Fish Taco Smackdown: El Metate v. Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet
Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet, the James Beard award-winning regional minichain of faux fast-food eateries formerly known as Taylor's Automatic Refresher, is prized for burgers ― beef, turkey, and ahi, respectively. The beef is a local treasure ― a juicy, sloppy affair dripping pink sauce, tucked into a wax paper-and-cardboard sheath.
Irma E./Yelp Golden (brown) standard: Fish tacos at El Metate.
The menu, however, extends beyond drive-thru standbys. On a very recent excursion through Napa, we stopped over for a bite. Though sorely tempted by a pulled pork special, we stuck with the burger ― and supplemented our selection with an order of fish tacos, wondering how they'd stack up to those at our Mission District favorite, El Metate, located on the corner of Bryant and 22nd. The ever-expanding yellow taqueria's fish tacos ($2.75) consist of soft, chewy fried basa strips, lightly spiced and topped with iceberg lettuce shreds. Paired with fresh chips, a cup of the occasional off-menu extra-hot habañero salsa, and a few squirts of bottled hot sauce, it's a neighborhood feed with few cost-effective peers.
Gott's doesn't entirely butcher the form, but its rendition certainly wasn't worth the $12.99 we forked over: grilled, marinated mahi mahi with jalapeño-laced sour cream and fairly tasteless slaw on barely warm tortillas. The fish was reasonably well flavored, but one tortilla literally cracked in two places when we tried to fold up a saucy parcel: The taco fell apart. The fish was fresh ― a no-brainer for any quality-conscious and relatively pricey restaurant ― but the tortillas, ironically, had seen better days.
Jonas T./Yelp Fresh, but with unyielding tortillas: Fish tacos at Gott's.
El Metate 2406 Bryant (at 22nd St.), 641-7209
Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet 644 First St. (at Vernon), (707) 224-6900; also 1 Ferry Building #6 (at the Embarcadero), 318-3424