2234 Logan Ave.
Still sniffling but on the mend, I was glad that the old adage “Starve a fever, feed a cold” seemed to be true. Barring severe food poisoning or some other condition that puts me off eating entirely, I feed every malady that ever befalls me. I'd fortified myself already with lots of tea and fruit and a couple of raw garlic cloves, but I'd yet to feed my cold any soup, so when I picked up a friend in East Village for lunch, we headed to Siete Mares in Barrio Logan, whose namesake soup would surely aid my recovery.
Just a short hop from Downtown, Barrio Logan is among the city's best, and oldest, food neighborhoods. The predominantly Latino community has been embattled lately as it tries to hold on to its strong identity that generations who've lived in this area have worked to build—families like Carmen Montano's, who has cooked at Siete Mares, located a few blocks from Chicano Park, for 30 years and whose daughter is the restaurant's current owner.
Montano, who shifts between the kitchen stove and the restaurant floor, is no-nonsense and a little intimidating, but you sense that she has a silly, fun-loving side, too. The restaurant is currently Halloween'd out to the hilt, and it's Carmen who has decorated every possible surface with some kind of ghoul or goblin.
Since I was following the all-natural, non-pharmaceutical route of cold treatment, I figured it was OK to have a tangy and salty Michelada while I looked at the menu; besides, there's vitamin C in lime juice. I'm usually all about the craft beer, but there's something about a chili-and-salt-rimmed, frosted mug of light lager and lime that just makes me happy.
I first made an impulse order, because for some reason, my cold-addled brain saw the words “chicharron taco” and immediately jumped to a vision of moist, grilled fish topped with crunchy, crispy bits of pork skin. Does that only sound good to me? I love seafood and pork together. Instead, the taco came filled with chicharron de pescado—chewy chunks of fish, fried to oblivion—topped with sliced raw onion and chopped tomato. It was not nearly as good as the one I'd dreamed up in my mind
From the huge menu of Mexican seafood dishes, my friend chose the Camarones a la Diabla, a generous portion of shrimp in a spicy, cooked salsa of tomato and chilies. Then, I ordered what I came for, Caldo de Siete Mares, or Seven Seas Soup. Wary of the shellfish getting overcooked, I scooped them out and ate those first: small chunks of fish, bay scallops, shrimp, lovely and tender octopus and one big, somewhat tough clam. The large soup bowl comes with a little tray of garnishes, including fresh chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges and a side of warm corn tortillas. Rich and redolent of bay leaves, the broth is pleasantly spicy and salty but not overly so, though I did drink a lot of water with it to keep hydrated. It may not have completely cured me, but it did help unplug one stuffed-up nostril.
Siete Mares gives out rather stale fortune cookies at the end of the meal, so we headed a couple streets away, up to Latte Mi Corazon (129 25th St.), formerly Chicano Perk, for dessert. The amazing MexiMocha, made with cinnamon-spiked Mexican hot chocolate, would have been enough to hit my sweet spot, but we also decided to split a slice of fresh pumpkin bread, picked up that morning from local Sweet Cheeks Bakery. From the coffeehouse's comfortable patio I could see two of my favorite taco stands, La Fachada and Tacos El Paisa and debated which one to stop at next to further feed my cold.
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