Rubio’s Fish Tacos – Mexican Fast Food Chains. Discuss.

rubio's fish tacos, beverly center, los angeles, ca
Do you remember the first time you ever had a fish taco? I do.

It was at Rubio’s, and I thought it was culinary genius. It was a point in my foodish life when “fast” Mexican at Manuel’s in Berkeley and, when I was lucky enough to find a willing upper classman with a car, Gordo’s in Elmwood were still only second to my memories of the Taco Bell Grande at Taco Bell. Yes yes, my taste was enviously sophisticated back then, don’t you think? I had just moved back home to LA from Berkeley, so Baja Fresh and La Salsa, and particularly Wahoo’s, were still unknown to me — because, you know, Baja Fresh and La Salsa and Wahoo’s are sooo the standards by which we should measure Mexican food! Rubio’s fish taco was battered, deep-fried fish wrapped in a tortilla with a creamy white sauce, cabbage, and salsa. Fish and chips, minus the chips. I thought it was fucking culinary genius.

Well, let’s just say that I had not gone back to Rubio’s in years, after I realized that 1) Rubio’s just isn’t that good and 2) Rubio’s just isn’t that good. I didn’t mind the fried fish part, but I kept thinking to myself, it sure would be nice if the fried fish didn’t take like cod jerky (or whatever seafood spam it is they pass off as fish), if the batter were actually crisp instead of tasting like a doughnut soaked in tap water, and the strangely stale corn tortilla didn’t fall apart rendering a simple fish taco into a creamy fish chowder spilling all over a bowl-less paper wrapper. With stale tortilla flakes.

I don’t think I’ll even go into all the faults of Rubio’s, but I will give them credit for the being the first fish taco I ever had. *sigh* My first. The First. The first is never the best, right? You’ll always remember it, and you might even try to nostalgically remember it as romantic, but it wasn’t. No matter how you try to spin it, it was nothing like the movies, honey. Your first is never the best. It introduces you to a whole new world wherein you will eventually find The Fabulous, but The First? It’s painful. It isn’t that good, if good at all. And it’s messy.

Apparently, that First Time nostalgia struck again and I forgot how bad it really was because I ended up at Rubio’s during a mini shopping spree with my sister at the Beverly Center. Then again, perhaps it wasn’t that I forgot how bad it was, and really that given the options in a mall food court, Rubio’s seemed to be the least of all the overpriced, mediocre evils. Hey, I’m not saying the Great Steak & Fry is evil – how can you call those fries with seasoned salt and malt vinegar evil? It’s just that I’d rather spend $46 on a t-shirt than a Philly Steak and Fries Combo with Small Drink.

At least I had the sense to stay away from the fish tacos, though. Instead, we ordered a cheese quesadilla, which wasn’t all that sensible anyway because the quesadilla was about as good as microwaving a tortilla sprinkled with Kraft shredded Mexi-Jack cheese. I had also forgotten that of the Mexcican fast food chains, Rubio’s has the most undesirable salsa selection. Do I dare go on a petty salsa bar rant?

I dare.

The number of salsas that Rubio’s offers in comparison to the others is much smaller, which is not necessarily a bad thing if the percentage of favorable salsas greatly outweighs the undesirable salsas. For example, Benito’s Taco Shop ( I am sooo going to get railed in the comments for this) offers only two salsas, the firrhea-inducing red and the seemingly mild green, but percentage-wise, the salsas are 100% good. By comparison, Rubio’s has something like five salsas, and percentage-wise the offering is only 10% good because the one salsa, roasted tomato Baja Fresh biter, that could have made that percentage 1/5=20% is only halfway decent and the pico de gallo that could have brought the percentage up to 2/5=40% looked like they made it last Wednesday.

And you thought I couldn’t do math.

If the salsas weren’t so proportionately bad, then I probably wouldn’t mind the proportionately horrible salsa “cups.” But the salsas are bad and I do mind the proportionately way too small cups. Cups? The containers in which you are supposed to put the salsa are hardly a shot, let alone a cup. Let’s call it a handle-less teaspoon. I am willing to bet that Mexican fast food chains could potentially cut down their costs if they made the damn salsa cups bigger.

The restaurants wouldn’t have to pay staff to keep cleaning up the drip-acious mess that every customer inevitably makes on the countertop because it would take a tiny leprechun to deftly maneuver the long-handled ladle from the salsa bin, out from under the sneezguard that is too low and always gets in the way of the handle, to the teeny tiny salsa cup and accurately get the salsa into the cup without spilling some of it onto the countertop. They could also cut down on waste of both plastic and salsa because customers wouldn’t need to ladle out 57 dollhouse miniature teacups of salsa that all get thrown into the trash half full because the cups are too damn tiny to get a chip in there and get all the salsa out. Who just dips one triangular corner of a tortilla chip into salsa? I don’t! I need 57 cups of salsa because I have to pour the whole nanocup of salsa onto each chip.

Yes, salsa cups can get me that heated.

So I guess I should never go back to Rubio’s. The first time was bad. The quesadilla wasn’t better. I’
ve got to learn to let go.

Rubio’s Fish Tacos
Pretty Much Everywhere

** a year ago today, croquetas de salmon put my MBA to good use **
** two years ago today, i had to brace myself for the bridal barrage **

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