I don’t usually order tacos outside of a Mexican restaurant. In San Diego that means I’m skipping a lot of tacos — everywhere from Jack in the Box to George’s by the Cove. At this point it’s almost more difficult to think of a gastropub, bistro, burger spot, or “American (New)” eatery in this city that doesn’t serve tacos.
I specifically go to non-Mexican restaurants because I’m trying to avoid eating more than half of my meals out of a tortilla. When a taco is the only Mexican dish on a menu, I see no good reason to order it.
Unless it’s lobster, apparently. That’s what I found at 608, a restaurant that opened about a year ago at 608 Mission Avenue in Oceanside. No one can accuse 608 of not giving the people what they want. Its menu features come-hither dishes such as short rib, fried chicken, and a dry-aged beef burger. Before you even factor in shellfish, it’s tough choosing.
Between lunch and dinner menus, 608 offers lobster cooked various ways: poached, mixed into a grilled-cheese sandwich, or batter-fried in corn tortillas. For $13 I got the latter: a pair of fried lobster-tail tacos topped by lettuce, tomato, onion, a dusting of cotija, and a sweet-chile aioli.
608 Mission Avenue, Oceanside
(No longer in business.)
Lettuce, tomato, and aioli aren’t exactly common in San Diego taco shops, carts, or trucks — although they do approximate what makes Taco Bell tacos “supreme.” I’m not so taco snobbish that I can’t get down with the lettuce and tomato, but I did find this aioli to be too sweet. There wasn’t nearly enough of the promised chile flavor to balance it out, let alone give a taco the heat I desire. Factor in a couple of unremarkable tortillas, and these didn’t impress me much as tacos.
I did enjoy the Canadian lobster itself, which tasted clean and mildly sweet. The crisp stout-beer batter didn’t do anything to overpower the subtle lobster flavor, and inside the fried crusts the tails were firm, plump, and juicy.
Bottom line, I don’t recommend that anyone skip an opportunity to eat fried lobster. While most taco dishes on non-taco menus feel tacked on by restaurateurs that imagine that making good tacos is easy, these come off as a more creative effort by a chef prone to exploring the possibilities of the dish. Since the 608 menu is set up to encourage sharing of multiple small plates, I look forward to going back for an unlikely meal of lobster tacos, short-rib cheesesteak, and a burrata salad.