Legend has it that a Japanese fisherman working the waters of the Baja coast invented the fish taco. In Southern California, fish tacos most often consist of small pieces of batter-coated fried fish (reminiscent of tempura) topped with thinly shredded cabbage and salsa fresca and served in a hot corn or wheat tortilla. As this dish gained popularity on the West Coast, word began to spread across the country, and as a result, one can find fish tacos in one form or another at restaurants everywhere.
In Memphis, there's a whole school of options.
Known for its handcrafted beers and gourmet pizzas, Boscos probably isn't the first place you might seek a fish taco, but it certainly could be the last — especially if raw tuna is your fish of choice.
The four mini ahi tuna tacos feature chopped sushi tuna, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and smoky sour cream in a crisp wonton with spicy diablo dipping sauce. The wonton shells perfectly contain the fresh and fiery flavors. Although completely different from the original tempura-inspired fish tacos of Baja, this Asian-influenced creation would surely make that legendary fisherman proud. Billed as an appetizer, the tacos are sure to get any meal off to a great start.
Boscos Squared, 2120 Madison (432-2222)
Highway 61, better known as the "Blues Highway" that runs from Canada to New Orleans, is the inspiration for Café 61's chef/owner, Derk Meitzler. He's known for creating funky Creole-accented cuisine such as the "King Creole Chop with Crawfish Mac and Cheese Deluxe," "Derk's Favorite Shrimp" with sweet-potato grits, and the "Duck and Waffles" with a blueberry-hoisin reduction. Café 61 is a colorful, vibrant, and welcoming place to enjoy a meal.
The fish tacos are made with the fish of the day (salmon on the day I visited) rolled up burrito style in a flour tortilla. They come dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mango salsa with a side of flavorful black-bean/corn salsa.
Café 61, 85 N. Second (523-9351)
Billed as a "catfish shack," the Flying Fish offers an extensive menu with a host of seafood dishes at reasonable prices. Fish tacos may seem a little out of place on the menu, but the cooks expertly prepare them.
Customers have a choice of fried catfish or grilled tilapia (for an additional $1). The fish is then served in three hard, corn taco shells and garnished with slaw and a fruity sauce. (A mild pico de gallo is on the side with a healthy offering of rice and black beans.) The combination is fresh, not at all greasy, and quite delightful. The hard shell is a nice touch that makes these fish tacos really stand out.
Flying Fish, 105 S. Second (522-8228)
Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana
Las Tortugas occupies a nondescript bay in one of the million strip malls along Germantown Parkway. If ever there was a reason not to judge a book by its cover, this is it.
Thanks to the owner's dedication to purchasing the freshest ingredients every day before opening, the fish tacos at Las Tortugas are hard to beat. Customers have a choice of red snapper or tilapia and get to watch as it is prepared behind a glass window. The grilled fish is then wrapped in four separate corn tortillas and dressed with fresh avocado and salsa tayde, an avocado-based spicy green sauce. The flavors and textures combine perfectly, making this the best fish taco in town.
Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, 1215 S. Germantown Parkway (751-1200)
Café Ole's "Baja Blackened Grouper Taco" is served in a large whole-wheat tortilla shell. The boldly seasoned medallions of blackened grouper are smothered with cilantro, shredded lettuce, white cheese, and pico de gallo. They come with refried beans — which are nice and spicy — and rice. A nutritious way to cap off an evening spent partying on the patio.
Cafe Ole, 2127 Young (274-1504)
Taqueria La Guadalupana
At Guadalupana, fish tacos aren't actually on the menu, but the mojarra frita (fried tilapia) is served with tortillas, salad, rice, and beans. The crispy flesh, the chunks of meat clinging to the bones, and the silky meat lurking behind the cheekbone can all be tucked in a tortilla with some salad and spicy El Yucateco chile habanero sauce to create one hell of a taco. Everyone should experience the thrill of eating an entire fish, head and all.
Taqueria La Guadalupana, 4818 Summer (685-6857)