Bear Flag Fish Co.
For all my talk of near-religious devotion to the institution of Taco Tuesday, you may be surprised that I have not yet publically declared my favorite OC instantiation of that weekly rite. You can be sure I’ve done my due diligence, and there are certainly posts to come about the many fantastic places—both muy auténtico and Gringoified—where you can get a great taco nearby. But when it comes to my precious Tuesdays, I’ve become a creature of extreme habit. For the past two years, my Tuesday nights are all about Bear Flag Fish Co., the Newport-based seafood market and casual restaurant. There is a lot to recommend this place, especially if you like simple, perfectly-cooked preparations of really fresh fish—and who doesn’t? Their tuna and salmon poke is the stuff of dreams are made of, and far-flung friends and family alike often wax poetic about the sheer decadence of going at a pound of Bear Flag poke with a bag of locally-made El Toro Bravo chips.
But we’re locals, yanno? We don’t have nearly the Benjamins (or the mercury-tolerance) for weekly bouts with raw bluefin. Instead, we go to Bear Flag each week expressly for their Taco Tuesday special: panko-crusted fish tacos at two bucks a pop. A riff on the classic Baja fish taco, these beautiful, corn tortilla wrapped babies are topped with green and purple cabbage, pico de gallo, and a drizzle of mayo-based “Tommy sauce.” Add a shot or two of one of the many hot sauces available—including Bear Flag’s vinegary, house-made habanero version—and you’ve basically got the best thing ever. We get three apiece; thus for twelve dollars, we have a pretty perfect meal for two people. Even if you don’t make it on a Tuesday, they are usually only three dollars each, making it a bargain dinner in these pricey climes.
I’m probably giving away too much stalker-ammo here, but we actually prefer the newer Crystal Cove Promenade location and can be basically found there every Tuesday. It’s closer to our house and our thrice-weekly hike, and while it’s surely in the most appallingly nouveau riche shopping center in the world, the surfer guys that work at Bear Flag are super-friendly and efficient, at least to the regulars. Moreover, the parking lot of the Promenade has a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean, and watching sweeping sunsets is easy from the Bear Flag patio. Don’t get me wrong; it’s definitely an odd place. We once arrived to a row of eight (seriously, eight!) Ferrari Testarossas all parked in a row out front—a jamboree of ostentation, if you will. But Taco Tuesday is the great equalizer, and we smugly ate our six tacos while the sun set over Catalina, the light bouncing off the hoods of those many mid-life crises.