So my blonde sushi-friend and I were Downtown and looking for lunch and beer on a Sunday afternoon. Tired of Little Tokyo, we headed down Whittier, looking for a family place with local Mexican and beer. We ended up at Mariscos Tapatico, a Mexican seafood place in a strip mall on the corner of Whittier and Lorena (also in Montebello and Santa Ana.)
At 1pm on Sunday, the booth were full of families, with some kids in church-clothes having a play-date in the middle of the restaurant. We were seated quickly, though, and ordered a bucket of beers (3 Bud, 3 Corona) and a smoked fish taco to start.
The menu was heavily seafood, with grilled fish, "Cocatos" (cocktails) which looked like tomato-heavy ceviche, featuring shrimp, octopus, or combinations, Oysters (!) by the boatload, and lobster and crab. Whole grilled snapper and other fish, too, which looked great passing by us.
(Side Note -- It was amusing to see dishes which seemed to be variations of hoary French-American classics, like Langustinas Thermide (nee Lobster Thermador), with the same ingredients and Latinized names. They even had Oysters Rockefeller! Is this common?)
My friend ordered Steak & Lobster, and I ordered Camarones Diablo, then dug into the chips, salsa, beer and fish taco. The taco was a big grilled corn tortilla, with a soupy, red stew of smoked fish and tomatoes inside. Very smoky and fishy, pretty good but not great for $3.50. Salsa was good, sneaky-hot, brick-red with lots of chipotles.
After the taco, the waitress brought out cups of a tomato-y soup, lots of oregano, and bits of carrot and epazote (?) floating around. Decent. We sensed a tomato theme running through the meal. More beers (from the bucket) were opened. My blonde friend began to take on a deep pink gringo flush from the sneaky-heat of the salsa, as well as some mild sunstroke from unexpected bright sun at the dog park that morning.
The steak & lobster turned out to be a huge 1/2 lobster tail, topped with an excellent relish (?) of crabmeat and great caramelized onions, tomatoes and mild chilis, browned under the broiler. Also a thin steak, not outstanding but with good beefy flavor. The Camarones Diablo was 8 shrimp, smothered in another interesting variation of the smoky brick-red salsa/sauce that was ubiquitous, with rice, salad and some random fried potato wedges. (Note for those more savvy - the rice had peas and bits of carrot in it, which I have seen before at "El 7 Mare" - is this a Mexican coastal thing?)
The place was doing a steady business as we ate and ate , with more families coming in, most with kids, except for an all-male table of cousins/uncles/brothers in the corner booth, who ordered no food and seemed to have cleaned the kitchen out of some brands of beer, and were starting on a bucket of Tecate in cans, and are probably still there. We eventually got the check. ~$60.00 for two, eating steak, lobster, shrimp, and a bucket of beer, with a big box for lunch tomorrow.
In sum, a tasty, not-cheap-but-not-absurd, family seafood place. Worth a stop if you are in the area for lunch, maybe worth a detour if you are coming to downtown and want a houndly bite before your fancy cultural event Downtown. Sorry I don't have the full 411, but our departure was kind of hazy.
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