(NOTE: Yesterday. the eponymous Ricky abruptly announced the immediate closing of Ricky’s Fish Tacos. This post was written before that announcement, and now serves as a hopefully temporary eulogy.)
LA is a fickle place for restaurants. Yelp even more so. So what can you say about the place that was (until recently) the highest Yelp-scored place in LA? At the very least it’s resilient, like Conan after a few years on the Wheel of Pain. And that place, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, certainly is a hardened survivor. It grew slowly but steadily from a tiny, whispered-about taco cart to its beefier, less mobile, though still utilitarian incarnation: a tent in the parking lot of a hair salon.
But Ricky’s isn’t just a tough establishment in a steadfastly unpretentious setting. It also serves the best fish tacos in America. There, I said it.
And here they are. Who knew perfection came deep-fried on Styrofoam?
At Ricky’s you have two options: fish or shrimp. Sometimes, if the eponymous Ricky is feeling it, there’s lobster, though I find it to be a bit too chewy when deep fried, and not worth the extra cash. Ricky’s is cash only by the way, but you go to taco trucks, so you probably knew that’s how it’d be.
The fish and shrimp both go for $2.75 a pop. Both are topped with cabbage and pico de gallo on a griddled flour tortilla. That’s it. Drinks are either soda from a cooler, or the better option: whatever drink Ricky made up that day. When I went, it was the very tasty rice drink horchata. Judging by the bleary-eyed twenty-somethings drinking Dogfish on the patio, it’s apparently a BYOB joint too.
A lot of this probably makes Ricky’s sound interchangeable with a lot of other good Ensenada-style taco joints (including the perfectly fine one up the street that purports to be the “Best.”) What separates Ricky’s is a couple of key things. One, the fish. Ricky uses Vietnamese catfish, which is incredibly light and perfectly complements the heavy batter he dunks everything in.
Two, that batter. Holy bejeezus, that batter! Not too soggy, not too crunchy. Airy without being insubstantial. And thankfully bereft of those hidden grease pockets that always seems to hide in fried food.
It’s a lean, mean concoction Ricky’s has going on. It’s the deserved conqueror of the LA taco scene.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
1400 N Virgil Ave Los Angeles, CA 90027
by Jacob Harper
Jacob is a writer and comedian who likes Thai food more than you.