Recommended: Rockaway Taco ($3; $4 with guacamole)
Inhaling fish tacos by the beach is like eating pizza on the streets of Naples: it just feels right in the food’s natural habitat. Rockaway Taco has the natural advantage, a limes’ throw from the crashing waves. The long line ensures freshly fried, hot and crunchy tilapia in a golden shell. Though there's a lot going on with the spicy mayonnaise, slivered radish, shredded red cabbage, cilantro and a fat plop of guacamole on the deluxe, but the fish to condiment ratio is just right. When they hit their mark, the tacos are exactly what they need to be.
Recommended: Gran Electrica ($13 for 3)
This newish DUMBO cantina makes their own tortillas to hold rectangular planks of mild hake, which are delicately fried and nicely seasoned, then topped with an avocado salsa and crema. The tower of slivered cabbage is fresh, crunchy, and sweet. With their quartet of house salsas alongside, this is an admirable fish taco.
Recommended: Tacombi ($4.14)
The most cheffy of all the tacos in this roundup. The shredded red cabbage is tossed in a chile-sprinkled vinaigrette and piled into a towering haystack on top of the fish. It’s a crunchy and acidic counter to the superbly fried tilapia, with an orange-yellow shell tinted with mustard powder. The fish is fried in batches in the back kitchen, then walked over to the VW Bus where they are assembled on fresh Brooklyn-made Chinantla tortillas and a swipe of creamy white sauce.
Recommended: Pinche Taqueria ($3.75)
The clean sweet flavor of the fish in this taco is a decent balm for what must be the worst restaurant feng shui ever at Pinche Taqueria’s NoHo location. There’s not much of a batter—just a light coating for the mahi-mahi, which tastes supremely fresh. A mild avocado salsa, green cabbage, and a smattering of diced onion finish the mound. It’s a well-balanced but muted bite, a fish taco for the faint for heart.
Okay: Choncho's Tacos ($9 for 2)
A newbie to the bunch, Choncho’s Tacos are served Saturdays at the Brooklyn Flea (Fort Greene) and on Sundays, at Smorgasborg. The Baja-style taco contains light and crispy mahi-mahi and ample crema, but the dry, poorly toasted tortillas (despite their Tortilleria Nixtamal pedigree) kill it. Cabbage chunks could be sliced more thinly, though the sprigs of cilantro on top add a nice herbal note. Choncho's also offers grilled fish, though it would be a shame to miss the crunchy delights from the portable deep-fryer.
Okay: Calexico ($8 for 2)
You can taste the fresh fish flavor through the golden shell. The assemblage is flip-flopped here: the dressed cabbage sits underneath the fish. The mango salsa adds tropical flair. Points for moistness, but a little sloppy to eat.
Okay: Mercadito ($13 for 4)
The handmade corn tortillas are the real draw at Mercadito, which swaddle the fillings like soft corny blankets. Nuggets of tempura-style fried mahi-mahi are topped with a chopped salad of mealy tomato as well as Savoy and red cabbage. The salad is tossed in a chipotle mayo that has a subtle heat, but more textural contrast would really raise the bar.
Not Recommended: La Esquina ($10 for 2)
You can’t talk about fish tacos without someone mentioning La Esquina; and yet, for all their hype, the most expensive of the bunch were also the least impressive. Though they expertly slice their cabbage on a meat-slicer, the wait seems endless, and the fish tacos are dismal. They eschew the fryer for the grill, but even with grill marks, the mahi-mahi is bland. The tortillas are raw, the limes are desiccated green shells, and the green salsa has no palpable heat.