Estilo Baja Tacos at Mercadito ($15.50, for four)
No one likes a soggy fried fish taco, but extra crunchy isn't always the best option either, since the batter can sometimes overwhelm the fish. Mercadito knows this fine line well. The coating estilo baja tacos is delicately crispy, shattering on your teeth as you bite in, but it is thin enough that the fish still remains the most important part.
Tacos Ensenada at Mixteco ($7.00, for two)
As the only tacos on Mixteco's dinner menu, the Tacos Ensenada could have been tacked on to appease picky eaters, but instead these two incredibly light fish tacos showcase the same level of care and craft that Mixteco puts in all of its other dishes. Read more here >>
Sambal Fish at Del Seoul ($3.75)
The Sambal Fish Taco at Del Seoul features a tempura fried piece of haddock topped with pickled red onions, Napa slaw, and a spicy sambal sauce, all housed in a fluffy flour tortilla. The tempura frying method is an inspired choice, since it produces a particularly crackly crust. It easily stands up to spicy sambal sauce, losing none of its crunch along the way, while the crisp cabbage just adds to the harmony of textures. Read more here >>
Taco de Pescado at Big Star ($3)
Last time I wrote about Big Star, I left completely impressed with the vegetarian options, but less so with the taco de pescado (even if it did look beautiful). But subsequent visits have shown that that was just an off night, because this beer-battered tilapia is always crunchy and the toppings are fresh and flavorful.
Big & Little's Fish Taco at Big & Little's ($3.50)
It's no big secret that Big & Little's knows its way around a fryer. Hell, it can fry just about anything and I'll give it a shot. But while the restaurant's regular fried fish taco is good, something seems to be missing. That becomes especially clear when I tried the massive Big & Little's Taco. It looks like a mess, but underneath is a massive and expertly fried whitefish fillet that is moist and flavorful. It's not the cheapest taco around, but it's one of the best fish tacos I tried.
Crispy Fish Taco at Antique Taco ($8, for two)
The crispy fish at Antique Taco may look like a traditional Baja-style fish taco, but that creamy sauce turns out to be a sriracha tartar sauce, and the cabbage is lightly smoked. Of course, it helps that the fish is delicately crispy, and that the flour tortillas are soft yet sturdy.
The Estilo Baja at Taco Joint ($3)
The Estilo Baja features crispy beer-battered tilapia, which is topped by an arbol cabbage slaw. The corn tortilla is small, but more than up to the task, containing the fillings while lending a sweet masa note to each bite. All in all, it's well executed and, most importantly, crunchy. Read more here >>
Fish Tacos at GT Fish & Oyster ($13, for three)
I'll admit that the GT Fish & Oyster doesn't quite have the tortillas down (they are a slightly gummy), and the ratio of filling to fish is a tad off. But GT certainly knows how to handle the fish, and the expertly fried specimens more than make up for the other design flaws. Plus, whoever thought of adding crumbled chicharron on top gets a round of drinks on me. Genius.
Pescado estilo Baja Califas at El Barco ($9.93, for three)
Though soft, the coating on the pescado estilo Baja Califas at El Barco was flavorful and holds its own against the spicy sauce, managing not to turn into a sponge in a matter of minutes; plus it allows you to really appreciate the firm white fish. Also, the corn tortillas actually hold up well, staying soft without collapsing. Read more here >>
Tacos Ensenada at Fonda Del Mar ($7, for two)
Fonda Del Mar is another Mexican restaurant with only one taco on its menu, and considering this place specializes in seafood, it makes sense that it would go with tacos ensenada. The crispy fillets are blanketed by a creamy avocado and mayonnaise spread, and perked up with some bright pico de gallo. I should note that if you don't feel like sitting down for a full meal, Fonda Del Mar sells these tacos every Sunday at the Logan Square Farmers' Market. Though I worried that they would get soggy and soft, they held up extremely well.
Fish Taco at Carbón ($2.95)
More than any other fried fish taco in town, the one from Carbón gives me the most hope. It's not the best version in the city, but it's tasty enough that it gives me reason to believe that the standard fish taco—which has been neglected around town for too long—is improving across the board. Freshly fried, with a crackly thin crust, what's most interesting about this version is how straightforward and basic it is. It's not elegant or precious; it's just freshly fried fish, topped with crunchy slaw, and a tequila and lime salsa. Depending on the size of my craving, I could probably down three or four and walk away happy. Read more here >>