Done well, fish tacos embody summer. A good one makes you feel the sand in your toes and salty spray in your hair, no matter how far from the beach you might actually be. Read on for New York City’s best fish tacos. By Jessica Allen.
Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has no shortage of taquerias, but Taqueria Cocoyoc is one of our favorites. Here, the tacos come loaded with onions, green peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa roja, and salsa verde. But this restaurant’s true innovation is offering its fish either sauteed or grilled. Whatever you select comes in freshly made soft tacos, topped with lettuce and a mayonnaise-like sauce, served with a must-use wedge of lime.
The party at Nights and Weekends, a Mexican/Caribbean bar/restaurant in Greenpoint, begins when you hear the music coming down the sidewalk, beckoning you in for a good time. The fish tacos are as fun as the vibe: their first layer consists of a soft taco, then comes incredibly crunchy fried mahi, and then comes caper aioli and mango-habanero salsa, for sweetness and acid. Finally, each taco gets a sprinkle of lettuce and almost bitter slaw.
The photo at this shack just a few steps away from the Atlantic Ocean in Queens doesn’t do its fish tacos justice. Beneath the skinny rectangles of lettuce and circles of radish are planks of fish that somehow retain their moist meatiness despite serious time in the fryer. Also terrific are the fried plantains sprinkled with cotija. Beloved by skaters and surfers, this summertime institution is even stronger, and more revered, post-Hurricane Sandy.
Tacombi brings the beach, and beach party, to the Lower East Side. Here the tacos get cooked in a back kitchen and assembled in an actual VW bus. Fixins include red cabbage, shredded and doused in chile vinaigrette, as well as a rich white sauce, similar to mayo. You choose the fish: either crispy fish or seared Veracruzana. Be on the lookout for specials, such as grilled octopus. All tacos are rather little, so get several.
Showing impressive range, Chef Alex Stupak quit his position at wd-50 making unique molecular gastronomy desserts to open Empellón Taqueria in 2011. At this lovely West Village restaurant, a true temple to tacos, you’ll want to order the fish tempura version, battered and sauced with lime mayonnaise, elegant and satisfying at once. Order the appetizer portion, so you can sample the lobster tacos with epazote (a wild herb) and field corn too.