August 3, 2011
Finding Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Los Angeles was a life changing moment for me. As soon as I took that first bite, I knew I could never go back to the fish tacos of my past. No more Rubio’s, no Baja Fresh…Honestly – and this is no exaggeration – ever since I had that first bite, every single fish taco I’ve eaten has been made by Ricky himself.
His fish tacos were delicious; life was good…that is, until I decided to move to New York.
Up until this past Sunday, I had not had a fish taco since moving to New York. Not a single fish taco in nine months. I needed to find good fish tacos, stat.
My requirements for fish tacos are straightfoward: The taco must be Baja style. It must use white fish that is battered and freshly fried – if the fish is breaded or grilled, it’s an automatic no-go. I want nothing more than the basic toppings – shredded cabbage, a bit of crema, some fresh salsa and a lime. I refuse to pay $5 for a single fish taco (as I recently saw at Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food market). Lastly, and most importantly, I expect this taco to taste good.
Finding a fish taco that meets all those above requirements is difficult in New York. People have recommended many a restaurant to me. “Their fish tacos are great, you should go there!” I get really excited, then go online and look at its website/read the reviews and – BAM! – disappointment. Sometimes the fish is grilled, sometimes it’s fried but looks like a soggy fish stick, sometimes it just looks downright unappetizing…These fish tacos will not do. I don’t even bother going. That is not going to be the taco that is going to appease my Ricky’s craving.
Then a friend recommended Rockaway Taco.
Rockaway Taco was different. Pictures from Rockaway Taco depicted bountiful tacos, filled with crispy fish and cabbage. They showed promise.
Off the A/S, by Rockaway Beach on 96th Street is the tiny shack of a Mexican restaurant known as Rockaway Taco. The signage for DiCosmo’s Italian Ice and Veggie Island may overshadow that for the stand at the end; however, you can’t miss the line. Go any later than 1pm and you’ll definitely see one winding around the corner.
The tacos are reasonably priced – $3 apiece or you can make one “deluxe” by adding guacamole for a dollar more. Knowing that, if this actually turned out to be THE ONE I would want as many fish tacos as my belly could hold, I ordered three tacos (one with guac, two without).
And, the verdict? These tacos are good. Damn good. Dare I say it? These tacos are LA standards good.
If I really wanted to be picky, I’d tell you the batter is not as light and the fish is not as moist and flakey as Ricky’s. But honestly, I’d just be nitpicking at that point. Rockaway Taco serves a solid taco. It is exactly as I pictured it: The batter on fish is crispy. The fish itself is tender. The amount of cabbage and crema is just right to compliment the fish. If you decide to add homemade salsa to your taco, you can choose between their light and tangy tomatillo or smoky chipotle. Both are good options.
Guacamole may not be a standard topping on fish tacos but I’m not going to complain – especially since their guac is rich and thick, the way a guacamole made from lots of ripe avocados should be. It’s missing just a hint of citrus, but that’s what the wedge of lime is for.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a side to your tacos, grab a bag of cucumbers, jicama and mango, marinated in chile and lime. The water-dense cucumbers and jicama are refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.
I have to say, I can only find one real problem with Rockaway Taco – it’s only open during the summer. Where am I going to get my fish taco fix during those cold New York winters…?