In the blink of an eye, the building that once held Brown Bag Burgers was magically transformed into Baja Pizzafish. Mind you, this restaurant is on my route to work – it’s right next to Danny Boys and Quaker Steak – so I pass it 2-4 times per day…but I hardly noticed the transition. Literally, the switch happened that fast. Opened by the same owners as Old Carolina BBQ, the apparent concept was to bring some West Coast style and healthy cuisine to the midwest.
I didn’t take a photo of the outside of the building, but truth be told, you’re not missing much. The only good thing going on outside is a sign referencing “fish tacos,” which is ultimately what drew me in. Inside, is a different story entirely; you’re greeted with brightly colored walls with bikes and surf boards hanging on them, a semi-open kitchen, and California references galore.
The menu is simple but interesting. It boils down to tacos, rice bowls, pizzas, and salads. The tacos and bowls are built basically the same, with shared options – the obvious difference being tortillas versus rice/beans. First selection is fillings, choice of: mahi mahi, citrus grilled shrimp, salmon, grilled chicken, and veggie (red pepper, squash and zucchini). Once you’ve decided on a filling, next you pick your “style” – baja, cabo, cantina, cali, or malibu – all of which consist of some combination of salsas (mango, tomato, or corn), sauces (avocado ranch, baja ranchero, garlic-lime, or roasted red pepper) and lettuce or cabbage. I know, complicated, right?! It’s really not. Just seems that way the first time you order.
I opted for the shrimp tacos, Malibu style, mainly because I wanted to try the mango salsa. Overall these tacos were delicious. If I wanted to get all picky I would have a few comments. As you can see they were served on flour tortillas, which are fine, but not very authentic; nobody serving authentic Mexican food in California is serving tacos on flour. The menu says you have a choice of flour or corn, but they didn’t ask, and gave me flour – my guess is that flour is what most people in NE Ohio would prefer, so that’s the default selection. Again, totally fine, but I would have preferred corn. As for the fillings, the shrimp were small, and honestly after finishing two tacos, I was still hungry. However, for only $6, you could order something else small to supplement. Also, the mangos didn’t taste fresh, although let’s face, how could they be?! Again, Northeast Ohio, we’re going to have to make some compromises. All in all, delicious, and I would absolutely order them again, after trying some other menu items.
Dave opted for a brick oven pizza; this one is Manhattan Beach Sausage & Pepperoni with fresh mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, banana peppers, and oregano. The portion size is basically intended for one person, but unlike the tacos, it is a fairly generous size for one. And I will say it was very good, although obviously off-course from the California theme of the restaurant. Still, I’m a big fan of the brick oven and wood-fired pizza, yummy. This pizza was elevated to another level when we discovered the seasoned olive oil on the table. The crust made a sturdy vehicle to sop up some oil and add another flavor dimension.
While we were eating, the manager stopped by and apologized for our food taking so long. (Quite honestly, we hadn’t really noticed, we were busy chatting and generally soaking in the vibe.) She gave us a coupon for a free pizza to make up for our “extended” wait time. Yeah! So needless to say, I was back within days to cash in on the coupon and try more pizza.
On my second trip, I opted for the mahi mahi tacos, Cabo style, as suggested on the menu. Once again I forgot to request corn tortillas. Still, these tacos were delicious – Cabo style includes corn salsa and garlic-lime sauce, which was outstanding and complimented the flaky fish perfectly. Honestly, I could drink this garlic lime sauce. Killer.
For our free pizza, I ordered the Santa Barbara Shrimp & Pesto, which has basil pesto (as the sauce), monterey jack, fresh mozzarella, grilled shrimp, pine nuts, Parmesan, and cracked black pepper. I could barely get this thing home – the aromas filling my car were making me want to rip open the box and inhale a slice. Somehow I managed to refrain. When I got home, it turned out to be all that the smells promised to be…..I loved the pesto and pine nuts, such strong garlic flavors. Fantastic. Again, small issue that could easily be remedied: the pie could have benefited from more shrimp. As you can see, there was on average only one piece per slice. But other than that, a must try.
Loving the branding and California-esque style of the whole place. I’ve got to say, it did take me back to San Diego just a little. Reminded me of some cross between Rubio’s and Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, two San Diego staples. Great food, fun vibe, easy on the wallet…..a winning combo in my book.