I was first introduced to fish tacos when I visited a close college friend who moved out to San Diego. I fell in love with the deep-fried fish, crisp cabbage, and squeeze of lime, neatly stacked on a warm corn tortilla crowned with fresh cilantro and a drizzle of a creamy sauce. I don’t know whether it was the casual nature of snacking between meals, sitting at a bar on the beach, or the magnificent sauce that dripped from my fingers, but I was hooked. The various textures, flavors, and temperatures coupled with the quick and easy preparation make it one of my ultimate meals. If you have never tried fish tacos, and you like fish, you should.
Here is a sampling of Island restaurants that offer them.
Little House Café in Vineyard Haven: Crispy fish tacos on corn tortillas with salsa fresca, avocado, and shaved green cabbage with lime. Also available pan-seared.
The Port Hunter in Edgartown: Baja-inspired platter of corn tortillas, lightly pickled vegetables, crispy fried fish, and tomatillo salsa.
The Lookout in Oak Bluffs: Fresh cod or fresh lobster meat battered and fried topped with roasted corn salsa, cabbage, and a smoked poblano aioli on flour or corn tortillas.
Faith’s Seafood Shack in Aquinnah: Baked fish tacos with cilantro slaw and Baja sauce made with the local catch of the day.
The Sand Bar in Oak Bluffs: Grilled cod with cabbage, tomato, and fresh cilantro jalapeñ;o salsa on flour tortillas.
Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown: Crispy tilapia fish tacos with a house mixed slaw, salsa, and cilantro oil.
The Net Result in Vineyard Haven: Fried haddock served with cole slaw and cheese on a flour tortilla, rolled up like a burrito.
ArtCliff Diner in Vineyard Haven: Crispy cod tacos with avocado salsa, and cole slaw.
Lobsterville Bar & Grille in Oak Bluffs: Grilled cod tacos with cole slaw.
Hooked in Oak Bluffs: Mario’s lobster tacos with chipotle aioli and avocado cream.
Back door at The Home Port in Menemsha: Crispy fish tacos, pickled cabbage, and avocado cream. (Opening Thursday, May 23).
Fishbones in Oak Bluffs: Fish tacos, slaw, cilantro, and lime. (Opening Memorial Day weekend).
Fish tacos can be served Baja-style in which the fish is battered and fried, or Maui-style where the fish is grilled. For fried fish, try cod or haddock. For grilled fish, use a firm fish such as swordfish, hake, bass, or tuna. Or pan-fry tilapia or catfish, dusted in cornmeal. You can also experiment with other seafood including shrimp and lobster.
Fish tacos are a great party food: guests can build their own according to their tastes. Make sure to have everything prepped beforehand. I prefer to use soft corn tortillas. Warm them in the oven, in a pan on the stovetop or over a flame, and then cover with a warm, damp towel. Make sure to have a variety of salsas, garnishes, and sauces for your guests.
Basic building blocks:
Fish: deep-fried, baked, pan-fried or marinated and grilled.
Salsa: tomato, roasted corn, pineapple, mango, kiwi, tomatillo.
Avocado: sliced, or mixed with sour cream.
Onion: white, red, scallions, pickled.
Cabbage: thinly sliced red, green or napa, pickled, slaw.
Jalapeños: pickled or fresh.
Sauce: sour cream, cream, chipotle sauce, ranchero sauce, hot sauce.
When it comes to accouterments you can choose your own adventure, but remember simpler is better.
Warmed corn tortilla, grilled fish, squeeze of lime, sliced red cabbage, cilantro, topped with sour cream mixed with lime juice and the Adobe sauce from canned chipotles. Sometimes I’ll add a quick salsa made with mango or kiwi mixed with diced red onion, cilantro, and lime.