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TOTO's Mexican Grill

TOTO's Mexican Grill on YELP

2055 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas, NV 89119 (702) 895-7923

I would like to introduce you all to my first guest editor and fellow blogger, Savannah Quintero. I asked if she could check out a recommended eatery and do a write-up for me. She accepted the challenge and I present to you the fruits of her labor. -Fred

There I was, far from home, staring up at the words "TOTO'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT." Ohh, Mexican food. Not one of my top favorite cuisines to review, since my family makes the best Mexican food this side of the border, but yet standing outside the building I felt flutters thinking about carnitas, fajitas, enchiladas, and chimichangas...but wait! I had to snap myself out of the greasy trance and remember the main reason for my travels. Fish tacos.

The restaurant was like any typical Mexican restaurant decked out in the colors of the flag and Spanish musica coming from the walls. It seemed as though most of the employees were watching Futbol when we walked it, but I excused it, because who ISN'T watching soccer right now?

Our server sat us and promptly took our drink orders, after a few minutes he returned with the wrong drinks. He asked me if I had ordered a Coke or a water, I told him water and he went back to get me my water. I peered around my booth to see that there was only 2 other couples eating at the time, and that both of the tables had their drink orders. Sketchy service? Oh well, I can get past the tiny error.

After reviewing the menu a few times, and asking our server, I noticed there was only one type of fish taco to choose from (although, there were a lot of different sea food plates.) I ordered the mariscos tacos which includes two tortillas, orange roughy, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and avocado. The only way I could order these tacos was on a plate, which included rice and beans, altogether it totaled $11.95. $11.95?! These better be some good tacos.

When they arrive, I start to drool. They looked promising! Could they taste as great as they look? At first bite the first thing that pops into my head is, "Am I eating orange roughy in a taco? This doesn't seem right." And it didn't. The fish was a tad fishy, but the spiciness of the pico de gallo took a little bit of that pain away. I took the second bite and the cheese (CHEESE?! on fish!?) and sour cream came into play, altogether the combination of flavors made something that I could swallow, but wasn't something that I close my eyes and squeal in excitement every time I took a bite. The combination of sour cream and avocado all over my hand was not something I quite enjoyed either. I eventually took the large chuck of avocado off as it was doing nothing, except cover my hand in its green meat.

In the end, I don't think the tacos were worth $12.00, and even though I did leave a bit discouraged, this assignment has opened my interest in attempting more fish tacos, as I'm sure there are MUCH better ones than Toto's. If I was in the area again, I probably would attempt another dish there, but I would not return for the fish tacos. I suppose it could be the way I look at the idea of fish tacos. I look forward to the refreshing bite fish tacos. I don't want soggy, hot, messy, but fresh, cool, and clean.

Mariscos Tacos (2) (plus rice and beans)- $11.95
Ingredients: Orange roughy, pico de gallo, Cheddar cheese, sour cream, a slice of avocado, and 2 warmed corn tortillas.

...if only Tacos de Compita had fish tacos...


Coyote Grill

Coyote Grill website

31621 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (949) 499-4033

I regret to even think about the experience I just had. Let alone relive it through the written word. But I have a right and a duty as a citizen of this planet to inform, as well as warn, my fellow Earthly inhabitants of establishments who feel so entitled as to have Fish Tacos on their menu yet know little to nothing of the dish itself. Not only will you, dear reader, be warned here, but I plan to go into great detail with painting you a literary picture of my journey through the very depths of Fish Taco Hell, and my courageous tale of survival....Let's begin:

So I plan on heading across the street to the newly reopened "Papa's Tacos" to try out the Fish Taco that I've heard spoken so highly of. I decided to take my 4 year old son, Federico, with me because he was good and his little sister, Sofia, got herself a walk with daddy just a bit earlier. After a quick 5-10 minute walk, we arrive at our destination only to be told by the man behind the counter that they just closed for the day. They close at 6:00pm. It was 6:08pm. The nice man informed us that the grills were off and that they'd be open tomorrow and later in t
he evenings after a month or so, as they were just recently opened.

What's that over those distant mountains? A couple dark clouds? Hmmm. Better stay on my toes.

I noticed across the street a little hip looking restaurant kind of place called "Coyote Grill". Name sounded safe...hell, they even had a moderately tattooed fella in a sleeveless shirt out front standing behind a podium underneath a Corona umbrella that I could only guess was a valet.

So I take my son in to discover a crowded bar scene. Hmmm, the restaurant must be beyond this spectacle. Upon further migration toward the back I encountered a hostess ready to seat me. I humbly declined and ask for a take-out menu. I then inquired about the ordering process and was instructed to give my order to the bartender. "Why would I continue with my venture at this point?", you ask? Let's label it: Morbid Curiosity on a bed of Blind Determination then generously topped with a healthy dose of good 'ol fashioned Primal Hunger. Truly a recipe for disaster if there ever was one, and with that being the case; it was 'Bring Your Son To Work' day and I was the head chef.

After looking at the menu, I found 2 different Fish Tacos each displaying different ingredients AND different prices. Of course I ask the bartender about what the difference might be between the 2, and the response was that there was none. I suggested that it seemed the p
rice was different. It turns out one of them was a lunch menu still doesn't explain the different ingredients...How about you, O reader, help me out with this one:

Exhibit A: Page #5 of the menu, top of the page, under the heading "Especiales De La Casa" we find the first entry to be "Fish Tacos" described as: Bits of fresh fish and veggies on soft corn tortillas served with rice, black beans and our secret sauce. $11.50 (Secret sauce?! what was I thinking? Was I even reading the menu?)

Exhibit B: Page #7 of the menu (There's 8 pages, by the way. 8 pages!!) top of the page, under the heading "Comidas" we find the entry titled "Fish Tacos" described as: Grilled fish on soft tortillas, with shredded cabbage, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese and secret sauce. Served with rice and beans. $12.50

I'm guessing from the $35.00 check that I must have ordered the latter of the two.

Wow, those dark clouds seem to be getting closer...and are those bats flying around inside them?

So after about a 15-20 minute wait, the hostess comes out with an impossibly tight and snug plastic bag with what I had to assume was everything I ordered...2 orders of fish tacos and a small quesadilla. All I could think about was taking the bag and getting the hell out o
f there. I then put my son upon my shoulders, grabbed the bag, and did just that...hightailed it right back to the condo.

Dark clouds....moving fast...

We made it back home unscathed and I plopped the bag onto the table then proceeded to unwrap the contents. Honestly 3 of the most odd containers I've seen in a while...once
again made of some plastic styrofoam hybrid material that was no doubt unhealthy for any environment. You know,...even McD***ld's uses cardboard containers nowadays. Really, people.

Immediately upon opening the containers with the fish tacos, we were greeted with a strong, and quite foul fishy stench. Well this isn't promising. Let's take a look at what we got here:
2 apparent tacos, chunks of fish strewn around some rice and black beans, a container of something and a wedge of lemon. What am I looking at here? What is going on? What have I done?

Well, guess what. I had to try it, regardless of the smell...walk with me...

Imagine about 15 white fish chunks (you can't tell exactly what kind of fish it is) seemingly sauteed with some sort of lemon pepper salad dressing then smothered in the Jack/Cheddar mix that you'd find in the cheese section of your nearest WalMart, on top of th
at picture some shredded red cabbage, diced tomatoes and a ton of cilantro as if it were lettuce. Now imagine all that on 2 corn tortillas fresh out of the bag...ok? got that all? Now imagine biting into it... Well I finished one. Questioning myself throughout the whole ordeal. Here were some of the questions: Why are some chunks slimy and some chunks super dry? Is this really all marinated or sauteed in lemon pepper dressing? What is the deal with all this cilantro? It's like a cilantro salad. Why am I leaving these huge pieces of fallen fish for dead instead of eagerly gobbling them up? Why am I still eating this?

Well I chose not to put myself through that torture any longer and decided to try the sides. This isn't a blog on side dishes so I'll be quick: Black beans obviously cooked with ham or bacon. I'm a vegetarian so I won't be having another bite of that. Rice with a strong chemical aftertaste. I'll pass. Salsa in the cup? Sure, I'll try that too. I was hungry still and I did spend a pretty penny. Whoa! That stuff was hot. Thanks for the heads up people, let alone a choice of heat factors for that. I guess you just assume everyone likes it insanely spicy. And the lemon...really? A lemon?

I was still hungry so I decided then to dissect my wife's remaining taco for anything edible. After close inspection I found pieces of sauteed onion that was probably cooked with the fish and some residue of what seemed to be some sort of mayonnaise based sauce. The secret sauce??!! Tip: Stay away from menu items labeled "SECRET". I then had a couple bites of the outer corn tortilla, but by this time my mind was a reeling mess and I was pretty much done with the whole ordeal.

I feel like I should throw up, lest I fall victim to food poisoning from questionable fish. I ultimately had to call the place to find out what kind of fish they used in their fish tacos. They explained they used Mahi. They didn't care to comment on how long they've been sitting on it though.

I'll end this on a LESSONS LEARNED type note.

Don't order Fish Tacos from a place that doesn't specialize in such.
Don't trust 8 page menus.
Always inquire about ingredients first.
Always check the contents of take out containers.

I don't recommend. I will not return. I am scarred.

I probably need to go back to Baja Fish Tacos to recover from this trauma.

Baja Fish Tacos

Baja Fish Tacos website

30242 Crown Valley Pkwy #B5, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 (949) 495-1537

Oh man. We definitely got lucky.

So we needed to take a trip to Walgreen's to find some urgently needed, last minute provisions. We soon found ourselves at our destination at about 12:30 in the afternoon when my wife asks me how hungry I'm getting. Usually when I get this kind of question, it's due to the fact that she's getting pretty hungry and she's trying to gauge when the next meal will be available by determining how hungry I am. Turns out she was in luck because my hunger level was at about an 8 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being 'Famished'. She also pointed out at this time that across the street from the drug store, hidden in a quaint little strip mall, was a sign for a place called "Baja Fish Tacos", and me going out and getting fish tacos all the time has put her in the mood for such. She also pointed out that it was next to a Vons and that we had some shopping to do. (This was apparently intended to reinforce the urgency of the need for sustenance and to improve the chances of trying out a new fish taco with me. Fair enough.)

Upon entering, my immediate thought was, "Uh oh. Franchise. Oh well, lunch is lunch. I won't get my hopes up." As I get to the counter and check out the menu, I am happy to notice they offer blackened fish. (I've been leaning toward blackened lately.) So I order 4 of the blackened fish tacos to share with Heather and a quesadilla for the kids to share. I was given a plastic number to take to our table and we sat down. For the record, the plastic number did not help in making me feel any better about how to expect my tacos.

So after a brief wait, the tacos arrived, and I must admit the small size of the tacos also did nothing to make me feel that I was going to be eating a satisfying lunch on this day. Not to say they didn't look good. They looked fabulous. As you can see, for each taco there was a large piece of blackened Ono (Wahoo, but they didn't call it that here), smothered in finely shredded fresh green cabbage, a bit of what seemed to be freshly made pico de gallo, all on top of 2 warmed, fresh corn tortillas.

Upon first bite I knew that this place was a good find. These things were mind blowingly delicious. I was a little curious about the lack of lime though, but it seemed to be an ingredient in the pico anyway. I was also curious as to what the fish were blackened with. Personally, I think I detected cinnamon, but whatever it was, it worked. Heather mentioned how well the addition of a little Jack cheese worked with the tacos, and I shrugged for a moment at how preposterous that comment was, until I investigated a little and discovered myself that there was actually a small bit of the aforementioned ingredient on my tacos as well. It was barely noticeable and somehow a benefit to the flavor of this fish taco. I might have to reevaluate my opinions on cheese and fish. These 2 tacos were awesome.

Heather just then commented on the fact that they also have on the menu the option of ordering your fish taco "Ensenada Style", which is having the fish beer battered and baja sauce added in place of pico. (Baja sauce is sort of a spicy mayonnaise based concoction.)
I had to order one. Who knows when I'd be around this neck of the woods again. (You know I will.)

These arrived pretty quickly and were just as fresh tasting and delicious as the last order. Another noticeable difference was the amount of fish on these things. There were about 5-6 pieces of cut beer battered fish on each one! That's a lot more fish than I usually encounter in a fish taco. Not to say it wasn't well received, we just gave the kids a piece or two out of the taco to make it more easily manageable. I did order just one taco to share with Heather, but apparently an order consists of a default 2 tacos. That's fine. Maybe I did order 2...who knows. I'm not complaining as these were some of the awesomest tacos to date since I've started this literary venture....So anyway, to sum this up: I have not yet invented a cute and catchy system to rate my discoveries, but if I had, these would be at the top end of that rating system.

Blackened Ono Taco (1) - $2.75
Ingredients: Blackened Ono, pico de gallo, shredded green cabbage, Jack cheese, 2 warmed and fresh corn tortillas

Ensenada Style Taco (1) - $2.75
Ingredients: Beer battered Ono, shredded green cabbage, Baja sauce, 2 warmed and fresh corn tortillas

I recommend this place. Check out the website up top to find out where the locations are, they're about 4.

Oh yeah. There were limes. Right behind the partition by our table was the salsa, lime and condiment time