Beach House Tacos
668 Harbor Blvd.
Ventura
648-3177
$2-$5

Visiting the Ventura pier is always entertaining. You can watch the waves, surfers and fishermen, and sometimes a little something extra. The day we visited Beach House Tacos, a man in a wetsuit, flippers and a helmet took off running down the pier. We ordered, then quickly followed and watched him eye the pilings below, poised to jump off and rescue a surfer should one become trapped underneath. Luckily, he didn’t have to rescue anyone that day, and by the time we walked back down the pier, our order was ready.

Beach House Tacos has plenty of fish and meat tacos to choose from, and the menu board is quite difficult to read, especially if the sun hits it. I kept squinting at the board, and then going back to the window to order one item at a time. Be sure to ask for a to-go menu if the board is too much of a strain.

For beverages, there are Santa Barbara Tropical iced tea, lemonade, fancy coffees and sodas as well as several beers, two wines and three Soba or Agave cocktails. When you pay, they will also happily validate your parking.

The patio has glass sides and shade panels overhead. There is bar-style seating around the edges with plastic picnic tables in the middle. Reggae music played, and salt air breezes wafted past us, as we eyed our colorful tacos. Each came with double tortillas, so sharing was a breeze.

Beach House Tacos sells baskets of chips, unusual lime- and salt-sprinkled chips that are thick, kind of like pita chips but softer. The salt and lime and crunch made them curious and addictive.

We started with the spicy garlic shrimp taco — a daily special. The shrimp were cooked well, and the chili sauce around them was a good, medium hot with lots of raw garlic. Next we tasted the ahi taco, which my neighbor had recently raved about. The seared ahi peeked out from underneath a mound of sunflower sprouts, cucumber slices and large chunks of perfectly ripe avocado. It was crunchy and fresh, and its simple flavors were enhanced by a light hint of sesame.

The Baja fish taco comes grilled or fried with a chipotle tartar sauce and a cilantro lime slaw. We ordered ours grilled, and a rather petite piece of dry, overcooked fish filled my mouth. I loved the creamy flavors of the tartar and the kick of the cilantro slaw, but the fish itself was disappointing that day.

Next, we tasted the specialty taco, which featured chili-lime battered fried shrimp. It’s served with grilled onions, mixed organic greens, shredded cabbage and chipotle cream with fresh cherry-tomato avocado salsa. It is a large, goopy, use-a-fork (don’t order it on a first date) mess of a taco but delicious.

“I would order this every time,” said my companion. The somewhat spicy chipotle sauce was spread onto the tortilla and it took a few bites to reach all the flavors. The crunch of the shrimp and cabbage, the creamy sauce and the sweet of the cherry tomatoes made it a warm, tasty mess.

We also tried one of the traditional tacos — a choice of meat served with three tortillas and two salsas. Our carne asada was tender and well seasoned. It came with a tomatillo avocado cream sauce (a mild salsa) and pico de gallo but you can also choose hotter and/or specialty salsas. The taco tasted fine but not exotic like the others. If you order it as a combo, for $2 more you get a grilled, stuffed pasilla chili pepper mixed in with the meat, which has more zing.

The grilled salmon taco came with a substantial piece of perfectly cooked salmon with a hint of skin, a chipotle cream sauce (less spicy than the chipotle tartar) and a cucumber jicama salad. The salad was sweet, cool and crunchy; and the fish, moist. The salmon wasn’t very seasoned either, but when combined with the components it had a simple, pleasing flavor. We felt all the fish dishes could use a touch of seasoning — just a dash to make certain the fish was the star, not co-star to salad and sauces.

Our final taco was The Crunchy – a hard-shell taco with seasoned ground beef and (surprise!) golden raisins, topped with lettuce, tomato and cheese. The taco shell was one of the best I’ve had. It kept crisp in the cool sea air and was delicate and crunchy, but the ground beef with raisins wasn’t spectacular.

We ended our meal by ordering two cups of hot chocolate with whipped cream and two Mexican ice cream popsicles — rice pudding and walnut. The rice pudding had grains of rice and raisins in it, and the walnut had healthy chunks of walnuts throughout. We slurped the hot chocolate and watched the birds below on the beach play a game of keep-away and took turns biting the popsicles and dipping them into the hot chocolate. It was a moment of childhoodlike splendor on the pier.

Eating at Beach House Tacos was refreshing. The view is, of course, incredible and I’ve already craved a bite of a taco or two we sampled.

Every pier in every beach town could use a fun restaurant where you can grab a quick bite and enjoy people-watching. I guess it’s also good to know that just in case you slip, there’s a man in flippers just waiting to perform a rescue.    Beach House also serves brunch from 8:30-11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, featuring a breakfast taco, burrito, chiliquiles with tomatillos, eggs and cheese and huevos rancheros.

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