The RV Chronicles — Beating up on restaurants at the ‘Jimmy Rockford’ (Recipe: Fish Nachos)

Truth is, much of my cooking and recipe development originates with restaurant let-downs.

One of the more recent disappointments reared its head at a fish taco dive in downtown Austin. My wife and I were there for the weekend for her very first 5K, and we’d decided to take in some of the city’s weird culture in the mean time.

The fish nachos looked like a real winner on the menu. My fellow Yelpers even gave it a thumbs up. But what arrived at my place at the bar was an underachievement, to put it kindly.

If I were king of the restaurant world, I would insist on refried beans (instead of tossing a few unseasoned black beans atop the mixture), creamy melting cheeses (opposed to the waxiest yellow stuff on Sysco’s inventory list) and any fish other than tilapia, as most line cooks tend to cook this thin unimpressive seafood to the jerky stage.

Here’s what my version would look like. You’ll have to taste for yourself, and I hope you do.

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Fish Nachos

Fish Nachos —

Fish Nachos — Hands down better than the local taco joint’s version

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fish Nachos
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Tex-Mex/Mexican
  • 1 lb – Firm white fish fillets (cod, haddock, grouper or snapper)
  • ½ recipe – Chipotle Garlic Mojo (see below)
  • 8 oz (about ½ bag) – Tortilla chips
  • 1 (15 oz can) – Black beans, drained
  • ½ cup – Shredded cheese (mild Cheddar, smoked Gouda or Mozzarella)
  • ⅓ cup – Salsa
  • 3-4 – Sweet peppers (the small ones), sliced
  • 2 TB – Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for coating fish)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (about 2 tsp each)
Prepare the beans
  1. In a blender, food processor or by hand, mash/puree the beans with the salsa.
  2. Microwave, uncovered, for about 2 minutes.
  3. Set aside (covered).
Prepare the fish
  1. Brush fillets on all sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. If grilling: Preheat grill to medium-high; place fish on grate and cook – without trying to flip or move it – for about 4 minutes*; flip the fish and cook for another 3 minutes, or so; remove from grill and place on plate; top with Chipotle Garlic Mojo.
  3. If pan searing: Preheat pan to medium-high; cook fish – without trying to flip or move it – for about 4 minutes*; flip the fish and cook for another 3 minutes, or so; remove from pan and place on plate; top with Chipotle Garlic Mojo.
Make the nachos
  1. On a large plate, spread the chips.
  2. Top with at least half of the black bean mixture (I prefer to use it all. If you don't, the leftovers taste great by themselves or rolled with cheese in a flour tortilla.)
  3. Top with cheese.
  4. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until cheese is mostly melted.
  5. With a spatula or fork, break up the fish fillets and top the nachos.
  6. Garnish with peppers and cilantro.
  7. Serve immediately.
*- For ½ – ¾ inch thick fillets.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chipotle Garlic Mojo
An outstanding sauce or marinade for anything Latin. And it keeps well.
Recipe type: Sauce/Marinade
Cuisine: Mexican/Cuban
  • 8 – Garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – Canned chipotle en adobo
  • ¼ cup – Fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup – Bitter orange juice*
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until just slightly chunky.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.
*-This is available in most large supermarkets in the Latin food section. Substitute 2TB each of orange and lime juice.



  1. I am embarrassed to say that I have never had a fish taco and certainly never even heard of fish nachos so this is totally on the Must Try list for me – especially that Garlic Mojo!

    • adamjholland says:

      You know, Kelli, I really should do a better job of giving mojo its due. It is an outstanding marinade and basting sauce (there are countless versions of the stuff).

  2. Hi there Adam,
    I can see where you’d be the guy to ‘fix’ restaurant fails and your fish taco looks pretty spectacular. We’re so lucky to have a fantastic restaurant in the next town over that covers just about everything & remarkably does it all well. The owner is from Louisiana so tends to offer cajun type dishes but one of my favorite menu items is a fish taco that makes my mouth really happy.

    Congratulations to your wife on her first 5K. Quite an accomplishment.

    • adamjholland says:

      Howdy, Diane! Believe it or not, I’d prefer to just have the restaurant you speak of — that make good stuff across the board. I appreciate your kind words and hop you are well. Good to see you.

  3. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    Well. Adam. You DO know you have to talk to a REAL local to get the low-down on any type of taco in Austin, dang! I don’t rely on Yelp for any reviews. Almost all Yelp reviewers are from out of town. Sorry about your let-down in Austin but hey, you made a great nacho dish as a result, YAY!

  4. Nice job Adam. And bless your tried-and-true Tex-Mex heart for calling out those black beans. I’m surprised it wasn’t in your final recipe. And I agree about that tilapia. It’s a boring fish in my books.

    • adamjholland says:

      I don’t have an issue with frijoles negros. But when you toss a few drained black beans on top of a pile of congealed cheese, it’s a problem. Hope you’re well, Lea Ann. Glad you stopped by. 🙂

  5. Hi Adam…..could you please clarify in making the chipotle garlic mojo, do you use the whole can of chipotle en adobo or just one chipotle. I plan on making this but don’t want destroy the flavor.

    • adamjholland says:

      John – Just one from the can. That can will last you a couple weeks in the fridge. On the other hand, it’s about a dollar. (So you can toss it without feeling like you’ve wasted a ton of money.)

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