If there’s one thing a visitor should eat in San Diego, it’s fish tacos. Determining who makes the best fish tacos in San Diego is a rough task because there are, in all honesty, so many good options.
Exactly how the idea migrated north from coastal Baja California is debated, but we’re sure glad it’s here. A standard Baja-style fish taco has lightly-battered fish on a corn tortilla topped with cabbage, fresh salsa, a light cream sauce, and a wedge of lime. However, San Diego restaurants have added their own flair and grilled fish taco options are very common, too.
Deciding where to enjoy San Diego fish tacos is a tough choice. Options range from upscale dining experiences at restaurants like George’s at the Cove (pictured above) to Rubio’s, the fast-food giant who claims to have started it all.
George’s at the Cove (La Jolla)
George’s Ocean Terrace, the top level of George’s at the Cove, is my all-around favorite place for fish tacos in San Diego on a sunny day. Between the spectacular ocean view, cool contemporary look, festive vibe, and one of San Diego’s best chefs… you can’t beat the experience. About 95% of the time, I start with a bowl of black bean soup and then devour a plate of grilled fish tacos (with jalapeà±o cream, guacamole, cilantro and shredded cabbage on a corn tortilla made a sister restaurant, Galaxy Taco) paired with a few glasses of Chardonnay. Is that bliss or what?
The downstairs California Modern restaurant serves totally different, yet equally delicious fish tacos… you’ll need to go to see why. They were featured on The Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate if that gives you any clue as to how good they are. Chose the part of the restaurant that suits your mood.
Why go: The view is spectacular, wine and craft cocktail list plentiful, and it’s where many locals take out of town guests for a quintessential San Diego experience. If you’re craving fish tacos, but need a posh place to take a date or meet a group of friends, this is the place to certainly find the best fish tacos in La Jolla at a nice, sit-down restaurant if not all of San Diego.
Location: 1250 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037.
Phone: (858) 454-4244
The Taco Stand (La Jolla, Encinitas, Downtown)
All meals are prepared to order at The Taco Stand. Corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsas are also made daily in-house. Walk in, order at the register, gather your salsas from the salsa bar, sit at one of the handful of tables or take it to-go. Pictured above is the camaron spicy shrimp taco (highly recommend) and the grilled pescado taco (fish). The nopale and carne asada are excellent choices, too.
The La Jolla location is where we go most frequently. It shares a super small parking lot with Pizza on Pearl so keep an eye out for street parking as you approach. Go early as it is a very popular place with limited seating.
Why go: You’re in downtown La Jolla and craving a quick fish taco. Sure, there’s Rubio’s around the corner but these taste fresher and are much more flavorful.
- La Jolla: 621 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037 / (858) 551-6666
- Encinitas: 642 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024 / (760) 230-2061
- Downtown: 645 B St, San Diego, CA 92101 / (619) 546-0570
Bahia Don Bravo
This casual Mexican food spot in Bird Rock is only a few block from my house. As I’m revamping this list for 2017, I realized that I had initially left them of which is total blasphemy. They have the best fish taco in La Jolla on the lower end of the price scale for sure. It’s $1.99, incredibly flavorful and well-portioned.
The lobster burrito is another solid choice. Hang tight… I’ll go grab a fish taco in a few days and snap a photo.
Location: 5504 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-8940
Puesto (La Jolla and The Headquarters Downtown)
While you wouldn’t necessarily go to Puesto specifically in search of the best fish tacos in San Diego (because they have a lot of other great choices, too), their salmon taco is delicious. The restaurant is known for their Mexico City-style guisados (grilled meats) which you can have served in a variety of ways.
Taco options include grilled shrimp, carne asada, chicken al pastor, carnitas, salmon, soy chorizo, and zucchini and cactus. Don’t skip the cheese as they grill it onto the tortilla. Pictured above is their Baja-style fish taco.
The light, modern and kid-friendly decor makes it pleasant to sit down to enjoy a quick meal here. My daughter likes the quesadillas.
Why go: You want good made-to-order Mexican street food in an upscale, fast-casual environment in either downtown La Jolla or The Headquarters.
- La Jolla: 1026 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037/ (858) 454-1260
- The Headquarters: 789 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 / (619) 233-8880
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood (Pacific Beach, Hillcrest, East Village)
Many reviews claim that Oscar’s Mexican Seafood has the best fish tacos in San Diego.
The smoked fish taco is one of their most popular menu items. You can’t go wrong with a grilled fish taco, prepared with your choice from the available fish (market price), and the fresh ceviche is awesome. Battered fish tacos are available, too, and quite the steal at $1.99. Several sauces and salsas are on the side for you to add.
The original location on Turquoise Street has virtually no seating other than a small bar area outside that’s usually crowded and uncomfortable. The new Emerald street location has some seating and is a bit more spacious. Yes, they are the best fish taco in Pacific Beach with two locations in this neighborhood alone. New Oscar’s locations include Encinitas, Hillcrest, and East Village. Bring cash.
Why go: You want an authentic, delicious fish taco to-go and to see what the hype of best fish tacos in San Diego is all about.
- Pacific Beach: 746 Emerald Street, San Diego, CA 92109 / (858) 412-4009
- North Pacific Beach: 703 Turquoise Street, San Diego, CA 92109 / (858) 488-6392
- Hillcrest: 646 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103 / (619) 798-3550
- East Village: 927 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101 / (619) 564-6007
World Famous (Pacific Beach)
Located right on the boardwalk with spectacular beach and ocean views (as well as entertaining people watching especially during the summer), World Famous is an excellent daytime spot to relax over multiple drinks and tacos.
During peak times, it can get really busy so have a backup plan in order to avoid the wait as they don’t take reservations. The menu is seasonal. I can personally vouch for the Bloody Mary’s and Benedicts as well as the grilled shrimp taco. Fish tacos are Baja-style and they do have a Puerto Nuevo-style lobster taco option, too.
Why go: You want to linger at a casual, not-too-pricey restaurant by the beach (though wear shirts and cover-ups over your beach gear).
Location: 711 Pacific Beach Drive, San Diego, CA 92109
Phone: (858) 272-3100
Pacific Beach Fish Shop
Pacific Beach Fish Shop’s super casual ambiance draws families, PB’s young professional crowd and anyone craving a customizable fish taco. Choose your fish, choose your marinade and choose your preparation (taco, salad, plate or sandwich). The TKO mahi-mahi fish taco (pictured above) is award-winning and distinguished by a sweet and slightly spicy mango salsa. I also highly recommend the ceviche.
They have a decent-sized parking lot, counter-ordering and a large outdoor patio in addition to some seating inside. This dog-friendly San Diego restaurant (they’ll usually bring my dog water and treats) serves wine and a nice selection of beer. Discounted oyster nights and other specials happen throughout the week.
Why go: You like the ability to DIY your fish taco.
Location: 1775 Garnet Ave (Corner of Garnet & Kendall), San Diego, CA 92109
Phone: (858) 483-1008
Taco Surf PB (Pacific Beach)
Taco Surf PB is not much to look at when you first walk in. The metal screen door has old surf and skate stickers all over it, the old linoleum flooring is stained and the menu is written in part on pieces of paper. But, aesthetics aside and most importantly, the food is very good and is priced in line with similar places. The fried fish soft taco (corn tortilla) is really good, especially with the lime and salsa provided along with it. The piece of fish surprisingly runs pretty much the entire diameter of the tortilla, which is rare.
The grilled fish taco (mahi-mahi last time we ordered) is even better, again with the lime and salsa provided.
Why go: You’re on the PB boardwalk or headed to the beach and need a good fish taco to-go.
Location: 4657 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109
Phone: (858) 272-3877
Blue Water Seafood (Mission Hills)
Blue Water Seafood was featured on The Food Network’s Diners Drive-ins and Dives a few years back. Choose your fish and they’ll marinate it in their spicy chipotle sauce prior to grilling and topping it with cabbage, cheese, onions, tomatoes and special white sauce. The tortillas are from nearby El Indio Mexican restaurant, also featured on the same TV show. It can get busy so you might be better off planning to eat elsewhere as seating is limited (as is parking). The tacos are actually pretty big.
Why go: They probably have the widest variety of seasonal fish to choose from. It’s a no-frills seafood market so take some fresh fish to grill at home, too.
Location: 3667 India Street, San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 497-0914
South Beach Bar & Grille (Ocean Beach)
This option is out if you have kids and tow as it is a 21+ establishment. However, their fish tacos (pictured in the top post photo) are amazing and some fans claim that these are actually the best fish tacos in San Diego.
Choices range from grilled wahoo, mahi, shark and lobster or fried pollock. If not health conscious, go fried. Otherwise the lobster taco is amazing. The generous heap of fresh salsa on top makes the taco. Go on Taco Tuesday when tacos are $2.75 all day.
Why go: To have a bunch of drinks at a bar and one of the best fish tacos in San Diego in funky OB on a nice day. You’re not a parent yet (the crowd can skew young) or the kids are elsewhere.
Location: 5059 Newport Ave, Ste 104, San Diego, CA 92107
Phone: (619) 226-4577
The Brigantine (Multiple Locations)
The Brigantine’s fried fish tacos are reliably good. I’ve probably eaten hundreds of them at the Del Mar when I lived there during and shortly after college. Huge, battered chunks of fish swimming in ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and cabbage are worth extra time on the treadmill. I can’t believe I used to pair these with an order of potato skins. I miss that metabolism.
Menu items range from salads to sandwiches to higher-end seafood dishes so you’re entire party isn’t locked in to fish tacos.
Why go: You want to pair a hearty fish taco with a craft beer or nice glass of wine in a contemporary sit-down restaurant with an otherwise sizable menu.
- Coronado: 1333 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118 / (619) 435-4166
- Del Mar: 3263 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92104 / (858) 481-1166
- Escondido: 421 West Felicita Avenue, Escondido, CA 92025 / (760) 743-4718
- Imperial Beach: 919 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, CA 91932 / (619) 591-1350
- La Mesa: 9350 Fuerte Drive, La Mesa, CA 91941 / (619) 465-1935
- Point Loma: 2725 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92106 / (619) 224-2871
- Poway: 13445 Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064 / (858) 486-3066
- Brig HQ (pop-up test kitchen only open for lunch): 7889 Ostrow Street, San Diego, CA 92111 / (858) 427-0961
Rubio’s (Multiple Locations)
Rubio’s is everywhere and it’s a cheap, fast and reliable source of fish tacos if you need a quick bite to eat at the mall or in between running errands. Some locations sell beer, too. While it’s not nearly as inexpensive as other fast food, keep in mind that a majority of their seafood is sustainable.
Ralph Rubio lives in La Jolla. I met him at a private lunch to talk about his restaurants, he could not have been a nicer guy. The original fish tacos are a $1.75 after 2:30 on Tuesdays (Taco Tuesday).
The salmon taco is pretty good and I know that other people rave about the blackened fish versions. Some Rubio’s locations sell beer and win.
Why go: This regional chain has locations all over San Diego so the odds are that you’re probably near one anyway.
Locations: Find a Rubio’s near you using their store locator.
Is Your Favorite San Diego Fish Taco Missing?
Side note: I have heard amazing things about Tijuana Oyster Bar so will go check it out for inclusion on this list. Aside from this, let us know which restaurant you think has the best fish tacos in San Diego and why. Your input will help guide those visiting San Diego and is much appreciated!
Photo credits: South Beach, Flickr/WordRidden; Point Loma Seafood, Flickr/Shoshanah; Blue Water Seafood, Flickr/cogdogblog; Puesto fish taco, Puesto