Shrimp Tacos – Mariscos El Jato – East Los Angeles

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I spotted this East LA seafood restaurant on a Sunday afternoon a couple of months ago. The reason I noticed it was the large number of customers, but that was the very reason that kept me from trying it that day. They were just too busy. I was in the neighborhood today, and had much better luck.

The menu has photos of the food, and my mind was made up the moment I saw the 5 Tacos de Camarón con Ensalada. It turned out to be 5 huge tacos buried under slices of avocado and a sour cream cole slaw. The tacos were filled with grilled shrimp that seemed to be lightly breaded, and a dash of pico de gallo, fried until they were crispy. I rarely encounter a crunchy taco, but the robust combination of seafood flavor, textures and even the warm and cool temperatures delivered on the promise I had seen in the photo.

I spoke with the owner, El Jato himself, a friendly, outgoing native of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, near Guadalajara. He told me that he created most of the dishes on the menu, and all of the plates I saw whizzing past me looked delicious. I saw beautiful tilapia fried whole, gigantic fish tacos, and big seafood-cocktailish looking dishes called chavelas.

So there are at least three more visits in my future, before I go for a repeat on the shrimp tacos.

Here’s the address: 2936 E. 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033

Phone: (323) 264-6590

Hotel Casino Plaza – Guadalajara

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I was tired when I arrived in Guadalajara after a surprisingly long bus ride from Puerto Vallarta (they look so close on the map) so I guess my negotiating skills weren’t at their peak. All the internet reviews I saw for Hotel Casino Plaza were excellent, and I figured I could persuade them to come down on their rate, which was a bit higher than my budget called for. I used all my most persuasive techniques, but they just wouldn’t drop the rate. Rather than go to the trouble of finding another hotel, I gave in, and registered.

What I got was a lovely, modern room in a first class hotel for a little under $50.00… Great value!

The hotel is within easy walking distance of the famous cathedrals and parks in the downtown historic district, and the staff couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful.

There’s no question that I’ll be staying here on my next visit to Guadalajara.

Watch Your Step in Mexico!

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For years, I’ve kept a photo album on Facebook in which I document wildly dangerous sidewalk conditions in Mexico. These range from open manholes in the middle of busy sidewalks to unsegregated construction sites and situations of general disrepair. Some of the situations are so outrageous by U.S. standards that they are quite entertaining. I generally keep a sharp eye out for danger, and I suppose the local residents do the same… But on a recent trip to Guadalajara, one of the hazards got me … and it wasn’t even an especially obvious one.

Here are a few examples:

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Here’s the one that got me – just a raised area in the middle of the asphalt, but the sun was shining in a way that I didn’t see the outline:

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And here I am, with a banged-up face, scraped and twisted glasses, and a big scrape on my shoulder:

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When I tripped, I took several steps, arms flailing like a windmill, hoping to regain my balance. When I finally, and very publicly fell, several people came to my rescue, and a young woman took me into the bar where she worked, and broke out the first-aid kit… It was embarrassing to explain to the tough-looking customers of the bar that I just tripped, and wasn’t in a fight.

So… watch your step!

La Gorda – Guadalajara – Torta Ahogada

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I’ve always been a fan of the Torta Ahogada, the drowned sandwich, and where would be a more appropriate place to have one than in Guadalajara, where they were invented? A nice crusty roll with chunks of moist braised pork, served in a rich pool of mildly spicy tomato sauce, I had to eat it quickly, before it lost its texture. La Gorda is a nice family restaurant that started as a neighborhood food cart in 1956.

Tortilla Soup

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The first time I ever heard of Tortilla Soup, I was in Guadalajara in 1992. I thought it was a joke, so I ordered it as a novelty. What I got was a rich, beautiful soup with big chunks of chicken, avocado and dried chiles, generously supported with toasted tortilla strips. It was absolutely delicious. The Belair Hotel in Los Angeles is justifiably famous for its Tortilla Soup, but it’s something I rarely see on a menu.

It seemed appropriate to have Tortilla Soup on my recent trip to Guadalajara, 21 years after I had it for the first time… It was still great.