I love fish tacos. Even bolded like that, those words are inadequate to express how I feel about fish tacos. Fish tacos rank in my top 5 foods, easy, and on most days, I would probably rather have a fish taco than barbecue, pizza, or bacon. Oscar's Taco Shop on The Strip is one of the few places that sells fish tacos in Knoxville, and theirs are the best to be had in this sadly landlocked state in which I live. The fish tacos, the quality of the other dishes we've tried, and the friendly service are why Oscar's is one of only three restaurants in town that own a slot on our weekly eating out schedule. Wednesday night has been Taco Night for the last several months, mainly because Wednesday was the day we'd visit the Farmers Market at UT Gardens, which is just a couple of minutes from The Strip.
I remember the first time we tried Oscar's. It's located in a crummy spot on the far end of Cumberland Avenue. I've watched businesses and restaurants come and go in this little mini strip mall next to Mellow Mushroom, and everything, given enough time, has failed. So we walked in and I was thinking, "don't get too attached - this place won't last 6 months given the poor parking situation and all ebb and flow of student business." They've lasted for longer than a year and a half at least, given the date of the earliest reviews I could find, and I hope they never leave.
We started eating at Oscar's when our son was about a year old, and he's two and a half now. I remember being surprised when we first offered him a bite of my fish taco and he gobbled it down, asking for more. For quite a while his dinner consisted of a fish taco and bits and pieces of whatever his mom was eating, until he graduated to two of his own tacos. At some point his tastes shifted, however, so these days he shares an order of chicken fajitas with his mom.
Oscar's Chicken Fajitas are very good. I usually order them myself as well, unless I'm only in the mood for tacos. The chicken is well-cooked and never chewy or fatty, and the dish comes with a good mix of peppers, sour cream, guacamole, and pico. They normally come with rice and beans, but I substitute an extra side of beans for my rice and let my wife and son have my tortillas in an effort to reduce my carb intake. We've recently taken to asking them to leave off the lettuce, which improves the already good dish. Never really understood the practice of showering everything with shredded lettuce anyway.
Here's a shot of Oscar's Fish Tacos. They're fairly basic - a piece of fried fish, lettuce, pico, onions, pico, and sour cream wrapped up in a double corn tortilla. Sometimes they come out just a tad over fried, but even then, they put the competition to shame. I love these tacos so much I sometimes dream about what it would be like to enter a taco eating competition with them.
I also like Oscar's Carnitas, or pork tacos. I used to split my order evenly between them, but these days I mostly stick with the fish.
Some nights we order chips and queso, and the chips are always fresh and warm. The queso is some of the best queso in town as well, and several steps above what you would expect from a quick service place like Oscar's. One thing I can't stand is watery, thin queso. Oscar's queso is thick, warm, and has just enough pepper spice to make it interesting, but not so much that our toddler can't handle it.
One reason we keep coming back to Oscar's is the service. The young woman who takes our order is delightful and the fellows who make the food are friendly as well. They always seem very happy to see us, miss us on those rare weeks when we can't make it, and like everyone else we encounter, seem to appreciate how adorable our little boy is. On Wednesday afternoons, my wife and I typically have a quick iMessage or Google Hangouts exchange that goes like this:
Her: Meet you at Oscar's? Me: Yep.
It wouldn't occur to us to eat elsewhere, and when traffic was super crazy at the beginning of the Fall semester this year and the lot in front of Oscar's was full, it prevented us from eating there two weeks in a row. I'm enough of a creature of habit that it was hard to come up with another place to eat, because in my mind, Wednesday = Oscar's. I was pretty cranky those nights since I didn't get my fish tacos too.
I can't recommend Oscar's Taco Shop highly enough. Give it a shot - you'll like it. Just don't take our booth at the front of the restaurant. My boy likes to watch them make the food from his seat there.