rubio’s california bowl / utc

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!

Multiple Locations

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.

6 thoughts on “rubio’s california bowl / utc

  1. Lol Rancho Cucamonga! I don’t know why, but I still remember the first time I’ve ever heard of that town. I was on the way to a church retreat in the church van and someone points out, “hey we’re passing Rancho Cucamonga!” And the name sounded so funny that I thought someone was making it up or butchering it. I look up and there’s the sign, Rancho Cucamonga.

    I love fish tacos. It’s one of those things that I did not like when I first tried it. It was not made yummy. And I never tried it again until years later when I had a bite of a friend’s and it was actually yummy! A poorly made anything can ruin a person’s experience and impression of a particular food. That was when I was younger. I am a lot more open to try again somewhere else if I did not like something at a particular place.

    1. Hi Miss Kim,

      It’s so funny – I still have to tell people where Rancho Cucamonga is half the time when I bring it up, haha! I’m surprised that city sign isn’t stolen more often as a novelty item.

      I totally agree with you on execution! I’ll go only to certain locations even if it’s the same restaurant because their cooks are better. I’m a nerd like that.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  2. Rubios is one of the few chain restaurants that I go to. Not only do you get free food during your birthday, but every couple of months they are introducing a new flavor that you can ‘RSVP’ to try. I’ve gotten a spot easily the last couple of times. Although, it’s currently ‘half’ for you, and half for a friend (if you bring someone). And I like their fish tacos! Maybe I’ll do taco tuesday tonight…

    1. Hi Lynn,

      That’s so cool – I didn’t know about that!

      I’ve been meaning to also check out the Rubio’s Test Kitchen that they have here in San Diego. I know that they often try out their newest recipes exclusively at this restaurant.

      P.S. I love taco tuesday! 🙂

  3. I’ve been to UTC and I thought the Rubio’s was inside the food court? And you would have to stand around, waiting for them to call your number, before you get the food?

    Your pictures are simply beautiful. Did you use your own camera or a phone?

    I used to frequent Rubio’s with sis when they had the langostinos. I love how they’d tout it as lobster too. Aren’t they more crawfish than lobster. And it wasn’t cheap either at Rubios.

    I think the local Rubios next to us remodeled. They now use real silverware.

    I went to Harry’s in LJ the other day and remembered your review 🙂 Hope to see more posts from you Minion!

    1. This was the other UTC-area Rubio’s over next to the Sprinkles – not the one in the mall where they make you awkwardly stand between the salsa bar and a Proactive skincare booth. The ambiance at this one is a lot nicer.

      Thank you for the photo props! I used my iPhone5s for all of the shots. It’s a surprisingly capable camera – I’ve even done some video work with it. I think that it works really well as long as you’ve got lots of sunlight.

      I totally have a huge bag of langostinos in the freezer right now! I’ve used them for homemade tacos and pasta dishes. They are definitely the poor man’s lobster, haha, but tasty nonetheless.

      Allison and I just went to Harry’s last Sunday for breakfast! I’ve decided that when I’m 65-70, I’m totally going to be one of those guys that has a reserved seat at the counter where the waitress knows your name.

      More posts to come soon… One day I may have time to debut “Minion Mondays.” 🙂

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