Photograph by Edmund Barr
Mexico’s 6,000 miles of coastline touch the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the gulfs of California and Mexico, all of which inspire the country’s regional seafood specialties. In Ensenada, deep-fried lobster and fish tacos rule. On the east coast, it’s Spanish-influenced dishes a la veracruzana (with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic), and the Yucatán has tikín-xik, spiced fish cooked in a banana leaf. Ceviche, colossal seafood cocktails, and bouillabaisse-like soups are popular along the Pacific. L.A. may be far removed from Mexico’s beaches, but these independently owned marisquerías serve seafood that take you there.
El Puerto Escondido | Inglewood
If you find yourself craving spicy shrimp soup or octopus in garlic sauce at 4 a.m., hit this casual, efficiently run 24-hour haunt. Beautifully arranged seafood platters, or botanas, are ideal for groups. Tiradito ceviche (lime-and-chile-marinated fish cut sashimi style) served on a tostada is a great prelude to the filete al vapor—tender steamed perch topped with shrimp and a veil of cheese. Oysters on the half shell, Thursday’s special, are just $6 a dozen. » 915 W. Arbor Vitae St., Inglewood, 310-670-1014.
El Rinconcito del Mar | Boyle Heights
This East L.A. fixture is larger and fancier than it once was. Its caldo de siete mares is one of the city’s best versions of “seven seas” soup, chock-full of baby octopus, Manila clams, mussels, and fish, with a crab quarter emerging from a chile-kissed broth. The Cóctel Campechana, which takes its name from the Bay of Campeche, is a mixed-seafood cocktail that sings with freshness, while the Millionaire Shrimp, featuring a spiced fresh mushroom cream sauce, blends continental and Mexican flavors. » 2908 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights, 323-269-8723.
Tacos Baja Ensenada | East L.A.
Fans of this stylish converted burger stand are wild about the tacos with crisp batter-fried halibut topped with shredded cabbage, a shot of salsa, and tangy Mexican-style crema. Shrimp garnish the larger and spicier Baja fish taco. A tiny ceviche bar serves custom blends of lime-marinated seafood for topping a crisp tortilla. Seafood cócteles, in true Baja style, are served in a sauce of shellfish broth splashed with lime and cilantro. » 5385 Whittier Blvd., East L.A., 323-887-1980.
Viva la Vida Mariscos | Canoga Park
Seafood soups at this ample two-room dining hall are invigorating. One, colloquially known as Levántate Lázaro—for the New Testament figure who rose from the dead at Christ’s command—doubles as a hangover cure. Soups made with shrimp, octopus, clam, abalone, or any combination of the above are the specialty, but parilladas, mixed seafood grills, are popular, too. A $100 banquet includes skewered shellfish and fillets as well as whole fish. Although intended for six, it could easily sate a soccer team. » 8219 De Soto Ave., Canoga Park, 818-709-9867.
Photograph by EDMUND BARR