Tuesday, February 23, 2010

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl from Long Beach to LA

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Hole Mole

When it comes to tacos, Los Angeles County is abound with taco shops a plenty that sell these tortilla treasures with all sorts of fillings, from carne asada to chicken, from carnitas to potato and so much more. But for one day, it was all about the Fish Taco and the journey that members of my dining group took from Long Beach to Los Angeles in search of Fish Taco Greatness. Led by Robert, an Assistant Organizer for Pleasure Palate and our intrepid taco leader, it was definitely a fun-filled tasty day of sampling fish tacos from 6 different taco joints. Our first stop was at Hole Mole in Long Beach, which has four locations in Long Beach and Whittier.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Hole Mole

The fish taco at Hole Mole was actually one of my favorites of the whole day. Pros: The fish was moist and delicate and the batter was light and crispy. There was a good proportion of batter to fish. Cons: The fish itself was too big, which made the taco difficult to bite into while the tortilla was just average. Also, there weren't enough variety in salsas or other condiments. I also would have been fine with a little less sour cream.

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6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Hole Mole
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Hole Mole

Our second stop was at Taco Beach in downtown Long Beach. Of all our stops, this one was the odd man out. It was really more of a bar and hangout than a taco joint. Go there for beer and a good time on a Friday or Saturday night, but definitely not for tacos.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Beach

The tacos at Taco Beach were the least favorite of our entire group. Pros: The fish was cut in smaller pieces which made for more easier eating and the Thousand Island-style dressing had a nice spicy kick to it andwould have been perfect for a coleslaw. The salsa also tasted really fresh with some great heat. Cons: The fish was over-fried, which meant the fish was dry and the batter was too crunchy. Also, the taco lacked tomatoes, which would added some acidity and moisture to this taco. The tortilla didn't seem fresh and was on the dry side.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Beach

Third on our list was Senor Baja in Bellflower, which is 1 of 22 locations in Southern California. A little taco empire seems to be growing. What's nice about Senor Baja is that they offer 99 cent tacos on Mondays, Wednesday and Sundays, until closing. That's budget eating at its best.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Senor Baja
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Senor Baja

When it came to the taco at Senor Baja, I was more enthralled with everything but the fish itself. Pros: The tortilla had a nice thickness to it and the veggies were fresh and crunchy. There was also a great selection of salsas as well as radishes, limes, pickled veggies and chilies that you can have in addition to your taco. On selected days, their fish tacos are only 99 cents which is a nice value. Cons: The fish wasn't as crispy as it could have been and was also the oiliest of all the fish tacos we tried that day. It was also fried for too long and like the fish at Hole Mole, was too big.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Senor Baja
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Senor Baja

Fourth on our route was Taco Nazo, which was also in Bellflower and is part of a 5 restaurant chain in the LA area. What's interesting is that my first ever fish taco experience was at El Taco Nazo in Baldwin Park and I initially thought these two restaurants were part of the same chain, but they're not. Anyway, for me, the fish taco at Taco Nazo was my favorite and was also the favorite or at least in the top 3 of everyone in our Taco Troupe.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Nazo
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Nazo

There's actually sign inside the restaurant that declares themselves as having the Best Local Fish Tacos. Now I can't totally agree with that statement, but at least for that day and in comparison with 5 other fish tacos, it was tops on my list. Pros: The fish was moist and delicate and the batter light and crispy. It was deep fried to a perfect golden brown and wasn't oily. The tortillas had a nice thickness to them and the condiment bar had a good selection plus I totally fell in love with their Chile Guerritos. I could have eaten a whole bucket of them. Cons: Too much mayo and too many vegetables made it really messy to eat. In retrospect, that's is a pretty minor con.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Nazo
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Taco Nazo

From Taco Nazo, we went to Tacos Baja Ensenada. Of all our stops, this was the one place I was looking forward to the most, especially since the last time I went, a whole bunch of customers were turned away because they ran out of food. How strange was that.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Tacos Baja
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Tacos Baja

Since I've heard a lot of praise for this restaurant, my expectations were really high. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. Pros: The tortillas were good and I really liked the freshness of the limes, radishes and chili peppers at the condiment table. Cons: The fish wasn't crispy enough and just seemed too big for the size of the tortilla. There wasn't enough cabbage to suit me and the whole taco was overwhelmed with sauces, including a red sauce that was just way too sweet and honestly, could have done without it.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Tacos Baja
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: Tacos Baja

Our last stop was the Best Fish Taco in Ensenada. I've also heard good things about this place so like Tacos Baja Ensenada, I was looking forward to tasting what all the fuss was about.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada

This taco was also quite disappointing. Pros: The fish itself was moist and light and their radish salsa was really interesting and had a nice bite to it. I liked that you could customize the taco to your taste in regards to toppings. Cons: The fish wasn't crispy plus the batter was really blah. Also, their tortilla was the one I liked the least of all the tacos we tried. It was dry and a little too hard. Granted, it's towards the end of the day, but salsas were kind of watery and the vegetables like the cabbage just didn't look or taste fresh.

6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
6 Stop Fish Taco Crawl: The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada

This was definitely a full day, but it was definitely an interesting experience comparing tacos almost side by side. It also helped that Robert gave us all rating sheets where we could rate from 1 to 5 the taco in several categories like Quality of Fish, Quality of Fish Batter, Quality of Tortilla and more. The sheet really helped me with focusing on all the various aspects of all the fish tacos we tried.

I should also note that I was only comparing the 6 tacos just to each other and not in comparison to authentic fish tacos in Mexico, specifically Ensenada. If I were to do that, I'd say without question that none of the places we tried had tacos that would even come close to the sheer perfection of the fish tacos that I've experienced in Mexico. But for now, if I simply just want fish tacos that will satisfy and please my palate, Taco Nazo and Hole Mole will do in a pinch.

Click here to see all 59 photos!

Hole Mole
1327 E. 4th Street
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 437-0878
Hole Mole on Urbanspoon

Taco Beach
211 Pine Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 983-1337
Taco Beach on Urbanspoon

Senor Baja
14351 Clark Avenue
Bellflower, CA 90706
(562) 866-2243
Senor Baja on Urbanspoon

Taco Nazo
10316 Alondra Boulevard
Bellflower, CA 90706
(562) 866-3306
Taco Nazo on Urbanspoon

Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 887-1980
Tacos Baja Ensenada on Urbanspoon

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
1650 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-5552
Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Urbanspoon



Gastronomer said...

Abby! Why are you not on the Taco Taskforce? We need you. I need you! It's lonely being a female on the force!

Food GPS said...

59 photos? That's quite an eating day. Looks like you found some new spots. It's a little unclear which restaurant made your favorite fish taco. If you could only return to one spot, what would it be?

Bianca @southbay rants n raves said...

I love me some tacos! Thanks for the recap!

EatTravelEat said...

I pretty much agree with your reasoning that Taco Nazo is the best. I haven't been there, but out of the six places their taco looks the most appetizing and delicious :). For me, the perfect amount of everything.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Abby,

Nice report. :) It's surprising that Tacos Baja turned out so bad for you. :( It's been a while since I went, but the last time I was there, it was quite good. I'll have to try them again and see how they've changed. Thanks.

O.W. said...

I could be mistaken but I'm under the impression that Taco Nazo and Hole Mole are owned by the same parent company.

Personally, I've found BTE to be the best in the bunch; sorry you had a disappointing experience there.

I had a similar experience at another Long Beach spot that you had at Taco Beach; a small chain called Taco Surf. Their fried fish was more like overly fried fish nuggets. Not appetizing at all.

pleasurepalate said...

Cathy: I think you're doing a fine job representing the ladies on Bill's Taco Task Force.

Josh: I always take tons of pictures. 59 pics is nothing. :) My favorites were Taco Nazo and Hole Mole.

Bianca: Since you're close to Long Beach, you should give Hole Mole a try.

ETE. Hopefully, you'll be able to pay a visit to Taco Nazo and check it for yourself.

EK: Maybe, it's just a matter of personal preference. Plus my review is based on just one try. Perhaps, if I went back, it might be a different story.

O.W. I didn't know about Taco Nazo and Hole Mole possibly being owned by the same parent company. Maybe, that's why I liked both of them so much. :)

Long Beach Attorney said...

Being a taco lover myself, it is hard to agree on one place in Long Beach but your pick was up there.

Long Beach Personal injury lawyer said...

That food looks amazing, so delicious. Now i`m hungry!!!