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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The fish tacos

Where: El Ranchito Taco Shop, 34580 Monterey Ave., No. 103, Palm Desert

How much: $2.49

Contact: 760-320-9182; www.elranchitotacoshop.net

Why: The sauce, the crispiness and the price.

The first-ever Indy Endorsement was published on Nov. 1 of last year. The subject of our effusive praise: the fish tacos at Shanghai Reds.

Now, more than eight months later, we’re celebrating another Indy Endorsement first: For the first time, we’re endorsing essentially the same item (fish tacos) at a second restaurant.

One may have a reasonable expectation of getting a great fish taco at a local mini-chain that has “fish” in its name, as is the case of Shanghai Reds and its parent restaurant, Fisherman’s Market and Grill. However, one does not necessarily expect to get a great fish taco in a gigantic industrial-area Palm Desert strip mall that’s anchored by a freakin’ Walmart.

Yet that’s exactly what we found at El Ranchito Taco Shop. We wandered before a weekday Costco run—and were shocked to see every table in the smallish restaurant full. At 11 a.m. On a Friday. In the summer.

Fortunately, someone was leaving as we got in line to order, so the significant other nabbed the table while I stayed in line. I ordered several tacos, some chips, and an order of huevos rancheros ($5.25). An aside: El Ranchito serves breakfast all day, as all breakfast-serving restaurants should. Bless you, El Ranchito!

All of our food was tasty—but the fish taco, as you probably guessed from the fish-taco banter above, offered the best bites of the bunch. The cod was crispy and not overly oily; the white sauce was tangy and smooth; the cabbage and tomatoes were fresh and crisp. It was truly a pleasant surprise—and helped explain why El Ranchito was so damned busy at 11 a.m. on a Friday.

So, you may be wondering: Is the fish taco at El Ranchito as good as the one at Shanghai Reds? All things considered, yes: While the tortilla is far better with the Shanghai Reds taco (it’s thick and delicious, while the El Ranchito taco is wrapped in two average-tasting tortillas), the price is far better with the El Ranchito taco: It’s $1.46 less than the fish taco at Shanghai Reds.

And, unlike the Shanghai Reds taco, it’s available nearby before or after a Costco run.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The fish tacos (Baja fried or grilled)

Where: Shanghai Reds, inside of Fisherman's Market and Grill, 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95, or $2.95 during late-night happy hour (8 p.m. to close)

Contact info: 322-9293; www.fishermans.com/shanghaireds.php

Why: Because of the tortilla. Trust us.

These tacos aren't exactly a secret around these parts--they're perennial honorees in the Desert Magazine Best of the Valley competition (not that you should necessarily value such honors all that much)--but we're surprised at how many valley residents don't know about the delights at Shanghai Reds, the bar/casual area tucked behind Fisherman's (which also has a location in La Quinta).

The taco's ingredients are not that unusual: The taco includes white fish, topped with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, citrus and a tasty white sauce. What makes these fish tacos special is the wrapping--namely, the tortilla. It's a thick corn variety that spends a moment or three on the grill before meeting its contents, and that maize/char/yummy flavor ties the whole package together.

Somewhere along the line, far too many Americans settled for tortillas that are mere packaging--flavorless vessels to deliver flavor to one's mouth. Shanghai Reds reminds us that it's not supposed to be that way--and proves that a good tortilla can make oh so much difference.

Published in The Indy Endorsement