I’ve always loved visiting San Diego. When I lived in LA, I made frequent trips to the beachside city and fell in love (as many do) with the sunshine and the craft beer scene…but it’s the fish tacos in San Diego that continue to captivate my interest year after year.
Even now that I live a bit farther away, I find myself drawn back to SD — first and foremost to visit one of my best friends who lives there (shoutout to her for inspiring this list!) but also to complete an annual taste test of the best tacos in San Diego — you know, for research purposes.
If you’ve got a weekend in San Diego, let this list of the best fish tacos (which I’ve expanded really to be taco joints of any kind where seafood features prominently) be your guide.
And yes — Mexican food here is a big deal, and yes, it is that much better than it is in other U.S. cities. (Remember, you can see the border from some of the places on this list!)
The Best San Diego Fish Tacos
A Self-Guided Taco Tour
Plan your stomach capacity ahead.
Prepare yourself for a full experience (pun intended) of San Diego’s best tacos. For our first stop, we’ll head to the closest spot you can get a life-changing taco in straight from your arrival in SD.
The Taco Stand
Locations: Downtown, North Park, La Jolla, Encinitas
I’m not joking with you when I say this place may have changed my life. They have a classic fried fish taco that’s one of the best.
Part of the reason was that I really didn’t expect it to — they have multiple locations all over the city, and of course grilled shrimp on fresh corn tortillas and carne asada on fries is going to be amazing (right?)
I was treated to a downright feast at their downtown location, and due to being in a group, got to taste a bunch of different menu items and salsa combinations. The single best thing to grace my face was the spectacular Mar y Tierra fries, though again you won’t want to skip the Baja taco here.
What to Order: Mar y Tierra fries, Sonora taco, Baja taco, Al Pastor.
From here you’ll head down south to the neighboring city of Chula Vista for our next three stops. Believe me, these tacos are worth any inconvenience and/or time spent in the car to get there.
Tacos El Gordo
Location: 689 H Street, Chula Vista
Also at: 3265 Palm Avenue in San Diego.
We’re going to deviate from fish tacos before we head straight back into seafood town, because the next spot serves up authentic fare from just across the border in Tijuana, BC and believe me when I say…these are some of the best tacos you can eat in this wide world.
I would tell you to wash down your delicious, authentic tacos with horchata here, but let’s be honest, you need to save room for our next stop.
What to Order: If you skip the adobada here, please never tell me about it. It is a MUST.
The carne asada, chorizo, and lengua are all also excellent choices, depending on your mood/tastes. Be aware that there are different lines for each different type of taco.
Location: 1008 Industrial Boulevard, Chula Vista
If fish tacos are San Diego’s signature food item, this food truck is their shrine.
Less of a taco stand and more of a food truck with a permanent location, your first bit of El Pescador changes the fish taco game in a big way. It’s family-owned spot that’s easy to miss — but hard to forget once you’ve tasted their fish tacos. Go easy on the sauces at first — most are pretty spicy. And don’t miss the free seafood consommé they give you to sip on while you wait!
What to Order: Two words. Spicy Shrimp!
Also try the Gobernador and the marlin if you have the stomach space. You can’t go too wrong here, really. Just be prepared to stand — there isn’t much seating at all (not that you’ll care after you taste it!)
TJ Oyster Bar
Location: 4246 Bonita Road, Bonita (just up the road from Chula Vista)
Also: 601 E Palomar Street, Chula Vista
What began as a Tijuana fish taco cart in the 80s is now a powerhouse in the San Diego fish taco and seafood scene. They even (God Bless this place) keep their fish taco price fixed at $0.99 to stay true to their taco cart roots. And really, isn’t that the way it should be?
Their fish taco might be my favorite of all, but it’s the tostadas like the smoked tuna and the stingray machaca that make a truly lasting impression. Their micheladas are money here as well.
What to Order: Fish tacos, stingray machaca (spicy!) anything else you have room for at this point.
Next, we’ll head to what is considered one of the best taco spots in not just San Diego, but all of America. You’ll find that it tops the lists of many people’s favorite fish tacos — and while that certainly doesn’t make it the best by default, it’s a great place to end your taco tour (if you still have room in your stomach!)
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
Locations: Pacific Beach (PB,) N. Pacific Beach, Hillcrest, Encinitas, East Village
Oscar’s is well-regarded for its grilled fish taco, which uses fresh, local ingredients including a sauce made in house daily. They also have excellent ceviches, seafood tortas, and best of all — a taco happy hour Monday to Thursday from 2:30-5:3opm where tacos are a mere $1 each.
What to Order: classic fish taco, surf ‘n’ turf, taco especial (smoked fish, shrimp, and scallops,) grilled octopus taco. Be aware that some locations only take cash.
At this point I pray you maybe feel like taking a break from fish tacos or tacos in general, but if your thirst cannot be easily quenched (believe me, I get it) and you seek to continue your quest…this is where I’ve been told you’ll want to go next:
Other Recommended Spots:
- Lucha Libre
- La Playa Taco Shop
- The Brigantine
- El Comal (smoked marlin taco)
- Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill
A final word: in the debate of battered/fried fish tacos versus grilled fish tacos, there is really only one winner.
If you’re on a dedicated search for the best fish taco in San Diego (or on Earth,) you have to go with battered (not grilled.) I’m sorry. Work it out with your healthy intentions after. It has to be this way.
And if you’re looking for more to do in San Diego than just eat (which is acceptable,) check out this awesome San Diego itinerary.
San Diegans/friends of San Diego taco tour — where else would you add?
Happy eating and taco hunting!
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Ok need to plan a trip to San Diego now!!
Yes, it’s so fun there and the tacos are everything!