Fresh Mex with flair: a taco, Mexicana salad, quesadilla and Caesar wrap from Buenos Grill.
Fresh Mex with flair: a taco, Mexicana salad, quesadilla and Caesar wrap from Buenos Grill.

Batter-fried fish tacos as we know them in the United States originated in the 1930s in Ensenada, Mexico, home to a large Japanese immigrant population that worked in the fishing industry there. This, then, is a fusion food—a combination of Mexican and Japanese because the fish are deep fried in a tempura batter. And if you want to get the real el McCoyson, Buenos Grill at Mayberry Landing is the place.

Greg and Mimi Butler have owned the restaurant for the past 13 years, and they have created a fish taco-fresh Mex comedor that’s authentic with some flair. Cement floors, wood tables and chairs, and outdoor dining make this a casual place for all seasons, seating 120. You order at the counter, and the wait isn’t long. Greg has been in the restaurant biz since he was a lad. He worked for the famous Chart House steak chain in California and ended up managing its South Lake Tahoe eatery before opening the BG.

The menu is creative and reading it gets the saliva going. Appetizers ($1-$8.25), soups and salads ($3-$5.75), tacos and burritos ($4.50-$8.60), wraps ($6.95-$$8.60), and children’s plates ($2.25-$4.75) make a cost-effective place for the whole family. Simple desserts with a Mexican flair ($2.25-$5), a salsa bar and breakfast on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., make up the well-rounded menu.

They offer 30 beers, mostly Mexican (Modelo and Negra Modelo on tap) and micro brews ($3.25-$4.25), Horchata and Jarritos ($1.85), simple wine list by-the-glass and home made Sangria ($4) and Margaritas ($4.75).

I had to try that Brie and mango quesadilla ($6.95). Mangos are generally sweet, although the taste and texture of the flesh varies across cultivars, some having a soft, pulpy texture similar to an overripe plum, while the flesh of others is firmer, like a cantaloupe or avocado, or may have a fibrous texture. This was the avocado variety, and combined with the Brie, it was an elegant, slightly sweet, rich and savory flavor—a great summer starter.

My fish taco was the Baja San Felipe-style with sour cream chili sauce ($4.95). If you’ve ever fished in Baja, you know that when you get off the boat, the first things you see are all the fish taco stands, and everyone is a winner. This offering was that and more. Beer-battered with tempura, rice flour and paprika and quick fired in vegetable oil making it crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. Then it’s topped with a mixture of lettuce, red and green cabbage, tossed with cilantro, lime juice, honey, purple onion, Buffalo hot sauce, and dill, wrapped in a flour tortilla. Memories of the Sea of Cortez flashed through my mind. The crispness of the fish surrounded by the sweet-tart, slight heat slaw-like topping was a burst of flavors and textures; sublime and savory as it congeals in your mouth testing every taste bud with true palate-pleasing results—a taco triumph.

Then I had the Del Mar Caesar Wrap ($8.60). It was huge, and what a combination: start with a blackened salmon, add in some Spanish-style rice, toss a Caesar salad with house-made dressing, and wrap it all in a huge flour tortilla. This combination was a fiesta of flavors, from the grilled fish to the garlic and the lightly spiced rice. Everything is house-made, and wheat tortillas are there for the asking.

My quaff was two-fisted, a frozen Margarita ($4.75) and the house-made Sangria ($4). Both hit the spot and were true to their flavor profiles. My cardiologist friends tell me we should eat fish twice a week to stay healthy. My prescription: the Buenos Grill, to stay health and happy while enjoying the medicine.

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