Warning: this is more of a plea than a post or review. I realize that the majority of my audience is Raleigh, North Carolina, but have y’all ever had a Southern California fish taco? Or maybe you had a fish taco on the East coast–whoever made it probably had their first one on the West coast. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it was delicious–and when you use fresh ingredients, and stick to simplicity, a fish taco isn’t all that difficult. I am a fish taco fiend. I have planned entire vacations around tacos. This is serious shit, people. Integrity is everything.
Most of you who know me or read my write up on J. Betski’s know that I am from coastal North Carolina. Carteret County in tha house. We have the best seafood there. But what we didn’t have is the rich Mexican culture that I became immersed in while living in Long Beach, CA in late 2000s. You probably know that Southern California boasts the best Mexican food that the U.S. has to offer, and edged up on the coast of that magical Mexican food landscape is the fish taco. By the time I moved back to NC, I was completely addicted to California fish tacos. I would order one just about anytime I saw one on a menu, in hopes it would be a fraction of perfection that the real thing, a true California fish taco, is. I really learned quickly that it just isn’t worth ordering random fish tacos. I have been on the receiving end of some really sad excuses for a fish taco. One experience that stands out, in particular, occurred in a bar in downtown Raleigh that is no longer in business, called Busy Bee. One night I ordered this fish taco on their menu. You guys, this was 2009… Can you believe I still remember this?! It stuck in my mind because they brought me a tuna wrap!! Totally NOT a fish taco. Heartless. Bless their heart… Anyway, I think that was what ultimately broke me. Now, unless I make it myself, I stay true to California for my fish taco needs. I adventure around a little more with a shrimp taco, but not fish. It has to be right, or it is simply sacrilege.
I am super passionate on this topic at the moment because I just got home from a visit back to Southern California a couple days ago. I prioritize Mexican food, especially fish tacos, while I am there. There is such an abundance of great fish tacos spots in Southern CA. I ordered the tacos pictured at a little place called Sancho’s Tacos in Belmont Shore, my old neighborhood. It’s themed around the band Sublime, which also made it feel cozy. My favorite kind is so simple. It starts with a fresh corn tortilla. Fish tacos were invented in Baja, Mexico, and they are traditionally grilled or fried, but I really prefer a fresh grilled fish taco, with finely shredded cabbage, some spicy and acidic green tomatillo salsa, sour cream drizzle, cilantro, lime. Or you could add tomato to it, and some spicy citrus/mayo based sauce. Either is perfect and maintains the integrity of a true Baja fish taco, as long as the fish is fresh, the tortilla is fresh, and you have fresh lime, cilantro, and cabbage, maybe some pickled jalapeños. No cheese. But why do we not have these readily available in the Triangle? Am I missing something? We aren’t that far from the coast! I am seriously thinking I need to start a fish taco popup business in DTR. Is there anyone else who really needs more fish tacos? Or am I totally a freak? While we are on the topic, do y’all know what a wet burrito is?