You’re visiting Los Angeles. You’re hungry. You want something to eat that’s synonymous with SoCal. We present to you the fish taco. At first glance, it seems unappealing — strips of fried fish, shredded cabbage, salsa, and a squeeze of lime, wrapped up in a double-layered tortilla. But at first bite…oh, at first bite, you suddenly realize what’s been missing from your life.
Fish tacos got their start in Baja, California. Some say in San Felipe, others in Ensenada. Whatever their origin, they battered their way on to SoCal menus by the early 70s. It’s cheap, simple, and yet surprisingly hard to do well. Fish taco fans obsess over two things: eating fish tacos, and arguing over which are the best. Now, it would seem logical that good fish tacos could be found along the coast. But that would be tastelessly, limply wrong. For two of the top contenders, go fifteen miles east to Los Feliz, and try Ricky’s Fish Tacos and Best Fish Taco in Ensenada.
Ricky’s is a taco truck in a small lot on Virgil, with tables, an awning and a dedicated fan base. With good reason. Their fish, shrimp and fish-shrimp combos are lightly battered and crisply fried, then topped with shredded cabbage, tomato and bell pepper. Choose from one of four salsas to spice it up (crema, verde, brown, chipotle) and wash it all down with a soda or an aqua fresca – try the mango or horchata.
Then head a few blocks north up Hillhurst to Best Fish. This self-professed Baja surf shack, complete with boards and ocean view paintings, harkens back to one of the birthplaces of the fish taco. It also has a loyal following, and won the Cooking Channel’s Taco Wars competition. In addition to fish and shrimp tacos, it also offers a Papas taco (garlic butter potatoes and onions, with chillis and cheese) and its own line of aquas frescas. Watch the cooks fry up your meal in a big boiling pot or get a head start scoping out the salsa bar. They offer mango, pineapple, hot guac, crema, and others. Best Fish has more seating than Ricky’s, with both inside tables and an outdoor patio area. It’s also open later, and even hosts a popular Tuesday comedy night.
But which fish tacos are the best? We can only guide you to the destination. Some things are worth deciding for yourself.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos: 1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Open Wed-Sun, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Best Fish Taco in Ensenada: 1650 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Open 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Getting There: By metro, take the Red Line to the Sunset & Vermont station, then head two blocks east on Sunset to the six point intersection. Ricky’s is south on Virgil; Best Fish is north on Hillhurst. By car, take the 5 freeway, exit at Los Feliz Blvd and head south on Hillhurst; or take the 101 freeway, exit at Sunset Blvd, and head east to Hillhurst.
Parking: Metered street parking is usually available during weekdays, but full up on weekends and nights. If that’s the case, try the side streets one block east.