CategoriesDining & Drinking
DateJul, 07 2016
11 tasty spots for the best fish tacos in Bend, Oregon
There’s something about a good fish taco that just screams “summer.” This is probably why I love eating them even when it’s 30-degrees in the middle of December.
Despite being nearly 200 miles from the ocean, Bend has a deliciously abundant selection at fish tacos in fine restaurants, breweries, and little taquerias around the city. Here are eleven of the best.
This is the fish taco that sparked this whole blog post. A friend recommend the blackened steelhead tacos at Worthy Brewing, I ordered them, and life has never been the same.
You get three tacos with your meal and a generous side of tropical fruit salsa. Both the salsa and the hearty slabs of avocado help tone down the spiciness just a touch, and the flavors blend together in a perfect medley of creamy, tangy, and peppy. The blackened steelhead is moist and flavorful and surrounding tortillas are made with a blend of corn and flour. The cilantro-kale slaw and chipotle aioli rounds out the flavor profile perfectly.
Use your Worthy time wisely by pairing your fish tacos with a tasty Worthy beer. The menu recommends the Coeur de la Peche Saison, which is a fine choice, but I was partial to the hoppy dimensions of the Tower Encode IPA. If the weather allows it, nab an outdoor table on Worthy’s expansive patio.
Ask any crowd of Bend locals to name their favorite fish tacos and I guarantee you’ll hear at least a couple votes for Parilla Grill. There’s a good reason for that.
Parillla’s fish tacos are a carnival of textures and flavors that’ll make your mouth happy. There’s the crunch of the hand-breaded fish filets, the pillowy softness of their fresh flour tortillas, the zip of the corn salsa, and the creamy zing of their famous fish sauce. Add a sprinkle of cheese and a generous helping of spinach and cabbage, and you’ve got a meal that’s not only pleasing to the palate, but to your mother (who always reminded you to eat all four food groups in one sitting).
You can pick and choose your condiments as you move through the line, but I suggest just answering “yes” when they ask if you’d like the recommendations. That’ll ensure your tacos are served up exactly the way nature (or at least Parilla) intended. Personally, I sometimes request they go a little light on the fish sauce, since that flavor can dominate when applied too generously.
Since these are some of the largest tacos in the roundup, make sure you plan according to your appetite when deciding whether to order the trio or individual tacos. Leave room for the killer kombucha they have on tap, or better yet, one of their famous margaritas.
I’m so in love with the tacos at El Sancho that I don’t even know where to begin singing their praises. Is it the tender mildness of the mahi mahi they use? Is it the perfect, simple freshness of their cabbage slaw with cilantro dressing? Is the creamy goodness of their fresh crema and avocado salsa? Is it the fact that they’re perfectly sized for easy eating with little risk of toppings glopping out onto your lap?
It’s all of those things, of course. But it’s also the friendly, bustling casual atmosphere of the place itself. Their taco menu is simply staggering, and everything on it is scrumptious. Though the focus of this post is fish tacos, the fact that you can order everything individually means you should leave room in your belly for a few other options like barbacoa, mushroom, or even lengua (yes, beef tongue) tacos.
But don’t fill up entirely on tacos. You haven’t lived until you’ve sampled their to-die-for candied yams, which make a great side dish for everyone to share. Pair it all with their refreshing passionfruit limeade, and you’ve got yourself a meal that’ll make your whole summer.
By now you’ve noticed everyone has a different opinion about which type of fish goes best in fish tacos. At Barrio, you’re not limited to one choice. Pick between salmon and grilled rockfish, or round out your taco trio by getting one of each, plus a third taco of your choosing.
This may be a silly detail to praise so heartily, but one of the best things about Barrio is the way they present their tacos in a spiffy little server that holds all three upright. Taco connoisseurs will appreciate how this keeps all the fixins’ in place and makes everything easy to eat.
Barrio tends to be extra-super-generous with the fish, so if you like the dominant ingredient to be of the finned variety, this is your go-to spot. If you’re looking to pair it with a cocktail, try their Tamarindo Whiskey Sour (a particularly good option when it’s discounted during happy hour).
Two varieties of fish tacos wasn’t enough for you at Barrio? How about THREE choices at Longboard Louie’s?
Their expansive fish taco menu includes rockfish, halibut, and salmon, and you can order individually or try all three (though make sure you have a hearty appetite if you go that route).
The rockfish is breaded, but the salmon is not. You have your choice between breaded or grilled with the halibut. All three are served in corn tortillas with pico de gallo, fish sauce, and generous helpings of cabbage and/or lettuce. I sampled all three and went back and forth swooning for different reasons. If pressed to pick a favorite, I’d have to vote for the breaded halibut. The fish is rich and flavorful, and a moist contrast to the crispy breading and the abundance of flavorful veggies.
You can opt to hit their famous salsa bar for an extra flavor boost, though I found these to be perfectly dressed already. Also, if you happen to be dining at the eastside Longboard Louie’s, you’ll find an infinite variety of customizable fish taco options in their build-your-own line. Both locations also have shrimp tacos, and depending on the season, I’ve occasionally been lucky enough to see crab on the menu.
I very rarely state my favorite when I do these “best of” blog posts for Visit Bend. But if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to choose only one set of fish tacos, I’d probably narrow it down to Spork and El Sancho. Then, after gauging the size of the gun and the proximity of the shooter, I would glance lovingly at the grilled sweet corn side dish and say, “Okay, Spork—you win this round.”
Setting aside from the nirvana that is the grilled sweet corn at Spork, the fish tacos here are mighty tasty. Made with battered and fried catfish, they’re piled with a scrumptious blend of cabbage, radish, cilantro, green onion, and a chili mayo that’s guaranteed to make your toes curl. You can add more spice if you like with the generous pile of jalapeño on the side, or squeeze on some extra lime for added zing. The grilled tortilla adds an extra smoky dimension that ties the whole thing together perfectly.
The fish tacos are made even tastier with a one of their creative cocktail concoctions. I fancied the Smoky Sunset made with rye, Townshend’s Tea Spirit Smoke Tea Liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juice, and a hint of sugar.
Did I mention the corn?
El Rancho Grande
This north-end option is a good choice for families shopping at the Cascade Village Shopping Center or returning from an afternoon of hiking at Smith Rock State Park.
The fish tacos here are made with top-quality halibut, which is a point of pride for the staff at El Rancho Grande. The fish is sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, wrapped in soft corn tortillas, dipped in red sauce, lightly fried, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The whole thing is topped with avocado slices and pico de gallo.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a taco you’d need to eat with a fork, you’re right. If you’re thinking parmesan sounds a little odd on a fish taco, you’re wrong. It actually lends a unique flavor to these gooey, hearty tacos that come with a generous serving of beans and rice.
This restaurant is one of my step-kids’ favorite spots for family-friendly dining, and they make a fun presentation out of birthdays. Order the fresh guacamole (made right at your table) for an extra treat!
If you’re a sucker for grilled food, Hola! is the spot for you. Both the halibut and the soft corn tortillas are grilled here, which lends a scrumptious, smoky flavor to the dish. The pico de gallo is fresh and flavorful and serves as a zingy contrast to the creaminess of avocado and sour cream.
There’s a handy convenience factor with Hola!, since they have five locations around Central Oregon. Swing by the Old Mill location if you’re shopping or watching a movie there, or stop at the Downtown Bend restaurant when you’re strolling Drake Park or hitting the historic Tower Theatre.
If you’re a cocktail aficionado, make sure you have a designated driver lined up. Unique offerings like the Vanilla Mango Mojito, the Pisco Sour (Peru’s national drink), and the Capirinhas (Brazil’s national drink) are sure to be palate pleasers and a tasty complement to your fish taco binge.
Real Food Street Bistro
This is one of two food carts at The Lot that offers fish tacos (the other is A La Carte, but more on that later). When polling local pals on their favorite spots for fish tacos, Real Food Street Bistro is one of the names I heard pretty frequently.
Panko-breaded Pacific cod is the centerpiece, and the panko adds an extra-crunchy dimension that’s a lovely contrast to the mildness of the cod. The tacos are rounded out with a chipotle avocado aioli, cilantro, feta cheese, and a pickled veggie blend that showcases this food cart’s flair for fermented food (they’re famous for their kimchee).
My favorite part of ordering at Real Food Street Bistro is their fondness for itty-bitty sides that let you try a few different things without filling up. The tacos come with a side of Himalayan red rice and black bean salad that’s a delicious accompaniment to the main dish. For an extra couple bucks, you can add another little side salad like the cucumber/carrot/sesame one I chose.
Insider tip: I found the double tortillas a little overkill here, so ditch the outside one if you prefer more focus on the taco guts than the taco wrapper.
A la Carte
While you’ll occasionally spot fish tacos on the specialty menu at A La Carte, they’re not a regular menu staple here. But don’t let that stop you from hitting this tasty little food cart and grabbing an order of their shrimp tacos to keep your tastebuds on their toes.
Served in a smoky grilled tortilla, these tacos feature a handful of plump shrimp nestled in a flavorful blend of pineapple salsa, cotija, sweet onion, cilantro, radis, cabbage, and a drizzle of their tasty citrus sour cream. The overall flavor profile is very tropical, so go here if you’re feeling extra beachy.
Bonus: A La Carte sells the most deliciously sinful fries you’ll ever taste. If you’ve hit the Bend Ale Trail a little too hard, get your grease fix with their gorgonzola bacon fries cooked in peanut oil and served with gorgonzola aioli, chopped bacon, green onions, Cajun seasoning, and fresh gorgonzola.
Bend Brewing Company
Bend’s second-oldest brewery has long been one of my favorites for their proximity to the Deschutes River, their super-awesome kids’ menu, and for Ching Ching (their oh-so-yummy sour beer). But their brand new, recently-unveiled menu featured something I hadn’t seen there before—fish tacos!
Bend Brewing Company’s version features sriracha-seasoned mahi mahi in white corn tortillas with cabbage, cilantro, lime sour cream, and pineapple pico de gallo. The pineapple is what really makes this dish, plus the perfectly-petite size of these tacos makes them a lovely lighter lunch fare. They’re served with a side of chips and locally-made O’Hana salsa.
And since you’re on vacation anyway, go ahead and pair that lunch with a 22-ounce bottle of Ching Ching (since it’s only available on draft at certain times of the year) or a pint of their tasty Elk Lake IPA. Cheers!
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