I have a confession: Until four years ago, I had never eaten a fish taco. It was then, upon moving to the West Coast, that I learned of this delectable alternative to beef. Just about every restaurant in Manhattan Beach serves up its own variety.
Which are the best? Depends on your taste. These three options each shine for a different reason.
Honorable Mention: Brew Co.'s Baja Fish Tacos
Beer-battered cod serves as the base of this local favorite. The crunch of that batter mixed with a touch of creamy avocado and a Baja white sauce makes these snack-sized tacos a textural delight. Served three to a plate with a generous helping of beans and rice, this dish is as much about the sides as the tacos themselves. The beans are topped with crumbled cojita cheese, a salty Mexican variety similar to feta. Expect a new flavor with this option, but be open to the change, you won't regret it.
124 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Runner-Up: Wahoo's Spicy Fish Taco
Second confession today: I had never been to Wahoo's before this trip. This mainstay is admittedly intimidating for a Midwestern girl. The skate board stickers, surfing posters and general California attitude permeating the joint made me wonder if I was cool enough to be there. I ordered two spicy fish tacos, took a seat outside and awaited my mid-day meal. The star of this plate is the actual taco shell. Wahoo's has a knack for that thin, soft, fluffy shell, wrapped in a double layer, that never dries out and never cracks. The toppings are much simpler than other options: crispy lettuce and some pico de gallo. I opted for mine a la carte, and for the price, you simply can't beat this lunch.
1129 Manhattan Ave.
The Grand Prize: California Fish Grill's Cajun Mahi Mahi Tacos
Have you tried California Fish Grill yet? I know, I know: it is technically in El Segundo. Yes, crossing over Rosecrans to another zip code is not something we Manhattan Beachers do often, but it is sure worth the trip for this stop. The star of the plate at Fish Grill is, you guessed it, the fish itself. The blend of Cajun spices is the perfect mix of spicy and sweet, and the flavor of the grill is ideal for this meaty white fish. Fish Grill is a simple concept: nothing but fish and a grill (oh, and there's a fryer, which is a good thing because those spicy fries are perfection). All orders are taken at the front, all payment is in advance, and you serve yourself accompaniments, tea or soda. The only bad news about this option is the secret is out. I was lucky enough to squeeze into a table when I went around lunchtime, so expect to meet a crowd when you decide to sample this ideal treat anytime of day.
California Fish Grill
730-H Allied Way, El Segundo