[this pic fails]
Hello TJ Oyster Bar. The restaurant is located in a small strip mall in Bonita. Yes, I know... this isn't the best picture of the joint, but this is what I get for forgetting to take one and this is what I captured as we drove away. Do you see how close the TJ Oyster Bar sign is to the barber shop sign? Draw an imaginary line between the signs and this tells you what a small restaurant this place is. It is TINY! But that doesn't matter.... the food matters, right? Alright, here we go....
Hubs and I visited TJ Oyster Bar during the 'Summer of Janice' because I have been hearing rave reviews about their dollar fish tacos on Facebook and via word of mouth. Everyone mentioned that they love coming here so I was interested to see what the hype was. We walked the restaurant on an early weekday afternoon - there was a line, but it went really quick. There was one cash register, a 'kitchen' in the front, a countertop that overlooks the kitchen with seating, a countertop eating area facing the outside window, and, I believe, three tables to sit two people each.
[menu en espanol]
TJ Oyster Bar offers a variety of tacos other than crispy fish, like oyster, shrimp, and even grilled fish tacos. They also serve other specialties like whole fried fish, ‘aguachile in molcajete’ [raw shrimp in lemon juice and hot chile], oysters in a half shell for a $1.40 each, and traditional burritos. We were here for the tacos!
At the register, I ordered two $0.99 fish tacos, an oyster taco (it is called TJ Oyster Bar.... had to try an oyster taco) [$2.25] and a side of refried beans [$1.50]. Hubby ordered two grilled fish tacos [$1.50 each]. We were lucky enough to grab a table for two since we beat the lunch rush.
[one table behind me & another behind him]
As we waited, we noticed a lot of take out orders being placed as the locals know that a seat here would be impossible during peak hours (lunch and dinner time).
We did not wait a long time because our order was made in a jiffy by the experts in the kitchen and immediately brought to us... fresh and made to order!
The fish tacos come in 'street taco' size. The fish is battered and fried to a crisp, served with chopped cabbage, tomato and crema in a corn tortilla. The batter was light, crunchy, and the fish was deliciously fresh tasting. I could have eaten five of these in one sitting. Although tortilla was small, the fish took up a good portion of the tortilla.
The fried oyster taco looked exactly like the fish with the same toppings, but of course, had a way different flavor. The oyster taste was really good. It tasted like the sea and it was a nice flavor in my mouth. The fried oyster reminded me of the 'kaki fry' I like ordering at my favorite Japanese restaurant Ichiro. $2.25 for one small oyster taco was a bit on the pricey side since you can buy two fish tacos for that amount, but I was very happy that I tried it. It was yum!
The refried beans were good, but nothing spectacular. It was a scoop or two of refried beans placed on a Dixie plate with Monterey Jack cheese on top. I felt like I needed a different flavor other than my tacos and that was the reason why I ordered it. I will just stick to the tacos next time I visit.
Mike's grilled fish tacos were made with a flaky white fish, probably the same they batter and fry, cilantro, chopped onions, and crema. The fish was cooked perfectly and were really tender. They piled on the fish onto one taco! For $1.50 each, if you want to skip the fried goodness, this certainly is a deal too.
The staff is very friendly. The hostess/cashier/server (multi-tasker) asked us if we wanted more tacos for our table as she cleaned up our plates. Wow, pretty cool because it was like, "Eat more and pay later." We had our taco fix so we kindly declined to enable other guests to sit at our table.
I wrote about TJ Oyster Bar on DiegoOnADime.com as one of five 'Cheap Eats in San Diego' [clicky]. I really recommend this place for a quick and affordable meal. Here's a tip... go early, they open at 10:00 AM and enjoy!