Local spots serve up Baja-style fish tacos

February 7, 2011 6:15:04 PM PST
Heading south of the border sounds good right about now, doesn't it?

ABC7's Hungry Hound is taking us there through the eyes of a pair of Chicago-area chefs who are attempting to recreate the Baja-style fish taco in some delicious new ways.

Tacos are everywhere lately. Just last week, a place called Taco Joint opened in Lincoln Park. Barrio also opened in Lakeview, and of course, DeCero has been offering its wonderful tacos for awhile on West Randolph.

Now, fish tacos are big business on Mexico's Baja peninsula, as well as in San Diego. Either of those places sound good right about now, but a couple of local chefs are taking the concept of fried fish in a tortilla and adding a few new touches of their own.

On any given day, the cozy dining room at Bien Trucha, in West Suburban Geneva, is hopping. The bartenders craft handmade cocktails while the customers sample inventive Mexican street food, including the tacos.

"We do everything from scratch, all the salsas, we roast every tomato, every pepper, and we roast the salsas; they are a very important thing on the tacos and we try to bring all different varieties," said Bien Trucha owner Ricardo Garcia Rubio.

Rubio's fish tacos are impressive. A trio of tilapia is dipped in beer batter and fried, then placed into corn tortillas. A zesty slaw of purple cabbage, tomatoes and chipotle aioli is mixed then mounded on top. Another special might include the pescadilla tacos, which contain shredded shark, a Mexican herb called epazote, plus a creamy-hot pico de gallo made from avocado and habanero chiles.

"Everything that we do here it's our own inspiration. We go over there, we see a recipe, we come here and we change it to our own style.We don't try to be exactly the same, everything has to be a little bit different," Rubio said.

In the city, Luis Perea and his wife have been busy with their Bombon Cafe and Bakery, but they recently opened La Lagartija, a little taqueria on South Ashland. Tacos al pastor are stellar - the vertically-grilled pork comes with grilled pineapple - but the shrimp tacos are the real star. Batter-dipped and fried plump shrimp is nestled onto homemade tortillas - and this element alone makes the tacos superior, since the fresh masa is hand-formed and griddled throughout the day - as for the shrimp tacos, the fried beauties are buried beneath a cabbage slaw that is dressed with both a caper-chile aioli for creaminess.. as well as a ketchup-habanero sauce for heat.

"At the beginning I thought it was going to be overwhelming, but you know when I try it and I see the customers really, really enjoy it, you know, it makes me really, really happy and excited," said Perea.

Bien Trucha
410 W State St, Geneva

La Lagartija
132 S Ashland Ave

Also mentioned:
Taco Joint, Urban Taquieria and Cantina
1969 N. Halsted St.

814 W Randolph St.

Chicks 'n Salsa
874 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn

Big Star
1531 N. Damen Ave.