Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Man seeks mango, part 3
Another day, another fruteria sharing a pint-sized room with a money wiring company. This time, it's Botello's Fruit Bar in City Heights. One friend told me about it and I couldn't find it the other day, but I staged a counter-attack and finally ferreted this place out. It's in a wacky mini-mall that's accessible through a foolishly constructed passageway between the buildings that properly front University Avenue. For anyone trying to get there, just keep looking between Euclid and 47th on the north side of the street--I swear it's there.
The majority of English inside the store is the "cash only" sign. The rest of the literature is in Spanish, but I knew exactly what I wanted the second I saw it written out: mangoneada.
This whole quest for chili and mango concoctions sprung up after I ate a mangoneada in Puerto Nuevo and contemplated diablitos waiting in the line at San Ysidro. Finally running into a semi-convenient mangoneada in uptown San Diego was perfect. I've been avoiding having to go "all the way" to Neveria Tocumbo because it has been nothing but hot lately and, well, damn it I don't want to bike back up the hill and get all sweaty. There, I said it. I always knew where to get spicy, mango treats, but there had to be a better way.
Botello's mangoneada ($3.35 for a medium) was entirely unlike the typical chamoy-soaked popsicle in a Dixie cup. What I got was a huge cup of crushed ice, cubed mango, tamarind (or maybe hawthorn) candies, and a chamoy-heavy liquid that reminded me of a clamato, except minus the clam juice.
Neither a drink nor a dessert; not a snowcone; not a fruit cup. It was...unique. The mango was, sadly, under-ripened, which demoted the treat from "holy shit this is awesome" to "hot damn this is pretty freaking good." Still, the preposterous combination of spicy-salty-sweet-savory that should be overkill, but somehow works, was totally there. With perfect mango and more perfectly shaved ice the mangoneada from Botellos' would be off the hook.
Cute anecdote: I asked the woman who made it what the sauce was and she said "chamoy and secrets." Precious.
For my friend, they cut up a sizeable mango and dressed it with lime, chili, and chamoy for $3. Like the mangoneada, the only problem was the mango being unripened. Admittedly, that's a big problem, despite the fact that it was tasty as it was.
I also saw some "chicharron preparado" being fixed up at the counter. They looked killer. Big sheets of crispy porky skin laden with avocado, onions, salt, pepper, lime, and hot sauce. Of course, they were serving the last ones as I walked through the door and I couldn't get one. Boo.
Next quest? This one's just about at an end, but I'm going to wait for next month's Feast! issue to put the final puzzle piece into play.
Botello's Fruit Bar
4738 University Avenue