Why is it that moving always takes so much longer (and much more effort) than originally thought? I was in my new home over three weeks ago, unpacked and set-up more than two weeks ago, but things keep slipping through the cracks. There are still addresses to change and things lost in the mail (including our CSA re-subscription – fixed now, but very sad for a few days). Most dramatic was the loss of the internets for the past several days due to a miscommunication with our cable provider and the technician who cut the cord, literally. I am a pretty self-aware individual and I know the extent of my web addiction. Withdrawal definitely happened – boredom, frustration, excessive iPhone emailing – let’s just say that this weekend wasn’t pretty.
That’s the long story to apologize for my sudden absence – now we are back and better than ever (at least the signal is) and just in time for Taco Tuesday! After my delicious luck at World Famous, I’ve been on the lookout for comparable beachfront taco hot spots. Every friend and colleague I query has their own personal favorite, but one particular haven was mentioned time and time again – South Beach Bar & Grille in Ocean Beach. Their claims of being home to the world’s best fish taco were just too much of a challenge to pass up – it was definitely time to check it out.
We strolled down Newport Ave, Ocean Beach’s main drag last Wednesday night, bypassing the crowded farmer’s market in favor of tacos, straight ahead. The bar was already hoppin’ by 6:30, filled to the brim with shoppers, students and surfers alike, filling up on tacos before heading home. Unfortunately, the sun was not shining as the view from our seats, bellied up to the bar in the newly remodeled second story, would have been stunning had there been a sunset. No matter. It was still peaceful and fun to watch the surfers try to catch their last waves of the evening as the sky started to dim.
We ordered margaritas and ceviche to start. I have always thought that ceviche was made of raw white fish and veggies cured in a lime juice until ‘cooked’. Yet lately it has been arriving as a tomato-ey concoction, comprised of more precooked bay shrimp and goopy, sweet canned sauce than the fresh, bright flavors of off-the-line seafood and citrus. It is fine for what it is – a suitable snack before the main course – but I am starting to wonder if I am missing a trend in ceviche popularity. Are local restaurants known for the quality of their fish really taking this (seemingly) easy way out? No matter, for me it is quickly losing it’s appeal as a crowd-pleasing appetizer choice.
Our tacos arrived quickly after the appetizer, leaving us to precariously shuffle plates around the bar as we (or, I) made sure to nab at least one taste of everything. My dining partner ordered a grilled mahi taco, served on a flour tortilla with cheese, red cabbage and housemade pico de gallo, as well two carne asada street tacos, small corn tortialls stuffed with the eponymous marinated grilled steak, pico de gallo, guacamole, queso fresco and lime (seen at the header).
I ordered a grilled wahoo taco (left) and a fried calamari taco (right), both complimented by cabbage, salsa, cheese and a sour cream sauce. Overall, the tacos were extremely tasty. Each one was a substantial meal in itself, even the mini carne asada street tacos, which were well executed, succulent, flavorful and moist – as long-marinating beef should be. The kitchen was turning out a huge variety of seafood tacos at a remarkable rate, so I wasn’t that surprised that the grilled mahi taco was on the dry side while my grilled wahoo was tender and succulent – just a small timing issue in the kitchen. I was most impressed with the quality and quantity of fish in each taco. These were not a collection of thickly breaded cod scraps that found their way into tacos as an alternative to excess waste – in some cases these were whole filet size pieces deliciously wrapped in tortillas and sauce. Definitely a winning combination.
In what is becoming just as much of a tradition as Taco Tuesday, our eyes were far bigger than our stomachs. Our consumption pace slowed as we watched the last of the light disappear from the sky, losing sight of the pier and ocean directly in front of us as darkness settled. We caught up over the last few bites, discussing which taco stands to explore next and trading notes on other, favored happy hour spots. Once we had let our food settle enough to be able to move off of our (very comfortable) bar stools, we strolled back through the last of the farmer’s market crowd, admiring the side street of just local art, tasting homemade kimchi and contemplating a variety of purchases that were never made solely based on complete laziness and the aversion to carrying anything but our taco-filled selves back home.
I will definitely be back, hopefully with more friends in tow for tacos and sunset done right.
South Beach Bar & Grille
5059 Newport Ave
San Diego, CA 92107
(note – cash only, although they do have a generic ATM in the bar area)