I used to gauge the relative coolness of a town by the quality of a random cup of coffee. At the time, coffee seemed the perfect metonymy for any city as a whole—if the powers that be paid attention to it at the lowest rung of the spending threshold, it would follow, my thinking went, that the quality would persist all the way up. Fanciful? Yes, but useful when developing pat prejudices about a place. Now, instead of coffee, I use tacos—they’re about the same price these days, and they’re similarly everywhere. This is how I assessed my recent experiences in Corte Madera and Larkspur, Marin’s Twin Cities (so-named, I’ve been told, just to make Greenbrae feel left out).
The astrological sign of today’s tacos would be Pisces (versus, say, the relatively common Taurus taco, or Scorpio if one’s feeling particularly adventurous). If the process described above is any indication, my approach is resolutely unscientific. Ditto how I located the fish tacos in either city. I used a random sampling of Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor acquired in furtive glances to my phone whilst driving (I’m kidding, I pulled over like a good citizen and you should, too).
Located at the Town Center Corte Madera mall, Pacific Catch West Coast Fish House proffers sustainable seafood with “Pacific flavors” and “West Coast style.” A regional chain with about 15 Bay Area locations, star offering amongst their fish tacos is the spice-rubbed grilled sea bass served with cabbage, cilantro, avocado-tomatillo salsa and lime crema. The fish is prepared unbreaded and attains a wonderful whisper of char when grilling. My companion called it “an entree in a tortilla.” Pacific Catch’s Traditional Baja taco, a crispy Alaskan cod number served with cabbage, cilantro, avocado-tomatillo salsa and jalapeño tartar, is likewise well-balanced, benefitting from its light battering and pleasant tartar sauce. A spritz of fresh lime brings out the brightness and complexity of the cod.
Meanwhile, longtime Larkspur favorite Burritoville, on the main drag next door to the Lark Theater, features a delightful pescado taco—snapper marinated with cilantro, lime and garlic, and lightly grilled. Served in a double corn tortilla akin to an authentic taco-truck experience, Burritoville’s pared-down preparation puts the spotlight on the fish, which accounts for the three-minute hold time when ordering—everybody wants one. Be patient, it’s worth it.
Both stops observe Covid-19 protocols (including masks and gloves on the staff) and social distancing. Burritoville is in to-go mode and also offers delivery via DoorDash and UberEats.