With all the talk in our culture of locavorism, sometimes the noise of that discussion can have the odd effect of drowning out one of our region's signature wild-food sources. We do live in a coastal city, after all, and stretching back millennia, inhabitants of the Los Angeles area have sustained themselves on proteins caught from the ocean. This tradition still lives on, thankfully, and thrives, often now in concert with other overlapping environmental and culinary pursuits. It's a beautiful thing when a piece of big-eye tuna meets pickled watermelon rind, red onion and shiso that likely were bought at the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market. Or when word gets out that a sliver of a restaurant on Pico procures bloody clams on a regular basis. And yet, despite best intentions, we often wind up eating seafood from globalized sources despite our immediate access to the Pacific. (It's complicated.)
Regardless, print out your Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch pocket guides or get the app if so inclined, or maybe even read up on your alarming-but-hopeful Paul Greenberg analysis of the current state of ocean-derived foods today. But don't let that destroy your appetite, since most of us could use an omega-3 boost. So turn the page for our picks for the 10 best seafood places in town.10. Fish King:
Whoever invented the fish market with attached restaurant was onto something. Because what better way to entice customers into consuming a highly perishable food than offering to cook it right then and there? Fish King has this routine down pat. Granted its neighborhood north of the 134 doesn't offer oceanfront views or crisp breezes, but it does have a killer market selection and menu in the Galley that gives customers a taste of what's available next door for home cooking. The list of what's served fried or charbroiled reads like a convenient primer on contemporary fish tastes in L.A.; plus there are sandwiches, chowders, sushi, sashmi, plenty on the half shell, and bulk sides ranging from steamed veggies to mac and cheese with ham. 722 N. Glendale Ave., Glendale; (818) 244-0804.9. Ricky's Fish Tacos:
Ricky's Fish Tacos speaks to so many quintessential Los Angeles experiences. The unconventional makeshift setting, its affable talented proprietor, a focus on a single food item that originates from just across the U.S.-Mexico border, the offbeat hours and other constraints that add to a certain mystique of scarcity. And Ricky's fans rely on his Twitter feed for updates. And best of all? Those bulky Ensenada style fish (and sometimes shrimp) tacos with a firm white flesh encased within the subtle heat of the tempura batter that's just shy of aggressively crispy. Then topped with cabbage and freshly prepped condiments added at your discretion. You know it's probably best to eat just one, but you can -- and very likely will -- eat three, chased with whatever agua fresca Ricky mixed up that morning. Think you can't finish that daunting double-length lobster taco Ricky gets when the season is right? Think again. 1400 N. Virgil Ave., Los Feliz.8. Fisherman's Outlet:
Located in the Warehouse District, the Fisherman's Outlet market and restaurant has done volume business for 40 years in an industrial corridor of eastern downtown that's better known for facilitating massive transport of goods than visible sidewalk dining street life. Fisherman's Outlet protocol isn't for the faint of heart; if the prospect of shouting your lunch order when you're still three people away from the harried employee who's going to instantly relay that information to the kitchen sounds too stressful, then better to find well-priced, giant plates of seafood elsewhere. But that would be missing out on a one-of-a-kind L.A. institution. Shrimp, scallops, crab cakes and various other "breaded fresh daily" items -- and the many customers carrying towering piles of fried seafood to picnic tables both indoors and out -- indicate the Fisherman's Outlet's deep fryers don't get much of a break. But a dish as innocuous-sounding as a broiled halibut steak (on fries with coleslaw, or with rice or salad, with a choice of Cajun, teriyaki or garlic butter sauce -- got that?) might demand that its consumer take a rest. 529 S. Central Ave., Downtown; (213) 627-7231.
Turn the page for #7, etc...