This article seeks to find value for fish taco lovers living in the San Diego Area. The Taquerias in question (El Zarape and Kiko’s Place) are often overlooked by economically casual chowers but they shouldn’t be because both offer a better value for eating out and eating good (not necessarily for eating healthy) than say McDonald’s or Burger King’s value menu. This is to say, for $3.00-4.00, you will get much more in terms of quality and quantity.
I won’t go into the rest of the menu because this article is about value and its purpose is to inform you of two places that offer 3 fish tacos for under 4 bucks---as cheap as $3 worth of goodies off of a fast food dollar menu, but infinitesimally more delicious. Why go to Mickey D’s when you can get yourself a cup of water to drink and 3 fish tacos for under 4 bucks? Lets start the show.
There are just two fish tacos in University Heights deserving of the title: Mr. Fish Taco. El Zarape has long been the incumbent, but a re-located veteran taco truck called Kiko’s Place over the past year, has gained a fanbase large enough in the University heights area to warrant a re-election. Which has more sabor? Which will take the edge in the 5 necessary fish taco criteria? Who will be elected to the most prestigious of titles?
“Kiko’s Place” rests on the Texas Street Liquor Store parking lot between Meade Ave & Monroe Ave. It first gained my attention one day as I was driving up from Costco. As I passed by I saw a gathering of people standing around a taco truck. This was no ordinary taco truck I thought. I pulled over and heard chatter of people who go there multiple times a week to satisfy their uncontrollable fish taco urges.
And now, the 5 criteria that distinguish pure omega 3 royalty from the endless array of fish fodder. Lets see if Kiko’s can unseat one of the most decorated taco shops in San Diego: El Zarape.
1) Cost: Cost matters. El Zarape sells fish tacos for $1 each. Kiko’s Place: $1.25 Advantage: El Zarape
2) Location: El Zarape can be found on the Park Ave Strip of University Heights, just past the University Heights sign.
Kiko’s sits on the Texas Street Liquor Store parking lot between Meade Ave & Monroe Ave. Advantage: Kiko’s Place.
3) Hours: El Z: A favorite for pub crawlers; the place is most packed at 2am. Open Mondays: 8am-11pm. Tues-Sunday: 8am till 2am (although it stays open past 2am if there is a long line. No soup nazis here). Kiko’s Place: Opens at 9:30am and closes at 7pm. Mon-Sat.
Sadly there isn’t much parking around either location but Kiko’s Place is slightly more convenient if you happen to be taking Texas street down to Costco or the AMC Mission Valley Movie theater, Ikea, etc. Advantage: El Zarape.
4) Presentation and Salsa: El Z: A corn tortilla with fresh cabbage, diced tomatoes, a stream of white sauce, and a little bit of cilantro. Kiko’s: A corn tortilla with fresh cabbage, diced tomatoes, a stream of white sauce, and a little bit of cilantro.
The two seem unwilling to take a separate stance when it comes to the topic of toppings. The two Taquerias have their true values exposed however, when we change to the topic of salsas. Hopefully you’ll want to lather your golden fish taco in some kind of salsa in order to fully accentuate its magical properties.
Kiko’s place has a fiery hot pepper salsa and complimentary marinated onions and chilis. Their staple is the Orange Habanero sauce which promises to obliterate your mouth with untamed fuego. Good stuff for all of you hot sauce aficionados.
We will now go to El Zarape for the rebuttal.
El Zarape has a medley of delicious salsas that are anything but the generic, overwhelmingly-peppery hot sauces, that usually accompany a taqueria. I always get 3 tacos (3 bucks--take that McDonalds!) and then pour myself a mini cup of each of the 3 select sauces at El Z’s. They have a mild and chunky pico de gallo-like sauce, a hotter, but smoother red sauce and the refreshing salsa verde. Each one is different and more sabroso than the last.
Advantage: El Zarape
5) Ambience: Kiko’s place has no place to sit where as El Z does. Even when the taqueria is full, El Z is close by a park which has plenty of benches.
Both places have outstanding customer service.
Advantage: El Zarape
While Kiko’s new location won the Taco truck scores of new supporters, it was still not enough to compete with the highest of the Taco Shop Brass. El Z wins a second term.
The Zagat and Yelp recommended Taqueria is slightly less costly, while providing more places to chow in-and-around-house, staying open later and living up to its nickname: “The Taste Bud Assassin", by way of its Salsas.
Despite nominating El Zarape as the top dog, be sure to check out both. I would like to send my respects to the workers and owners of both taquerias. Both have done a fine job of putting out great quality food and in doing so, advanced the standards in the fish taco arena.