A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 07, 2007
Fish Taco (Lobster Taco)

The “taco” is a Mexican sandwich wrapped in a tortilla, usually containing meat. The “fish taco” became popular in the United States when Ralph Rubio first sold them from his restaurant in San Diego, California in 1983. Rubio admitted that he first saw fish tacos sold at San Felipe, in Baja California. Both San Felipe and Ensenada in Baja take credit for creating fish tacos in the 1950s.

The lobster taco was also served in Baja California and was introduced to the United States in Tom Guillen’s El Patio Cafe in Long Beach, California as early as 1956. “Lobster taco” appears in print earlier than “fish taco,” but both are similar ideas from similar locations.


Rubio’s Mexican Grill - History
When most college students go away for spring break, all they come back with is a sunburn. But not Ralph Rubio.

Every spring, Ralph and his buddies would head to the Baja village of San Felipe, where you could camp on the beach for free, catch some rays, and forget about studying. One night, a hungry Ralph spotted a taco shop with an unusual specialty advertised in the window: fish tacos. He ordered one, took a few bites, and was hooked.

Over time Ralph became pals with Carlos, the man behind the counter. Carlos showed Ralph how his fish tacos were made. Ralph went back to San Diego and perfected a recipe of his own.

Several years later, with his father Ray as his partner, he opened his first restaurant - a walk-up stand in Mission Beach. Since that day back in 1983, Ralph, with the help of a lot of great people, has sold more than 50 million fish tacos.

Of course, a lot has changed from that original restaurant. Rubio’s is now Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill® and has over 160 locations serving a menu which features made-to-order burritos, soft-shell tacos, and quesadillas and salads made with marinated, chargrilled chicken breast and steak, as well as seafood representative of the Baja, California region of Mexico, such as chargrilled mahi mahi, sautéed shrimp and our signature Baja-style fish taco.

NPR
Kitchen Window:
In Love with the Fish Taco and Its Hometown
by Susan Russo
NPR.org, September 12, 2007
(...)
In its simplest form, a taco is a tortilla wrapped around a filling, and tortillas have been a staple of the Mesoamerican diet for centuries. Most gastronomes speculate that the fish taco emerged when Asians introduced Baja natives to the practice of deep-frying fish. When this battered fried fish was combined with traditional Mexican toppings, the fish taco was born.

Modern fish tacos emerged in the 1950s in the Baja city of either Ensenada or San Felipe; it’s an ongoing debate, with both cities claiming to be the “home” of the fish taco. From their tiny stands, street vendors in these cities produced simple, inexpensive fare fast. The fish taco was hot, fresh and delicious — the perfect combination for hungry workers and market goers.

It’s no surprise then that San Diego surfers heading across the border to chase the best “swell” (a word I heard countless times before I realized they were talking about waves) were some of the first people from the States to appreciate fish tacos.

Among them was Ralph Rubio, a San Diegan so smitten after his first taste, that in 1983 he opened a restaurant in Mission Beach, Calif., that specialized in fish tacos. Defying skeptics who thought Americans would find fish in a tortilla unappetizing, Rubio has now sold more than 50 million fish tacos at his 160 Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill restaurants in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

Fish tacos are ubiquitous here. They’re served at beach shacks as well as posh dining establishments, and the recipe continues to evolve. With choices ranging from grilled mahi mahi with tomatillo salsa to boiled lobster with chipotle lime butter, there really is something for everyone. The one thing that San Diegans agree on is that the best fish tacos are the ones eaten hot as you drip dry in the sun waiting for the next swell.

You don’t have to move to San Diego, though, to enjoy fish tacos; heck, you don’t even have to visit here (although I would highly recommend it). No matter where you live, the ingredients are easy to come by and the preparation is the same.

Wikipedia: Taco
Fish Tacos
Fish Tacos first started in Mexico, as the original tacos did. In Mexico they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce, Pico de Gallo (tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lemon juice) and are placed on top of a corn, wheat or flour tortilla. In the United States, although they have been spreading throughout the States, they are most popular in California and Colorado. In California you will find that they put a little twist on the original fish tacos found in Mexico. As both fish tacos contain grilled or fried fish with Pico de Gallo, the difference is you will most likely find cabbage and coleslaw dressing on top a flour or wheat tortilla in the States. Popular fish tacos can be found at street vendors in California. 

Wikipedia: Ensenada, Baja California
Ensenada is the third-largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California. It is located 116 km (about 70 miles) south of Tijuana, at 31°47′N, 116°36′W. The city had a 2005 census population of 260,075. Ensenada is also the municipal seat of Ensenada Municipality, one of the five into which the state is divided. Ensenada is locally referred as La Bella Cenicienta del Pacífico (The Cinderella of the Pacific). The city is home to immigrants from other parts of Mexico and from all around the world.

Located in the Bahía de Todos Santos — an inlet of the Pacific Ocean — Ensenada is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship stop. There is also a navy base, an army base and a military airfield, which functions as an airport of entry into Mexico.

Ensenada Street Stands
Tacos La Floresta
Location: Corner of Floresta & Juarez
Many of the locals call this the best place in town for fresh fish tacos. I’m not going to even try to argue that one. They are as good as it gets. I guess being around for 40 years may have a little something to do with it. This is another place that your typical tourest will never find just walking around, however, from time to time I run into groups gringo fishermen that make special taco runs to Floresta while in Ensenada. Every Taxi in town knows about this place and you can be there in about three minutes.

MexGrocer.com
BAY OF L.A. LOBSTER TOSTADAS
Lobster tacos and tostadas originated at Mama Diaz’ restaurant in Bahía de Los Angeles. (Bay of L.A., as we gringos call it, is a remote but spectacularly scenic fishing village on the Sea of Cortez, a third of the way down the Baja peninsula.) The first time I had them was over thirty years ago, before there was even a paved road south of El Rosario (barely the other side of Ensenada). They’re still just as good! Once the lobster is cooked, this recipe takes about 20 minutes.

2 pounds cooked, diced lobster meat
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, minced (hot)
1 tbsp fresh Mexican lime juice
12 fried flat tortillas
1 ½ cup thin sour cream sauce or light sour cream
Pico Pica sauce or any red pepper sauce to taste
6 radishes, minced
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 bunch cilantro, in sprigs
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup Cheddar, Chihuahua or Jack cheese, shredded
salsa fresca to taste

Heat lobster, garlic, chiles and lime juice in medium sized saucepan. Serve as you would any tacos with a variety of condiments.

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream sauce and Pico Pica with the radishes. Put a scoop of lobster mixture on fried, flat tortilla. Place one to two tablespoons of sauce on top of meat as you are serving it. Garnish with shredded cabbage, cilantro, tomato, cheese and serve immediately with salsa fresca on the side. 

28 October 1956, Long Beach (CA) Independent Press-Telegram, Gourmets Guide (magazine), pg. 31, col. 3:
STOP THE PRESSES! BULLETIN! FLASH! Two new and brilliantly original items have been added to the menu at the El Patio No. 2 Cafe, 3503 Atlantic Ave.!

The new items are lobster enchiladas and lobster tacos—and, believe you me, this is such a revolutionary step in the world of Mexican cuisine that it deserves a bulletin in anybody’s newspaper.

Few persons had ever heard of lobster enchiladas and lobster tacos until Tony Guillen, owner of Long Beach’s two El Patio Cafes, came up with the idea recently. He offered them modestly to a few of his patrons and was surprised when the innovation caught on with a bang. As a result Tony is listing the delectable specialties on his new menus which will make their appearance at the restaurant later this week. The lobster enchiladas are 45 cents a la carte; the lobster tacos are 40 cents. They can be had on the cafe’s plate specials at a slight extra charge.

14 April 1957, Long Beach (CA) Independent Press-Telegram, Gourmets Guide (magazine), pg. 51, col. 3:
Still exceedingly popular with the patrons are Tony’s lobster enchiladas and lobster tacos, definitely an innovation in the world of Mexican cuisine.

Google Books
Bahia: Ensenada and its Bay
by Thaddeus Reamy T. Brenton
Los Angeles, CA; Westernlore Press
1961
Pg. 51:
I especially like to dine on caguama soup, lobster tacos and cerveza, delicious Mexican beer. 

17 October 1965, San Antonio (TX) Express and News, “Here’s Hearty Vote For Lobster Tacos” by John Abney, pg. 6H, col. 1:
But in Ensenada, the lobster gets himself served in tacos. Wrapped in a tortilla with onion and hot chili.
(...)
Even Senor Bolanos does not know where the first lobster taco was constructed. Nor how it came about.

“Without doubt it was an accident,” he said. “Someone wanted a taco and there was no pork nor chicken lying around. But back in the ice box behind yesterday’s soup was a piece of lobster.”

Jose theorizes that the lobster got itself rolled up in a tortilla and eaten. Obviously, it worked out well. It has become common practice around Ensenada and now is highly commercial.

30 May 1969, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, pg.
For top Mexican fare, served by energetic senoritas and senoras, Mrs. T. an I highly recommend El Patio Restaurant, 3503 Atlantic Ave. It’s a good-looking place, but you can dress casually if you wish. Owner Tony Guillen, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, features delicious combination Mexican plates, $2 to $2.75. It’s the only place in town which serves lobster tacos, 75-cents a la carte. They’re unusually good.

8 March 1973, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, pg. 14, cols. 5-6:
FISH TACO bake
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter, margarine or oil
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can (8 ounces) taco sauce
1 cup milk
3 cups cooked rice
1 pound skinned perch fillets, cubed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups regular size corn chips
2 cups (1/2 pound) grated Cheddar cheese

Saute onion in butter until tender. Blend in soup, taco sauce and milk. Add rice, cubed fillets, and seasonings. Spoon half the mixture into a buttered 2-quart shallow casserole. Layer with half the corn chips and half the cheese. Repeat, ending with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes eight servings.

27 April 1975, Yuma (AZ) Daily Sun, pg. 16, col. 3:
Your Fish Market is at 1074 3rd St. Along with the dinners is offered bean or carrot pies and fish tacos, burritos, barbecued fish and fish sandwiches.

7 March 1976, Long Beach (CA) Independent Press-Telegram, pg. L/S 14, col. 2:
Recently Damron and Diamond added more seafood specialties to their menu. They are delectable, imaginative ideas, such as lobster enchiladas, lobster tacos, shrimp cocktails, shrimp tostadas and lobster tostadas.

28 September 1976, Oxnard (CA) Press-Courier, Cookbook Section, pg. 8A, col. 5:
Tasty Fish Tacos
Mrs. Vicky Guillan
901 West Vineyard Ave., 104
Oxnard

Flour tortillas (packaged)
Cooked white fish or tuna*
Yellow grated or sliced cheese
1/2 cup oil for frying

Warm tortillas so they can be easily folded without tearing.

Heat oil in large frying pan at medium low.

On flat tortillas, place desired amount of fish on one side and sprinkle with grated cheese. Do not overload. Fold side of tortilla in form of turnover and fry on both sides until light golden brown.

Serve with tossed green salad.

*These tacos can be made with salmon, which are just out of this world!

27 September 1979, Los Angeles (CA) Times, part 6, pg. 2:
BORDER LINE: Baiting Your Tacos, Ensenada Style
Tangy Fish Fillings Net an Ocean of Flavors

1 February 1982, Mountain Democrat-Times (Placerville, CA), “Ideal family vacation in Ensenada, Baja” by Jerry Lench, pg. A7, col. 3:
Nearby stands sell delicious fish tacos.

Google Books
Culinary Mexico: Authentic recipes and Traditions
by Daniel Hoyer
Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith
2005
Pg. 47:
Tacos de Pescado
BAJA-STYLE FISH TACOS
RUBIO’S BAJA GRILL in San Diego started the fish taco craze north of the border in 1983 when Ralph Rubio transplanted his favorite recipe from a small taco vendor on the Baja coast to his southern California restaurant.

(Trademark)
Word Mark HOME OF THE FISH TACO
Goods and Services IC 042. US 100. G & S: TAKEOUT RESTAURANT SERVICES. FIRST USE: 19840425. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19860522
Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM
Serial Number 73603129
Filing Date June 9, 1986
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition November 25, 1986
Registration Number 1429640
Registration Date February 17, 1987
Owner (REGISTRANT) RUBIO’S RESTAURANTS, INC. CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 7857 CONVOY COURT, SUITE 201 SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA 92111
(LAST LISTED OWNER) Robio’s Restaurants, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE 1902 Wright Ave Carlsbad CALIFORNIA 92008
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record David H Getz
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “FISH TACO” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20070909.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20070909
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

(Trademark)
Word Mark WORLD FAMOUS FISH TACO
Goods and Services IC 043. US 100 101. G & S: Restaurant services. FIRST USE: 20041101. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20041101
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 78898551
Filing Date June 1, 2006
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) Rubio’s Restaurants, Inc CORPORATION CALIFORNIA Suite 300 1902 Wright Place Carlsbad CALIFORNIA 92008
Attorney of Record David Getz
Prior Registrations 1429640
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “FISH TACO” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

(Trademark)
Word Mark RUBIO’S
Goods and Services IC 042. US 100. G & S: TAKEOUT RESTAURANT SERVICES. FIRST USE: 19830123. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19860522
Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM
Serial Number 73708563
Filing Date February 1, 1988
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition June 14, 1988
Change In Registration CHANGE IN REGISTRATION HAS OCCURRED
Registration Number 1503438
Registration Date September 6, 1988
Owner (REGISTRANT) RUBIO’S RESTAURANTS, INC. CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 5151 SHOREHAM PLACE, SUITE 260 SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA 92122
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record LAWRENCE A. MAXHAM
Prior Registrations 1428865
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 07, 2007 • Permalink