In America’s culinary landscape, San Diego stands apart for its fish taco, a beach-friendly feast that’s more magical than a dolphin leaping over a sunset: a chunk of fried or grilled fish cocooned by warm tortillas, crowned with crunchy shredded cabbage, luscious cream sauce and perhaps a sprinkle of zippy salsa and a fresh-lime shower. Done right, the filling fish taco is a concert of contrasts — hot and cold, crunchy and soft, spicy and soothing. Legend has it that the handheld meal was born in Baja California. San Diego surfers, returning from chasing the Mexican state’s tasty waves, brought an appetite for this surfside sustenance back across the border. The taco swept the city like a tidal wave, and now there are hundreds of humble shacks and white-tablecloth restaurants alike serving the signature Southern California dish.
If I had my druthers and a thousand dollars, I’d book a flight to the West Coast and fill my gut with fistfuls of fish tacos. It’d be a perfect summertime splurge. But I’m a freelance writer. My three-digit bank account nixes spur-of-the-moment indulgences — well, at least till I sell a kidney. Thus, my pilgrimages must remain closer to my Brooklyn apartment. Luckily, there’s a bit of the West Coast fish tacos in an unlikely part of the Big Apple.