Alambre – at Oaxaca On Wheels

The section of Santa Monica Boulevard between Barrington and Bundy in West Los Angeles has become a focal point for really good Mexican food trucks. I am usually distracted by one or the other of the two trucks that regularly park between my apartment and Oaxaca on Wheels, so it has taken me a while to get to it.

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I was impressed by the range of uniquely Oaxacan dishes, and finally had a chance to try the exotically and mysteriously named Alambre. I was fascinated for years by Vampiros, until I finally ordered them in Mazatlan one evening, and leaned they were just tacos. Good tacos, but just tacos. My fear was that I would be disappointed by Alambres, another dish I’ve seen on Mexican menus for years, but never tried. Instead, it brought back a couple of nice memories.

Some years ago, when I worked in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California, we ate lunch at a favorite Chinese restaurant 2 or 3 times a week. It primarily catered to Chinese customers, and they were surprised but pleased that a group of young American men had become regulars. One reason we liked it of course, was that the pretty waitresses laughed at our jokes. Our favorite joke was giving American names to the distinctly Chinese menu items. If we ordered Chinese tacos, the knew exactly which dumplings we wanted. We also enjoyed the Chinese hamburgers and the Chinese spaghetti… You get the idea.

As I was digging in to my beautiful plate of thinly sliced beef tasajo, green peppers, onions and chorizo covered in melted Oaxacan string cheese, I found myself thinking about the cheese steaks at Pat’s in Philadelphia. As I wrapped this delicious combination in rich, warm tortillas, I realized I was eating a Mexican Hoagie.

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The truck typically parks about a block east of Bundy, and has a loyal following. I know I’ll be going back to try more of their distinctive regionalMexican dishes.

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Mr. Lobster – Mazatlán – Fish Ceviche

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Mr. Lobster is a bright, cheerful place in an upscale area just a few blocks north of the Malecón.

As you may have gathered by now, I do enjoy ceviche. There was a choice of ceviches, and I went for the fish. I’ve never seen it served this way, minced with tomato, cucumber, carrots and onion, and it was a refreshing treat on a hot afternoon. Several bites in, I realized I was violating an important traveler’s rule by eating the unpeeled tomato, but I figured it was to late to change my mind, and went ahead and ate it with great pleasure. There was no problem in this case, but I still try to be careful.

Definitely a nice choice for authentic Sinaloa style seafood.

Vampiros – Mazatlán

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How could I possibly resist a dish called Vampiros?

It was a busy taco stand – actually a large restaurant in a row of those metal-roof, garage-like spaces – and I chose it because it was the busiest place along the strip of road leading to the beach. I got to chatting with a cab driver, who told me I had chosen the best place, because it’s where the drivers go… I suppose they have special culinary sensibilities.

With great expectations, I waited for my Vampiros, but was a bit disappointed when they turned out to be Tacos al Pastor. I’m not sure what distinguishes Vampiros from tacos, but they were absolutely delicious. My favorite tacos are in Tijuana and Mexico City, but these ran a close third. Richly spiced marinated pork, cut directly from the vertical grill, served with a wider-than-usual selection of accompaniments, I was thrilled.

Maybe taxi drivers know what they’re eating after all.

Alagua – Mazatlán – Aguachile de Camarón

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This is a wonderful ceviche dish that I just discovered recently. Alagua is one of the best seafood restaurants in Mazatlán, and they do a spectacular version of the famous Sinaloa dish.

The freshest of shrimp are shelled raw, “cooked” in lime juice and served with chopped cucmbers, onion and a jalapeño purée.There couldn’t be a more perfect dish to eat right at the beach with the warm breeze on your face.