Minion David is here to report back on a recent visit to Rubio’s.
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While I’ve lived in San Diego for more than a decade, I had my first fish taco when a Rubio’s opened up in the mid-90’s in my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga. Yes, that city actually exists and, no, it’s not like that movie Next Friday with Ice Cube. Well, most of it at least, but that’s a story for another time.
I remember occasionally stopping by the restaurant with friends when we tired of our normal fast food haunts and craved something a bit healthier. I never strayed far from the tried-and-true battered fish tacos, though, so when Rubio’s invited me to try their new California Bowl I thought that it would be fun to stroll down memory lane while trying out something new.
With a complimentary gift card in hand, I strolled to a nearby Rubio’s in UTC. After perusing the menu a bit, I noticed that you have a couple of customization options. You can first choose from four different proteins – shrimp, tilapia, mahi-mahi and chicken. If you choose one of the fish options, you can also tell them whether you want it blackened or grilled. You’re then offered the choice of two different sauces – red tomatillo salsa or salsa verde.
I decided to go with the grilled mahi-mahi since it’s one of my favorite types of fish and topped off the bowl with some freshly made red tomatillo salsa. After ordering, I took a seat at one of the nice, big outdoor tables. The Rubio’s in the UTC area actually has a rather comfortable, quiet atmosphere. It’s got a big outdoor patio where you can sit and people watch while you chow down. After a few minutes of enjoying the San Diego sun, a friendly server brought my food over.
The dish is actually closer to a teriyaki bowl than a salad as I originally thought when I read the description. While it’s true that there’s romaine lettuce in the mix, the rice is the true foundation. It’s flavored with citrus, but I only tasted a very faint trace of lime. It was also a little too firm for my taste, but nothing to really complain about.
After sampling the base, I tried to get a taste of each ingredient mixed into one bite. I carefully loaded up my fork with black beans, lettuce, rice, guacamole and fish, while trying to soak up a bit of the salsa.
The salsa fresca was pretty fresh tasting and the tomatillo had a surprisingly decent amount of heat. I was expecting Rubio’s to go the safer route with the spice, but I was glad that they didn’t. The tomatillo salsa had some smoky notes with a bit of garlic that paired really well with the beans.
Though the fish tasted ok with some very light seasoning, it was overdone. It flaked well enough, but it was dry and it definitely required something to perk it up. Luckily, I noticed that Rubio’s now offers bottled hot sauces in addition to their normal salsa bar. The Jalapeño Citrus flavor caught my attention, so I knew that I had to taste it. I’m so happy that I did. It really gave the fish some much-needed kick. *Cue the whipping sound and horse whinny from the old Pace Picante Sauce commercials* The tanginess of the peppery lime mixed with the creamy guacamole and grilled meat just made the entire bowl come together.
All-in-all, I was pleasantly surprised by the California Bowl. It’s a relatively healthy and affordable meal for when you need something quick. At less than $10, you’re given a reasonable amount of food that you won’t feel guilty eating after skipping the gym for the third day in a row to binge watch Game of Thrones. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to stop by, but don’t be surprised if you see me in line during my lunch hour at the office!
Disclaimer: a complimentary gift card was issue to Minion David. Minion was not further compensated and all opinions stated here are the author’s own.