, calamari, and shrimp, as well as burgers, chicken, and vegetarian options. Enjoy your dish and watch the sun set as you sip on a drink from the bar that offers 22 tequilas and more than 40 beers.

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6. Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill 3667 India St, San Diego, CA 92103 (Mission Hills)

Famous for their fish tacos, Blue Water Seafood in San Diego offers in-house dining, as well as a large selection of fresh fish and shellfish available for cooking at home. The vast majority of fish/seafood taco options at this always-busy shop ring in under $5, and unlike most places, you also get to choose your preparation (lemon butter, lemon-garlic butter, bourbon butter, teriyaki, chipotle, blackened, or bronzed).