Glen Ellyn spot serves up Baja-inspired fish tacos

Fish tacos have been popping up around Chicago lately. But their origin is closely tied to Mexico's narrow Baja Peninsula.
November 29, 2013 8:35:49 PM PST
Fish tacos have been popping up around Chicago lately. But their origin is closely tied to Mexico's narrow Baja Peninsula.

Our food reporter traveled out west to see for himself, then found a reliable, good local version, right here in the western suburbs.

The fishing towns of Ensenada and San Felipe gave birth to the fish taco, but San Diego adopted them, and now you'll find them all over that perennially sunny city, just 20 minutes north of the border.

Water plays as huge role in San Diego, so no surprise to see fish tacos practically everywhere. Just 10 minutes south of the city, in Chula Vista, locals flock to a parking lot next to the highway, to line up for the Mariscos El Pescador truck, where they do fish tacos right.

"It started in Ensenada. So we come with my family we moved the tradition to San Diego," said Cruz Vasquez, owner of the truck.

That tradition is a beer-battered whitefish, like tilapia or mahi mahi, set onto a corn tortilla, topped with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, onions and a crema, or thinned-out sour cream/mayo, plus fresh limes. You can add hot sauce if you like, just like the folks who wait in line in Pacific Beach, where Oscar's Mexican Seafood sells old-school fish tacos, plus smoked fish versions and spicy shrimp.

"We don't put anything just because we like to see who likes chipotle mayo or habanero mayo; we don't make a plain one, we just make those two because that's the way I was taught," said Juan Montes De Oca, owner of Oscar's.

In west suburban Glen Ellyn, Cynthia Degen was taught the same way.

"I went to Baja, Ensenada, Tijuana all over in Mexico... fell in love with them. And I tried to adapt what I liked in different places and bring it back here," said Degen, owner of Chicks 'n Salsa.

She offers both the battered, fried tilapia, as well as a spiced-up grilled version; tops them with mixed cabbage, plus a squeeze of chipotle mayo, some finely-chopped cucumbers, fresh cilantro and a lime wedge. There's always a few salsas on hand, plus sides of pico de gallo, depending on your tomato-onion love.

"And then we do our shrimp tacos fried and grilled as well," she said.

Mariscos El Pescador
1008A Industrial Blvd., Chula Vista, CA
(619) 488-7524

Oscar's Mexican Seafood
703 Turquoise St., San Diego, CA
858-488-6392
http://oscarsmexicanseafood.com/

Other great places to try fish tacos in San Diego:
TJ's Oyster Bar
4246 Bonita Rd.
619-267-4577
http://tjoysterbar.com/web/

Fish Public
4055 Adams Ave.
619-281-4014
http://www.fishpublic.com/

Rubio's (dozens of locations)

In Chicago:

Chicks 'n Salsa
874 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn
630-790-1100
http://www.chicksnsalsa.com/


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