The secret to making delicious fish tacos at home, according to golf-club chefs

fish tacos

Ember & Rye's tacos feature deliciously grilled fish.

Courtesy of Ember & Rye

Welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetites.


Southern California is known for many things, not the least of which is exceptional golf, as the PGA Tour’s swing through San Diego and Los Angeles annually demonstrates. When it comes to food, the region is perhaps best known for its fish tacos — you’ll likely find them on menus as frequently as you’ll encounter great barbecue joints in Austin, Texas, or impressive bourbon lists in Louisville, Kentucky.

In the opinion of John Beriker, the executive chef at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, an exceptional fish taco stands out for “all the flavors and textures in the taco and how you season your fish.” According to the chef, a great taco makes an equally great first impression. “That first bite has to be incredible,” he says. “The tortilla, filling, sauce, and toppings — those things really make the taco.”

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Logic would suggest that you should focus most on perfecting the toppings and then dedicate the rest of your time to properly cooking the fish. That might produce kick-ass flavors, but an award-winning fish taco starts with the vessel that makes the whole dish possible. “The tortilla has to be really awesome because that’s the first thing you’re going to experience,” Chef Beriker explains. “That’s the thing that you’re going to first have in your hands.”

While the majority of fish tacos in the greater San Diego area showcase fried fish, Chef Beriker likes to pan sear either Mahi Mahi, Halibut, or Chilean Sea Bass. To do that, he first gets a sauté pan hot over medium heat, adds a thin layer of a neutral-flavored oil (grapeseed oil works well), then adds thin slices — or small cubes — of the fish, letting them cook for one minute on each side.

At Aviara Golf Club only a mile or so to the west, Brad Chance, the executive chef at Ember & Rye, prefers to grill his fish over a wood-burning fire. “Cooking over fire brings out a more natural flavor and a purity of the ingredient,” he says. “It also gives it a nice smoky flavor.”

At Ember & Rye, Chef Chance takes inspiration from Mexican cuisine, implementing an al pastor approach to the restaurant’s fish tacos (see recipe below). And when it comes to grilling the Baja Striped Bass that the restaurant uses, he knows that it needs time to cook undisturbed. That’s the best advice he can bestow to amateur cooks looking to make their own grilled fish tacos at home. “When grilling fish, people have a tendency to want to move it around or to check it,” he says, “but everything works best if you leave it alone for a while. Resist the urge to move it. Just be patient and let it caramelize on one side before you flip it.”

Ember & Rye Grilled Fish Tacos


12 oz. sea bass, thinly sliced
Achiote marinade (recipe follows)
Pineapple Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
Chipotle Mayo (recipe follows)
Achiote dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
4 corn or flour tortillas

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Dress the fish with the marinade mixture, cover, and allow it to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Grill the fish until slightly caramelized and cooked through (about 90 seconds per side).

Build tacos to order.

Achiote Marinade


1/2 cup Achiote paste
2 cups of water
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste


In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth and well incorporated.

Pineapple Pico de Gallo


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2 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup pineapple, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed), finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Juice from two limes
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and let flavors to develop (it’s best to let this sit for at least 30 minutes before serving).

Chipotle Mayo


2 cups of mayonnaise
3 tbsp. chipotle in adobo (only use the liquid from the can)
1 lime, zested and juiced


In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth and well incorporated. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and set aside.

Achiote Dressing


1/2 cup of lime juice
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 tbsp. achiote paste
Salt and pepper to taste


In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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