If there’s one place where it’s OK to plan a trip around your stomach rumblings, it’s the birthplace of the fish taco. With the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez lapping at its shores, Baja California has long been the place to go for that perfect crunchy-on-the-outside, flaky-on-the-inside piece of heaven. But how far are you willing to go to find the very best? From traditional deep-fried street tacos in the north, to hip fusion taquerias in the south, here’s your ultimate fish taco tour.
One of Tijuana’s hottest new taquerias, Tacos Kokopelli is transforming the traditional fish taco with a crazy fusion of traditional flavours. Every charcoal-grilled taco is prepared under the watchful eye of former Oud Sluis (a three Michelin-starred restaurant in the Netherlands) executive chef Guillermo ‘Oso’ Campos. The smoked ‘Pibil’ marlin taco – a fishy take of the traditional Mexican roasted pork dish cochinita pibil – is not to be missed.
No-nonsense Tacos Don Zefe, an ever-popular choice with the locals, shouldn’t be underestimated. The freshest flaky fish, crispy batter seasoned to perfection and a huge choice of salsas make this place an absolute must-visit if you’re in Baja Norte. At 25 pesos (US$1.30) apiece, you can’t beat the price either.
In a town where food options are limited, Tacos El Muelle is a lifesaver. In fact, even if you’re just passing through Guerrero Negro, these tacos are definitely worth stopping for. You’ll see a crowd of tourists and locals queueing in front of a silver truck in the middle of a carpark; they’re all waiting for the best fish and shrimp tacos for a 100-mile radius. The secret ingredient is apparently a generous dash of black pepper in the batter.
Next up on your Baja fish taco tour is Asadero Dany’s, Mulegé’s best lunchtime taqueria. Run by a husband and wife out of the front of their home, Asadero Dany’s has everything a good taco stop should have: perfect flaky fish made to order, bar stools out on the street and a TV blaring out. Their shrimp tacos are pretty amazing, too, and come with a huge tray of salsas and plenty of fresh limes, absolutely key ingredients for a good fish taco.
With its colourful tables shaded by a fairy-lit tree, larger-than-life margaritas and a charming owner welcoming each and every guest, you can’t help but be drawn to Claudia’s Restaurant. Her taco special changes every day, but the yellowfin taco is a favourite here. Claudia serves her perfectly cooked battered fish with a dollop of homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and shredded cabbage on a beautiful traditional clay plate. A great option for those looking for an authentic fish taco, but with a little bit of finesse.
You’ll be pleased to know that, if you’ve made it all the way down to La Paz, you won’t be short of tasty fish taco options in Baja’s capital. However, if you’re up for trying something a little different, head straight for La Gaviota. While they serve up amazing white-fish tacos, the star here is the taco de mantaraya (yep, that would be a manta ray taco). The slightly darker meat is cooked with onion and peppers and served with avocado and all the usual sauces. It sounds weird, but it’s actually very good. Tip: get here early. They close as soon as the day’s catch is finished, which is usually before 2pm.
In a town that is slowly filling up with pricey boutique restaurants, a good old traditional (and very cheap) taqueria is a welcome sight, and Santo Chilote might just be one of Baja California’s best. The unique thing about this place is that you have different options as to how your fish taco is prepared: choose from battered, grilled, ‘crunch’ (covered in cereals and deep-fried) or al pastor (cooked in a spicy tomato-based sauce and topped with pineapple). But that isn’t all: you then have a full-on buffet of sweet/spicy homemade sauces to choose from, such as mango chipotle, cucumber serrano and habanero and pineapple. The coconut shrimp taco – juicy shrimp covered in fresh coconut shavings and then deep-fried – might just be the best taco in Baja California.
If you want to push your taco tour just that little bit further south, look no further than La Lupita. With rustic wooden furniture, colourful art and textiles on the walls and a happening live-music scene, this is definitely one of Baja’s hippest taquerias. The food is no less creative: expect interesting twists on the taco classic, including Mediterranean octopus and miso-style yellowfin. If you hadn’t already guessed it from the name, the tacos here are best washed down with one of their Mezcal shots.