Ralph Rubio Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Original fish taco gets a new batter

By Megan Tevrizian
|  Friday, Aug 19, 2011  |  Updated 9:02 AM PDT
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Ralph Rubio Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Ralph Rubio makes a fish taco with his original recipe.

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You can go just about anywhere in the U.S. today and order a fish taco.

Its popularity can be attributed in part to a local company that started right here in Mission Bay – Rubio’s.

Rubio’s is celebrating its Original Fish Taco, nearly 30 years after it first opened its doors.

The relatively small kitchen in Mission Bay is where Ralph Rubio's idea became reality. Rubio’s started as a family business in 1983.

Ralph said he could not have predicted the success his restaurant has had, but he certainly hoped for it.

“The whole intent was to have more than one restaurant, I wanted to have a chain of restaurants."

Now, Rubio’s has expanded to more than 200 locations on the West Coast. It all started when Ralph was a freshman at San Diego State University. He went down to San Felipe for a spring break trip.

"I took a bite of a fish taco in Mexico and just fell in love, I never had anything like it. And I'm not a real foodie guy, it was just delicious and I never forgot that."

Ralph jotted down the ingredients of the beer batter recipe in his phone directory that he kept in his wallet.

"Years later when we decided to start Rubio’s, my brother and I started experimenting with different beer batters."

He created the original fish taco in the same Mission Bay kitchen that still stands today.

Now 150 million fish tacos later, Ralph and Rubio’s are going back to what put them on the map in the first place.

"About 5 years ago, as we were expanding we thought in order to make a more consistent fish taco we'd outsource the battering of our fish. And while that had some merit we found that over time it didn't taste quite as good as the fresh result you get from hand-battering the fish."

He says the original fish taco he is recreating now is almost better than the first fish taco he had in San Felipe.

“Of course it’s better – I made it,” he joked.

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