Food

Searching for the Ideal Fish Taco

In the business of reporting on and reacting to culture — whether it’s theater, film, music, books or restaurants — eventually something you write will end up in promotional advertising.

I’m a living example: If you’ve ever ordered a fish taco from Tacombi on a delivery app, then you might have noticed its description starts with “Voted ‘Absolute Best Fish Taco’ by New York Mag.”

Actually, there was no voting involved; that was just me, a singular food writer with an opinion to share and a bottomless appetite for fish tacos. I wrote that list back in 2018, but my fascination with and appreciation for fish tacos (and fried fish in general) has never waned. If I see them on a menu, my mind is made up — and if you feel the same way then you know that fish tacos occupy a very competitive category of food that simply must be reassessed from time to time.

No one has a wider fish taco reach in New York City than Tacombi.Credit…Aaron Zebrook for The New York Times

A Reassessment of Tacombi

Here’s what I know about an ideal fish taco: The fish is tender and surrounded by a shatteringly crunchy crust and a corn tortilla. It requires just a few toppings: shredded cabbage, crema, pico de gallo and a spritz of lime juice. Back in 2018, Tacombi stuck to that formula and they truly served the platonic ideal of a great fish taco. (Los Mariscos at Chelsea Market, Bar Bruno in Greenpoint and Carroll Gardens, and Tacoway Beach in Rockaway Beach took second, third and fourth place.) But in the years since, the Tacombi chain has expanded and the quality has fallen off a bit — sometimes the fish isn’t as crispy as I’d like or the tortilla falls apart in my hands. But it still has the distinction of serving one of the most widely accessible, very decent fish tacos the city has to offer.

Multiple locations

Riverside dining at Panzón

In rededicating myself to fish taco-ism, I was pointed in the direction of two other top candidates: Panzón in Greenpoint was one. You can find this spot on the stretch of Greenpoint Avenue that dead ends at the East River. It’s more bar than restaurant, with a focus on Mexican street snacks like esquites and flautas, and a wide-ranging cocktail, beer and natural wine menu.

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