You notice it as you come in on the Blue Line: The pool of light. The clump of customers. The mariscos (seafood) food truck. Everybody's standing around, heads forward, chowing down. Lotta customers: good sign.
So I hop off at the stop right past it, Iris Avenue, and hurry back across Iris to the parking lot outside Liva Abarrotes y Carnes warehouse to see if they're still serving. Because we're way past seven, they officially close at six, and already I see guys cleaning up, emptying the garbage pails.
"You still open?" I say through the little window.
"Yes," says the guy. Then he looks across to the chef. "Right, dad?"
That's when I recognize him. The dad. Salomon. Salomon Cebreros.
I don't remember his last name till I see it written on the side of the truck. But I recognize his cheery face. And then I remember another thing. There it is on the truckside menu. Ranas. Oh yeah. Frogs! I was here before. Had frog tacos last time. Man, so surprisingly delish.
Salomon greets me like an old friend. Can't believe he remembers me. Maybe it was the big deal I made about the frogs last time. These guys are from Culiacán (the capital of Sinaloa, famous for its cooks). And yes, those ranas: Tasty, squidgy, like a cross between chicken and alligator.
"More ranas?" says Sal.
Except right now I'm in fish mode. Had a delicious fish taco up the line at Palomar the other night (Mariscos Germán — see this week's Tin Fork). Here, their basic fish taco is $1.25. Shrimp's $1.50.
Sal and Salomon Jr (Eric) and his brother Eddie run this place. It has always been a family thing.
I almost go for the Caldo — soup — Tres Rios y Los Vichis, a play on "Siete Mares," I think, except only three fishes involved here. And also right now, it's a question of time, money, them closing...so I pass up the caldos and the cockteles, and ask for a fish taco and a shrimp taco.
Bottom line: big, generous, battered, with shredded cabbage, tomato chunks, onions, lots of creamy sauce and good strong corn tortillas that aren't going to fall apart at the first bite.
They have so many hot sauces. I go for Castillo 7 Mares for the fish, and Tamazula Extra Hot for the shrimp. They're both, well, extra hot.
Of course, nowhere to sit. Let's all thank the City health authorities for that. Somehow the City figures making us stand up when we eat is healthier for the community. Go figure.
But it's worth it. Lush ain't the word. And really, I'm full, and $2.75 down. Try finding that deal in La Jolla.