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Why I love Fish Tacos…

November 18th, 2009
“peter ‘was’ here…”
Why I love Fish Tacos…
When I eventually write about “Foods that sound disgusting (but are really quite yummy!)”, Fish Tacos will play a prominent role. But since they straddle so many categories, including Mexican, I think they deserve a post of their own. Don’t you?
Perhaps you don’t agree. And that is another reason why the venerable fish taco deserves its own post.
Being born in San Diego, I was raised on Mexican food. My best friend in elementary school was Fernando Anquiano, and I practically lived at his house. And due to the incredible cooking talents of Mrs. Anquiano, I was exposed to a wide variety of homemade Mexican food. My love of tamales will forever be equated with her culinary skill.
So it was from a position of moral superiority (At a level of self-righteousness reserved for 17 year olds) that I was certain of two things. Gravity exists, and tacos are made with shredded beef. If you were feeling a bit saucy, then you might use chicken.
Under no circumstances would you ever put fish in a taco!
This is where my old high school friend, Mark Campbell comes into the picture. You see, Mark has a unique form of charisma that inspires you to do things that you’d never do under normal circumstances.
For instance, when Mark wanted me to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, he didn’t bludgeon me with macho tirades like, “Don’t be chicken!” Instead, he came into work every Monday, giddy with enthusiasm about how much fun he had that weekend, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.
The thing about infectious enthusiasm is, well it’s infectious. Three weeks later I found myself jumping out the door of a Cessna, as my agnostic friend Mark sat in the corner praying to God that we wouldn’t die!
This is very similar to how he introduced me to the fish taco.
You see, Mark frequented a little taco stand run by a guy named Ralph Rubio. And for days, Mark would show up at work with the classic white Styrofoam box, filled with two fish tacos, refried beans, and a pile of tortilla chips.
As he devoured his “Pesky’s Combo”, the yummy sounds he made permeated the room like the delicious aroma of lightly fried thresher shark.
And just like skydiving, his infectious enthusiasm got the better of me.
After several days, my righteous indignation faded and the enthusiasm made me question my die-hard belief that fish had no place in a taco. And as good fortune would have it, that day Mark brought me a Styrofoam box of my own.
As you may or may not know, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill is now a major fast food chain, with restaurants from California to Colorado. This entire enterprise was built on the deliciousness of the Pesky’s combo. And I was about to understand why.
A “Fish Taco Especial” consisted of thresher shark (although now I believe they use North Atlantic cod), battered in beer batter, covered in cabbage, white sauce, guacamole, as well as jack and cheddar cheese.
I tentatively bit into my first fish taco, the savory deliciousness wrapped around my cerebral cortex. Like a zombie, my brain was flooded with the singular thought, “Pesky’s combo… Pesky’s combo…”
I would never be the same again.
Needless to say, my prejudice had been set aside, and I became a life long convert to the ways of the fish taco.
Since that faithful day, I’ve had hundreds of fish tacos. For example, there’s an amazing seafood place in Half Moon Bay called the “Flying Fish Grill”.  Not exactly Mexican food, but the fish is so fresh and good, that it’s a unique and wonderful variation on the theme.
I believe that many of the most enjoyable things we’ll ever experience, come from taking a risk and pushing the bounds of what we find comfortable. Food should allow us to be adventurous whenever we like. Sometimes it pays off remarkably well.

When I eventually write about “Foods that sound disgusting (but are really quite tasty!)”, Fish Tacos will play a prominent role. But since they straddle so many categories, including Mexican and Seafood, I think they deserve a post of their own. Don’t you?

Perhaps you don’t agree. And that is another reason why the venerable fish taco deserves its own post.

Being born in San Diego, I was raised on Mexican food. My best friend in elementary school was Fernando Anquiano, and I practically lived at his house. And due to the incredible cooking talents of Mrs. Anquiano, I was exposed to a wide variety of homemade Mexican food. My love of tamales will forever be equated with her culinary skill.

So it was from a position of moral superiority (At a level of self-righteousness only possible in a teenager) that I was certain of two things. Gravity exists, and tacos are made with shredded beef. If you were feeling a bit saucy, then you might use chicken.

Under no circumstances would you ever put fish in a taco!

This is where my old high school friend, Mark Campbell comes into the picture. You see, Mark has a unique form of persuasion that inspires you to do things that you’d never do under normal circumstances.

For instance, when Mark wanted me to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, he didn’t bludgeon me with macho tirades like, “Be a man!” Instead, he came into work every Monday, giddy with enthusiasm about how much fun he had that weekend, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

The thing about infectious enthusiasm is, well it’s infectious. Three weeks later I found myself jumping out the door of a Cessna, as my agnostic friend Mark sat in the corner praying to God that we wouldn’t die!

This is very similar to how he introduced me to the fish taco.

You see, Mark frequented a little taco stand run by a guy named Ralph Rubio. And for days, Mark would show up at work with the classic white Styrofoam box, filled with two fish tacos, refried beans, and a pile of tortilla chips.

As he devoured his “Pesky’s Combo”, the yummy sounds he made permeated the room like the delicious aroma of lightly fried thresher shark.

And just like skydiving, his infectious enthusiasm got the better of me.

After several days, my righteous indignation faded and the enthusiasm made me question my die-hard belief that fish had no place in a taco. And as good fortune would have it, that day Mark gave me a Styrofoam box of my own.

As you may or may not know, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill is now a fast growing fast food chain, with restaurants from California to Colorado. This entire enterprise was built on the deliciousness of the Pesky’s combo. And I was about to understand why.

A “Fish Taco Especial” consisted of thresher shark (although now I believe they use North Atlantic cod), battered in beer batter, covered in cabbage, white sauce, guacamole, as well as jack and cheddar cheese.

I tentatively bit into my first fish taco, the savory deliciousness wrapped around my cerebral cortex. Like a zombie, my brain was flooded with the singular thought, “Pesky’s combo… Pesky’s combo…”

I would never be the same again.

Needless to say, my prejudice had been set aside, and I became a life long convert to the ways of the fish taco.

Since that faithful day, I’ve had hundreds of fish tacos. For example, there’s an amazing seafood place in Half Moon Bay called the “Flying Fish Grill”.  Not exactly Mexican food, but the fish is so fresh and good, that it’s a unique and wonderful variation on the theme. I’ve learned to keep myself open to new food experiences.

I believe that many of the best things we’ll ever do, come from taking a risk and pushing the bounds of comfort. Food allows us to be adventurous whenever we like.

And sometimes it pays off remarkably well. 🙂

4 Responses to “Why I love Fish Tacos…”

  1. chammer1248 Says:

    Two comments: (1) how can you have a blog entry about Fish Tacos and *not* talk about Charlie’s Tacquaria in San Mateo??? Their carmelized onions take the already heavenly fish taco into the outer reaches of the universe!

    (2) The best (note I didn’t say only!) thing about the Padres are the fish tacos at Petco Park. They are fab!!!

  2. Peter Reeves Says:

    I’m ashamed to say this, but I have never had a fish taco at Charlie’s. 🙁

    They have some amazing tamales, and burritos the size of Zoe’s head. I’ll make sure I correct my mistake next time I’m back in town.

    And I agree, Petco Park does have some pretty tasty fish tacos!

  3. BC Says:

    It’s absolutely amazing to see the variety of fish tacos that exist today! If you had gone out looking for a fish taco 20 years ago, you might have found a couple of places that *might* serve them (unless you lived in Baja California or the Yucatan). Nowadays, most decent Mexican food restaurants serve some sort of variation on a fish taco. Because of this, saying “Fish tacos are (not) tasty” has become roughly as ambiguous as stating “I work in IT”. For example, Wahoo’s sells an absolutely delicious grilled mahi mahi taco. However, I’ve had battered and fried salmon fish tacos at another not-to-be-named establishment, and I didn’t think they weren’t such a good idea, even though others at the table felt they were delicious. I would argue that if someone doesn’t like fish tacos, they just haven’t found the right niche yet.

  4. gem331 Says:

    Oh man, Fish tacos! So amazing. And I LOVE Rubios. They do a great job with yummy tacos, burritos, chips, etc.

    I’ll have to check out the Flying Fish Grill in HMB. I am in need of some good seafood!

    Everyone needs a Mark Campbell in their lives. Mine was my Uncle Steve and he taught me to jump out of perfectly good planes. He was so good he even got my 79 year old Grandma to jump out of a perfectly good plane. Impressive…

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