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Baja Fish Taco & Burgers adds octopus between the buns

In this food truck lot, mollusks make a burger better

A messy pile of octopus and melted cheese pours forth from the Ay-Ay Burger.
A messy pile of octopus and melted cheese pours forth from the Ay-Ay Burger.

I’d gotten word about a spot in Chula Vista where food trucks gather daily outside a third-party DMV registration shop. And, sure enough, one day I found myself just a couple blocks away from the 71 Broadway Food Court, right around lunchtime. It looked like a handful of trucks call the place home at certain times of the week, including a street taco truck, and one that creates a dozen different takes on lumpia.

A food truck court assembled most days in Chula Vista

I will definitely be checking out that lumpia truck, but this day I had something else in my sights. Baja Fish Taco & Burgers offers a menu that matches its name, plus ceviche, burritos, and aguachile.

Its Baja style tacos include fried fish ($2.50) or shrimp ($3.50), smoked tuna “marlin” tacos ($5), the gobernador garlic shrimp ($5), surf and turf ($5), and octopus enchiladas ($6). I tried a few of them, and any one might contribute to a decent meal, though none particularly stood out. The same could be said about the burgers and their greasy sides of fries. It’s standard food truck fare.

Baja Fish Taco & Burgers is at its best when seafood meets cheeseburger.

However… I suppose there’s something to be said about a truck equipped to serve both Mariscos and hamburgers. And that something is this: look to the House Burgers menu.

That’s where I found the 10-dollar Ay-Ay burger. Basically, the House Burgers menu features quarter-pound beef patties stacked on the bun with a pile of seafood. The Chakali burger is topped with shrimp, the Lula burger with Calamari, and the Ay-Ay with octopus.

A chipotle grilled fish taco

I’m not sure what I expected the thing to look like. Maybe like a regular hamburger with a small octopus squeezed beneath the top bun, tentacles poking out from the sides? It’s probably for the best that the octopus is actually chopped up into small cubes that are spread out across the patty. But that doesn’t mean it looks great. I’ll admit, there was a moment, looking at that burger in front of me, that I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

The octopus spilled out of the burger in a mess of marinated mollusk, made goopy with melted Monterey jack cheese. I would require plenty of napkins, and a fork to shove the seafood back onto the burger. But without a doubt, that octopus made the burger better.

I shouldn’t be too surprised. Among all seafood, octopus comes the closest to tasting like beef. Rather, despite being a lean sea creature, parts of its tentacles have some similarity to beef fat. That vague overlap creates a context for the two flavors to mesh beautifully. Adding octopus made the ho hum cheeseburger something memorable, and though it filled me too much to finish the chipotle and grilled fish taco I’d ordered on the side, I did finish the burger.

I’m not sure a picture could ever do it justice — this won’t likely be a case where internet users pass around a sumptuous photo to inspire a “get in my belly” commentary. But, for the rest of my life, whenever I hear the words octopus burger, I’m going to bite.

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A messy pile of octopus and melted cheese pours forth from the Ay-Ay Burger.
A messy pile of octopus and melted cheese pours forth from the Ay-Ay Burger.

I’d gotten word about a spot in Chula Vista where food trucks gather daily outside a third-party DMV registration shop. And, sure enough, one day I found myself just a couple blocks away from the 71 Broadway Food Court, right around lunchtime. It looked like a handful of trucks call the place home at certain times of the week, including a street taco truck, and one that creates a dozen different takes on lumpia.

A food truck court assembled most days in Chula Vista

I will definitely be checking out that lumpia truck, but this day I had something else in my sights. Baja Fish Taco & Burgers offers a menu that matches its name, plus ceviche, burritos, and aguachile.

Its Baja style tacos include fried fish ($2.50) or shrimp ($3.50), smoked tuna “marlin” tacos ($5), the gobernador garlic shrimp ($5), surf and turf ($5), and octopus enchiladas ($6). I tried a few of them, and any one might contribute to a decent meal, though none particularly stood out. The same could be said about the burgers and their greasy sides of fries. It’s standard food truck fare.

Baja Fish Taco & Burgers is at its best when seafood meets cheeseburger.

However… I suppose there’s something to be said about a truck equipped to serve both Mariscos and hamburgers. And that something is this: look to the House Burgers menu.

That’s where I found the 10-dollar Ay-Ay burger. Basically, the House Burgers menu features quarter-pound beef patties stacked on the bun with a pile of seafood. The Chakali burger is topped with shrimp, the Lula burger with Calamari, and the Ay-Ay with octopus.

A chipotle grilled fish taco

I’m not sure what I expected the thing to look like. Maybe like a regular hamburger with a small octopus squeezed beneath the top bun, tentacles poking out from the sides? It’s probably for the best that the octopus is actually chopped up into small cubes that are spread out across the patty. But that doesn’t mean it looks great. I’ll admit, there was a moment, looking at that burger in front of me, that I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

The octopus spilled out of the burger in a mess of marinated mollusk, made goopy with melted Monterey jack cheese. I would require plenty of napkins, and a fork to shove the seafood back onto the burger. But without a doubt, that octopus made the burger better.

I shouldn’t be too surprised. Among all seafood, octopus comes the closest to tasting like beef. Rather, despite being a lean sea creature, parts of its tentacles have some similarity to beef fat. That vague overlap creates a context for the two flavors to mesh beautifully. Adding octopus made the ho hum cheeseburger something memorable, and though it filled me too much to finish the chipotle and grilled fish taco I’d ordered on the side, I did finish the burger.

I’m not sure a picture could ever do it justice — this won’t likely be a case where internet users pass around a sumptuous photo to inspire a “get in my belly” commentary. But, for the rest of my life, whenever I hear the words octopus burger, I’m going to bite.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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