Mariscos German2802 Ocean View Blvd. Logan Heights 619-239-3782
When I ask a friend to join me for a meal, there's a certain amount of risk involved; it's not like I try to freak people out or anything, but I don't tolerate fussy tastes or close-mindedness. But most of my close friends will try anything, and that's why I love them. Still, I'm sensitive to the fact that sometimes a good dining experience is as much about the atmosphere as the food. Just because I don't mind eating under a plastic tent on a dirt-covered parking lot at the edge of a busy city road doesn't mean everyone else does.
I'd been raving about this taco truck for months. It was first discovered by a friend, Alex—a more intrepid foodie than I. I'd really never tasted anything so good from a kitchen on wheels: fresh seafood—shrimp, octopus, fish and more—piled into warm, griddle-cooked corn tortillas. Eating these tacos under the shade of a tarp set up in front of the truck is a fun adventure, but when it came time to bring along more of the gang, I knew the six of us were not going to successfully squeeze around the single table.
In addition to its three lunch trucks scattered throughout the county (the closest one to Downtown is at University Avenue and 35th Street in City Heights), Mariscos German also operates a couple of sit-down, four-walled restaurants that serve the same menu as the trucks and much more. We met up at the one in Logan Heights, which is shaped like a fishing boat and hard to miss, all bedecked in brightly colored paint. If you've ever watched SpongeBob SquarePants, the interior looks like The Krusty Krab come to life—a seafood shanty with a tinge of slightly worn theme park with the blaring brass of banda music as the soundtrack (which would be very festive if it didn't occasionally jump to bleeding-ear-drum decibels).
I wasn't positive that the restaurant served beer, so I brought some along just in case. They do, but it was Coors Light, so I was glad we came prepared. Mariscos German serves the familiar fried-fish taco topped with white sauce, but if you're craving this flavor combo, you'd be better off getting the pescado a la plancha, a griddle-seared piece of fish topped with cabbage and a lighter-than-most creamy sauce. Even tastier are the grilled bay scallops, tiny and sweet and prepared the same way as the fish. My favorite is the octopus taco, nicely char-grilled and still very tender.
And my friends got their first taste of smoked marlin, which looks like Chinese barbecued pork with a similar pinky-red exterior and dense, meaty texture. The chunks of smoked fish, sautéed with onions and peppers, are anchored to a tortilla with a bit of melted cheese that also keeps the tortilla from getting soggy.
We wanted to share the seafood cocktail, served in a whole, fresh young coconut, but they were out of coconuts that day, so they gave us the tomato juice, onion, avocado, cilantro and marinated seafood mix (with whole shrimp, octopus, scallops, clams and oysters) in an enormous glass goblet. The chilled seafood was fantastic, especially stacked on fresh, crisp tortilla chips with a dot or two of homemade fruity and spicy habanero hot sauce. It was a hot and humid day, so we also ordered a shrimp and octopus ceviche tostada. I love the toasted corn flavor of the crunchy tortilla with the lime-pucker of cool ceviche; a few extra slices of pickled onion from the communal bowl help punch up the twang.
Even I was daunted by the cheese-stuffed shrimp, wrapped in bacon and then deep-fried. Holy heart attack, were they rich—but I couldn't get enough of the camarones al mojo de ajo, nearly a dozen firm, perfectly cooked shrimp lounging in a garlic sauce so good that you want to drink it through a straw. And you can bet I'm coming back for Puerto Nuevo-style local lobster when the season starts up again in the fall.
Though I'd rather have eaten all this fresh seafood on a Mexican beach with my feet in the sand, sitting in this special little place among friends felt pretty great, too.