California's best fish tacos? Readers vote Rubio's Coastal Grill

Sandbar Sports Grill takes second place

The fish taco, a deceptively simple dish, has its origins in Baja, Mexico, though several fishing villages – San Felipe and Ensenada among them – take credit for the street food now wildly popular up and down the California coast. The Baja-style fish taco consists of a mild white fish deep-fried and placed in one or two warm corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage, a sour cream or mayonnaise-based sauce and a squeeze of lime juice. Other variations include grilled fish, shrimp, tuna poke, calamari or a host of other seafood fillings. So who's the modern day king of fish tacos in California?

  • Rubio's Coastal Grill
    Multiple Locations

    The fish taco recipe at Rubio’s Coastal Grill has remained the same since the restaurant first opened in 1983. Tacos begin with wild-caught Alaska pollock, beer-battered by hand and cooked to crispy perfection. Each taco comes topped with fresh cabbage, mild salsa and white sauce on warm stone-ground corn tortillas. There’s also a grilled or blackened mahi mahi option.
    Photo courtesy of Rubio's Coastal Grill

  • Sandbar Sports Grill
    San Diego

    Sandbar Sports Grill, a popular Mission Beach haunt just steps from the sea, serves their fish taco with local white fish, chipotle aioli, beer-brined escabeche slaw, lime crema, spicy guacamole, crispy onion strings and fried cilantro on a Cotija-crusted flour tortilla.
    Photo courtesy of Sandbar Sports Grill

  • Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company

    The World Famous Fish Taco from Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company in Ventura comes grilled or tempura fried, with cabbage, cilantro, bell peppers and Spencer Sauce on a flour tortilla. Ahi tuna, shrimp and calamari are also options.
    Photo courtesy of Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company

  • Cholita Linda

    The fish tacos from Cholita Linda in Oakland are served Baja-style, with golden fried fish, red salsa, cabbage slaw and a cooling Baja crema.
    Photo courtesy of Cholita Linda

  • Tocaya Organica
    Multiple Locations

    Tocaya Organica uses wild-caught, chipotle-rubbed seared sea bass in their fish tacos, which come with a choice of cheese and taco style. The Cali Green features sliced onion, avocado and vinaigrette, while the Baja Chipotle comes with the more traditional combo of shaved cabbage, cilantro, vegan chipotle crema and a sweet chipotle sauce.
    Photo courtesy of

  • Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill
    San Diego

    All fish tacos at Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill in San Diego are handmade to order. Diners start by choosing their type of fish from a display case. The fish is hand cut, marinated in chipotle butter, grilled and served on warm tortillas made right next door. Tacos come topped with cabbage, red and green onions, diced tomatoes, cheese, avocado and house-made Baja sauce.
    Photo courtesy of Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill

  • The Codmother Fish & Chips
    San Francisco

    The Codmother in San Francisco fries up more than just delicious fish and chips. The fish tacos are well worth ordering, with two warm corn tortillas filled with crispy fish, cabbage, cilantro and a house-made Baja sauce seasoned with a blend of Mexican spices.
    Photo courtesy of The Codmother Fish & Chips

  • Mariscos German Beyer
    San Diego

    Fish tacos and food trucks are a match made in heaven, especially when you're eating at San Diego's Mariscos German Beyer. Seafood taco options are plentiful, including the popular marlin taco made with melted cheese, celery and bell peppers.
    Photo courtesy of y6y6y6 / Flickr

  • Don Pisto's
    San Francisco

    Don Pisto’s fish tacos are made with wild caught local petrale sole, served on a handmade flour tortilla with hand-cut cabbage, onion, cilantro, white sauce and borracha salsa. There’s also a shrimp version with garlic and avocado salsa.
    Photo courtesy of Don Pisto's

  • Oscar's Mexican Seafood
    San Diego

    Seafood lovers have a lot to like about the taco menu at Oscar's Mexican Seafood in San Diego. The always popular battered fish taco comes with cabbage, onion, tomato and cilantro. Other options include smoked fish with cabbage, avocado and cheese, or the Taco Especial filled with smoked fish, shrimp and scallops.
    Photo courtesy of Oscar's Mexican Seafood

The top 10 winners in the category Best Fish Tacos in California are as follows:

  1. Rubio's Coastal Grill - Multiple Locations
  2. Sandbar Sports Grill - San Diego
  3. Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company - Ventura
  4. Cholita Linda - Oakland
  5. Tocaya Organica - Multiple Locations
  6. Blue Water Seafood Market and GrillSan Diego
  7. The Codmother Fish & ChipsSan Francisco
  8. Mariscos German BeyerSan Diego
  9. Don Pisto's - San Francisco
  10. Oscar's Mexican SeafoodSan Diego

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Chelcey Adami (The Salinas Californian), Anne Chalfant (10Best), Joanne DiBona (10Best), Geneva Ives (10Best), Tom Molanphy (10Best) and Jenny Peters (10Best) were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of the state's food scene.

Congratulations to all these winning restaurants!

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AlertThe Experts

Chelcey Adami

Anne Chalfant

Anne Chalfant

Joanne DiBona

Joanne DiBona

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives

Tom Molanphy

Tom Molanphy

Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters