ReALTO review of Rockaway Taco
95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Rockaway, NY 11693
As you know, I am definitely the type to travel for a taco. Trust me, you don’t even want to know how far I will go to try something delicious. Travelling to get your good grub is part of the fun of travelling (also, part of the fun of grub). It’s always a journey, right? So when my friends suggested going to Far Rockaway on the first hot day of the year, my mind started to relish, unbeknownst to them, in what would be my (nay, our) upcoming taco journey toward the one and only Rockaway Taco.
I have heard about Rockaway Taco since I first started bitching about the taco scene (or lack thereof) in New York. Rockaway Taco was always cited as the answer to all of my fish taco woes. Every Brooklynite I had met had had at some point of their lives a Rockaway Taco love triangle adventure—how they couldn’t get enough of that fish taco-salsa-guac trifecta, how the place was, like, so totally cute, how their tacos made them feel like home. Add to that a flurry of instagram Rockaway Taco photos rockin’ everyone’s world, a month diet on my part that had deprived me of flour, and (ahem) a healthy amount of Malibu cocktails (whatever, it was the beach. Don’t judge me), and I was ready for any and all tacos. Especially all tacos. In my face. Now.
So that fateful Saturday, my ladies and I rolled up to Rockaway Taco with our eating clothes on. The first thing I noticed is how inconspicuous it was. I even had to ask. “Are you sure this is it?” like three times because it’s so much a part of this Italian Ices place that I thought it was just an extension of it. But the line that went around the block was proof that this was indeed, the Rockaway Taco mecca that we had been looking for.
The first thing I noticed about the location is that it was full of white people. No offense, folks, but it was. But after Hecho En Dumbo (also full of white people) I have to say that this was not a deal breaker. Yet. Just a slight warning sign about what kind of tacos might be being served. Might.
The second thing I noticed is that it was so, very, very, aggressively California. From its surf shack chic appeal to the colors of chalk chosen to list the tacos to the dudes in beachwear that served them to us, everything about this place was California dreaming. Now, I don’t have a problem with Califas Mexican. In fact, real Mexican food from CA is actually delicious, well-done and pretty damn close to the original. I do, however, have a problem with East Coast California Mexican. It’s straight up California Pizza Kitchen meets Tex Mex. And it makes baby girl wanna barf. Mostly because it means that everything is smothered, too big, there is no balance to most things, and cheese equals flavor in their playbook.
When I got the tacos, some of those things happened. But first, let’s talk about the good: the tortilla. Damn, this was a tasty tortilla. It was homemade and really good, and they definitely pan fried it a little bit (as in oil-kissed) which weirdly makes it keep its shape. I ordered 2 fish tacos with guacamole (which is what I heard they were known for) and some plantains. The plantains, I have to say, were terrific. They were perfectly ripe, well-cooked, and had a good sprinkling of cotija cheese, the salty and crumbly texture mixing well with the sweet smoothness of the plantains.
The tacos were ok. The ingredients in them were fresh, the fish tasted fresh caught and it had radishes and a green salsa that had kick and body. But then…mistakes were made.
Mistake the first: battered fish with no seasoning. Fried does not equal tasty, Cal-Mex. Get that through your heads.
Mistake the second: the radishes were HUGE. I mean, huge. I could not fit one in my mouth. Radishes are an amazing fresh kick to some Mexican dishes. They cut through the rich, earthy flavor of a lot of the meats and sauces, and when you do grilled tilapia fish tacos, they are the perfect summer flavor enhancer. But they have to be thinly sliced and small. Otherwise, you are eating a big hunk of watery nothing. And this is not a hard thing to do. Now, because this is like taco truck style, I will forgive the radishes. Just saying, though. Still a mistake.
Mistake the third (and the unforgivable mistake as far as I am concerned): the guac. This guacamole is not guacamole. I repeat: this guacamole is not guacamole. Guacamole has cilantro for God’s sake. Guacamole has tomato and onion. Guacamole is not just mashed avocado with lime. That, my Cal-Mex friend, is avocado paste. And that is NOT worth that extra $1.00. I was so disappointed in the guac mostly because I had such high hopes for it. It was beautiful-looking, very fresh, and they were generous portions.
So overall, I was left with a pretty mediocre feeling about Rockaway Taco. If you are in the Rockaways you should for sure check it out. It is not bad. That’s the thing—it really wasn’t terrible. It’s just not a taco I would go out of my way for at all. And this was after me depriving myself of tacos for a month—so you better take my word for it.