So you’ve decided you want a taco—more specifically, you want one of the best fish tacos in the city. You’re in luck, because in L.A., you can order fresh-catch fish tacos, Nayarit- and Ensenada-style fish tacos, and inventive, modern versions at the best Mexican restaurants, best seafood restaurants and food trucks all over town. You can find grilled or batter-fried tilapia, swai, cod, salmon, mahi, halibut, sea bass, marlin and, rarely, shark. But you’ll need to choose wisely: A good fish taco is a fresh and invigorating treat, but a bad fish taco—with overcooked fish and unbalanced, low-quality ingredients—can ruin your day. To save you from this roller-coaster of possibility and disappointment, we offer you our favorite spots for fish tacos in L.A.
L.A.’s best fish tacos
Yes, we hear you, haters—Ricky’s Fish Tacos doesn’t make their own tortillas, and in other Ensenada-style tacos you can occasionally find more traditional angel shark instead of the cheaper basa catfish used here. But there’s some serious deep fryer magic going on at Ricky’s, and you can usually find specials like lobster or smoked marlin to round out the menu. Crunchy oregano-flecked batter surrounds fluffy fish and shrimp to make amazing deep-fried pillows of flavor. Crisp jalapeño slices and a smoky red salsa add wonderful kick, making for a fantastic fish taco ($3.50) that packs more than a few crave-worthy bites. We aren’t the only ones who feel this way—expect a line. Check Twitter to confirm the truck’s hours each day.
Now that Guerrilla Tacos has its own brick-and-mortar restaurant, you no longer have to chase down Wes Avila’s taco truck—which means you can find some of the best tacos in L.A. in the Arts District whenever the craving strikes. If you’re lucky, a fish taco will be on the slate, most likely a battered wild-cod variety with chipotle crema. If prices seem high, just remember that the quality of local and organic ingredients used here are expensive—and worth it (prices range from about $5 to $10 per taco).
The low-key decor and ambience at Coni’Seafood might best be described as “chill.” The food, however, is spicy and vibrant. You’ll find three types of fish tacos here: the crunchy battered fish tacos with spicy crema and slaw; the smoked marlin and cheese tacos, which are fried whole for a crispy, greasy treat; and the shrimp tacos with sautéed vegetables. Order a few, but the most popular dish here is the pescado zarandeado (grilled snook) which takes half an hour to prepare after you order it—request some tortillas on the side and you can turn this dish into delicious fish tacos, too.
If the name doesn’t tip you off, Best Fish Taco in Ensanada serves some damn fine fish tacos. Are they the best? That’s up to your own discretion, but we know people who will defend that statement to the death. The small, colorful eatery with a thatched patio feels like a tropical break from the busy streets of nearby Hollywood and Hillhurst, one where the menu is simple and to the point: fish tacos for $1.95, shrimp tacos for $2.50 and drinks for $1.
One of the longstanding heroes of the old-school taco trucks—a.k.a. loncheros—Mariscos Jalisco has earned a deservedly loyal and devoted following. Their signature tacos dorado de camaron live up to the hype with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that is then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. You’ll also want to save room for their legendary tostadas such as the Poseidon, which comes topped with shrimp ceviche, octopus and a fiery red aguachile of shrimp. Follow them on Twitter and don’t forget to bring cash.
Handmade tortillas are made to order and filled with grilled white fish, black beans, chile arbol, pico de gallo, cabbage and an avocado-cilantro crema. If you’re looking for a different seafood option, they offer a fajita-style shrimp taco with onions, peppers and chipotle cream. Most locations feature some sort of patio seating, but if you wind up indoors, watch the kitchen in action as you dig into the mouthwatering tacos—washed down with refreshingly tart jamaica aqua fresca or creamy, spiced horchata.
This beloved Whittier spot makes a classic street-food–style fish taco just the way you’d picture it: with crunchy, battered sea bass, cabbage-and-tomato slaw, crema and red salsa. For a little variation, try a Baja taco with a mix of both shrimp and fish served inside a flour tortilla. Wednesdays are particularly crowded here for the 99-cent fish tacos special, but the busy kitchen staff keeps the line moving. Order a couple tacos, then head to the condiments bar to grab some limes and roasted yellow peppers dusted with chili powder, and enjoy a simple coastal-inspired meal.
With one owner hailing from Nayarit and the other from Sinaloa, the influence of both coastal regions mingles at this small eatery, resulting in an extensive seafood menu that includes a variety of flavorful fish ceviches and tacos. We love the taco a la diabla, which can be ordered with either fried shrimp or fried fish and comes on a bed of cheese in the tortilla—add some house-made salsa for more kick.
We’re inclined to enjoy all tacos at Petty Cash Taqueria, mostly due to the freshly made corn tortillas and great house-made salsas. But the fish taco here features a beer-battered piece of rockfish with a little crema, cabbage and pico on one of those non-GMO fresh tortillas. Be sure to add some of their green salsa (pineapple, tomatillos and chillies) and red salsa (roasted tomatoes and chillies) to finish off the balanced taco. There is a catch: The little tacos cost $7 apiece. But if you’re in need of a fish taco and you’re ready to splurge, you’ll enjoy this well-made morsel.
David LeFevre’s upscale seafood shack is always one of our go-tos when we’re craving briny bivalves, fresh fried fish, or some grilled fish for two. Unsurprisingly, his fish tacos also blow us out of the water like, well, dynamite: Served simply on house-made tortillas, the grilled mahi mahi is tender and warm, then gets cooled off with a mound of cabbage. The best part? It’s all topped off with a little extra crunch, courtesy some chicharrones. Supplement with a few oysters and clams from the raw bar, and you’ll sate your seafood cravings in no time.
Nestled into a small parking lot in DTLA, Chicas Tacos is a pint-size gem, a color-splattered eatery serving tacos for the modern Angeleno—that is to say, with organic, non-GMO, wild-caught ingredients. The beer-battered fish tacos here come buried under caesar salad, a nod to the famed dish, which originated in Tijuana. Croutons and parmesan add a bit of gourmet flair, and just one taco would make for a decent lunch—though you’ll likely be tempted to order another from the short but thoughtful menu. Follow it up with a freshly made agua fresca, which you can sip on at one of Chicas’s outdoor picnic tables.
You can have your tortilla-wrapped seafood in several styles at thie South Bay mainstay. There are seared ahi tuna tacos that get a hint of Asian flavor from Thai chilli sauce with avocado cream and cabbage, or if you’re a traditionalist, there are more typical white-fish tacos, offered either fried or blackened and topped with cotija, cabbage, avocado cream and salsa. If you want to get extra fancy, upgrade to the lobster tacos, available fried or grilled.
You’ll find a variety of fish tacos on the menu at Via-Mar in Highland Park: tilapia, swai or mahi can all be grilled or batter-fried for your taco. In our experience, the battered swai is prepared the most consistently, generally coming out nice and tender with fluffy batter and a lot of rich crema and slaw. The salsa isn’t especially spicy, so if you like some heat, use the bottled hot sauces on the table liberally. The fried fish tacos here can be a little oily and, in short, a hot mess—the thin tortillas can’t withstand the wet toppings for long—but that’s all part of the fun at this outdoor stand, a neighborhood favorite for seafood and specials: On Wednesdays, get the swai taco for only $1.59.
James’ Beach fish tacos have a Hollywood connection: They were featured in the movie I Love You, Man, which, just in case you missed it, the resturant helpfully points out right on the menu. Are they really as good as Jason Segel’s character boasts onscreen? You’ll be the judge, but the grilled mahi mahi fillet is certainly a popular order at this beachy restaurant, though at $24 (served as a plate with beans and guacamole) these certainly ring in a bit pricier than the average street taco.
It can take a few bites to appreciate the full appeal of the fish taco at Taco Nazo. It’s a familiar concoction—a Baja-style taco made with white fish—but the batter is thick, the fish is flaky and the crema is rich. The seasoned and roasted small yellow peppers (“famous chili gueritos”) and the roasted chilli salsa made onsite add nice spice and flavor to the taco. While the original location in La Puente is still going strong, there are now several other independently owned locations, too.
At this comfortable little spot in Mid-City, you’ll find several clues that the menu features fusion soul food: The hibiscus juice on the menu is sorrel (not agua de Jamaica), which is the Caribbean version of the drink, and the taco options include Cajun-spiced crawfish. The fish tacos here are low-key: grilled tilapia or salmon with cabbage and lemon slaw, and just enough oily grilled flavor to keep things interesting. A dash of Tapatío salsa from the bottle on the table kicks the excitement factor up a bit, and you’ve got yourself a light but satisfying meal.
Part fish market and part restaurant, this casual Redondo Beach seafood spot manages to combine fresh fish and an oceanfront setting without breaking the bank. You can get the sea creature of your choice prepared just about any way you want it here, but, if you’re like us, the way you want it is usually a taco. They’re happy to oblige with fish tacos, available either grilled or fried, served with a view of the open waves.