The taquero behind the famous Ricky’s Fish Tacos announces he’s leaving L.A.

A man leans out the window of a food truck, passing a plate of tacos to an outstretched hand.
Ricky Piña, owner of Ricky’s Fish Tacos, peers out from the window of his then-new food truck in 2013. After October he plans to relocate his taco truck to Kern County.
(Javier Cabral / For The Times)

After more than a decade spent serving some of the most crunchy-battered, highly acclaimed Ensenada-style fish and shrimp tacos in Los Angeles, taquero Ricky Piña says it’s time for him to move on from L.A. County — at least for the foreseeable future.

The award-winning taquero garnered national attention, first popping up in Silver Lake in 2009 with a metal three-drawer filing cabinet that Piña had converted into a makeshift fryer, then with a food truck parked primarily in Los Feliz, and, more recently, in Hollywood, where he plans to sell seafood tacos for the next two weekends before leaving town.

The announcement, posted Monday evening via Twitter, shocked Ricky’s Fish Tacos fans, who called the news “devastating,” “very sad” and “a terrible loss for L.A.” Piña, who plans to move to Kern County and sell his tacos in Bakersfield and beyond, sees the moment as an opportunity to live closer to his family there and to plan his next steps, such as a fry-at-home product he’s hoping to eventually release.


“I stopped reading the tweets right now because I’m getting upset,” he said shortly after making the announcement. “I’m trying to tell them, ‘No, this is a happy thing, let’s move on happily and let’s enjoy our last taco in L.A.’”

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Ideally Piña says he would like to find a parking lot that could host his truck and its patrons during his last two weekends of service in L.A., so as to not spill down the sidewalk along a busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard. If he cannot, he plans to park at 5609 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, where he’s been located recently, vending from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21 to 23 and Oct. 28 to 30. He also hopes to return to L.A. for private events and other catering opportunities that could arise.

He cites a range of factors that led to his decision to head north: the recent dissolution of a financial partnership; harassment, though he declined to elaborate; and street closures and myriad other instances of red tape that led to frustrating, temporary relocations. In 2020 he considered selling his business but maintains that he was not sure that he wanted to sell. He wound up not selling, and sticking it out. In March 2022 he paused service because the street he was selling on had to close temporarily. It wasn’t the last time this year he’d have to close and reopen.

“I closed for a couple of months and then I opened again, and then I closed again because of the same kind of problems,” he said. “The food industry, it’s very dark. It has its dark side.”

Throughout the difficulties — felt especially in the last two or three years, he says — Piña doesn’t fault Los Angeles, noting that there is good and bad everywhere, and that most of his time cooking in L.A. has been a dream, especially to a little boy who grew up star-struck watching television in Baja.

Piña was born the youngest of seven siblings, whose father, a mechanic, was inclined to bring his five sons outside to help him with mechanical work and, by proxy, coating his children in grease and dirt. “My mother would hate that and she would ask him, ‘Please leave just one in the house that doesn’t get so dirty.’ And so I was like, ‘Me! me! I’ll stay,’” Piña said. “So I learned how to cook with my mom.”

A plate of two fish tacos at Ricky's in 2013
Piña learned to cook with his mom in Ensenada. After moving to Los Angeles, he decided to try his hand at making his own fish tacos using a family recipe.
(Javier Cabral / For The Times)

He would watch her work and help her prep, asking questions through every step. By age 12 he could make flour tortillas, and by 16 he was cooking Thanksgiving dinner himself. He moved to Los Angeles at 19, living in Reseda and working as a florist, a lab technician and a construction worker, among other gigs for the first few years, periodically visiting Ensenada — especially when craving a fish taco, one of his favorite dishes. “I would drive all the way to Ensenada because there was no good fish taco in the Valley or L.A., to me,” he said. “You know how picky you are when it’s your hometown dish.”

Missing them and needing a bit of extra income, he began cooking his own using a recipe from his mom, grandma and sisters, but adding his own personal touches. He first popped up on the sidewalk in Silver Lake, converting the metal filing cabinet into a fryer on wheels, drawers removed and flipped on its side. Three months in, he had to upgrade to larger fryers due to the demand; over the following months, his weekend operation proved far more lucrative than he ever imagined.

“My boss from the flower shop went, ‘You go make your tacos, get out of here.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to leave my paycheck.’ And he said, ‘You’re not gonna need it, but in case you do, the doors are open for you again.’ So he kicked me out, and he basically fired me because he knew I was gonna make it out there.”

After being shut down by the health department, he secured a loan for his now-famous food truck, and began accruing even more business. The chef has appeared on numerous food TV shows, demonstrating the attention he pours into each taco: garlic-brining swai filets, and making the batter fresh each day from a blend of flour, baking powder, yellow mustard, mayonnaise and salt, which puffs beautifully around the meat of the fish. Once a fluffy golden brown, it’s placed in a Guerrero tortilla and topped with cabbage and pico de gallo. Some fans drive for hours, some live in other countries. Some include A-list celebrities, a dream come true for Piña’s boyhood self.

“I used to see all the actors and actresses from Hollywood [on TV], and I’d say, ‘One day I might meet an actor or actress,’” Piña said. “I got to do a lot of cool things with Andy Garcia, and Kristen Stewart would eat at my place when I was on Riverside Drive … what I did in L.A. has been pleasurable and it’s been enough for me, for that kid back in Ensenada. I’m proud of my work and what I’m trying to say is it will be a loss if I don’t fight for this product to stay alive.”


As with his appearances in L.A., fans will find Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Kern County via Twitter posts that announce the dates, times and locations the truck will pop up. While there, Piña’s family wants to help him garner more of a social media presence, beyond Twitter. His nephews plan to film his last Los Angeles pop-ups, and trail his journey driving to and serving Kern; they also hope to launch a Youtube channel for the chef.

“Once I get there, they’re gonna start documenting how hard or how easy it was for me to start all over again in a different place,” he said. He knows that it could be difficult building his fan base from scratch, but the adjustment isn’t something he’s too concerned about: “To me, this kind of work comes natural, and believe it or not I’m a little bit of a people’s person. I like to serve. I can do that anywhere, and I’m not afraid of starting all over again or making less money than here.”

You can put him anywhere, he says — right off a freeway or surrounded by people or in the middle of nowhere — and he’ll make it work. But this weekend and next he’ll be making it work in Los Angeles, at least for a little longer.