Tuesday, June 12th | Mariscos Jalisco | 753 E. Holt Ave, Pomona, CA 91767
We wonder if part of this recent sad poke fad* is that in eating fresh seafood, there’s a sense of nourishment, of eating (supposedly) tasty food, guilt-free. Maybe, too, there’s a feeling of being at one with Pacific Islanders and their cultural legacies in much the same racist way that early white Americans romanticized the noble savage. We wonder if possibly – bear with us – there is, as we (well, you) dip our (your) spoons into the bowl of poke, a slow unlidding within (y)our reptilian minds, old parts now awakening, that ancient limning of shore and sea, alert for a darting lunch of clean-flavored, palate-cleansing fish flesh. Perhaps lesser motives are involved: after all, a poke bowl is way cheaper than good sushi. Plus: ordering a poke bowl is like ordering at Chipotle! So many options, and, bro, you get to curate your meal! (Curation, after all, is very much what life is about in this country, this century.)
We do not, today, choose to dine at a poke bowl place. Instead we opt for what will certainly be the most risky of our let’s-eat-at-an-unknown-restaurant summer journey: Mariscos Jalisco. Just a few months’ old, this small-menued seafood place is on Holt in Pomona, a few blocks past our last stop, Hilltop’s.** This afternoon, we look at each other and think: should we go crazy and take a chance? Lunch at Mariscos Jalisco? Why not?
We fill our water bottles first (heads up: no free water), then make the drive to Pomona, using the La Verne–>San Antonio–>Holt route, faster if less interesting than White–>Holt (we’re hungry, is the thing). We pull in, park, step to the counter. A new menu greets as, and we see they’ve also recently added a credit card payment option (less than $10 incurs a 75¢ charge; even $10+, cash is the establishment-friendly way to go, folks). We daringly order four tacos dorados de camarones ($2.25 each). Not your average fish or shrimp taco, these tacos are filled with a mix of chopped shrimp, tomato, peppers, maybe a few things more, then fried so that the tortilla and the outer edge of the filling brown and crisp. The tacos are laid flat on a plate and spooned over with a simple but delicious salsa (tomato, chile, cilantro, chopped cabbage), and then the whole thing is overlaid with slices of avocado.
Q: Doesn’t that salsa make the crispy shell mushy?
A: The taco’s existence is too brief for such sorrows to take hold.
We also order the mixta ($6.50), a tostada piled with a fish ceviche, more slices of avocado, whole shrimp, and chunks of octopus that may have first been given a good roast, and the tower of seafood is then buried beneath a ladle of salsa. The shrimp is cooked, limey, oceanic; the octopus chunks are dense without being rubbery, and the sea they evoke is deeper, older (possibly just roastier); the ceviche is light, better with a squirt of lime, and, if you’re daring, a dash of the habanero hot sauce sitting in the enormous jar on the table. If you like your pulpo and camarón, the mixta is the clear choice; if you want lazier seas, stick to the ceviche.
Get the taco. One taco, two taco, three taco, four. The textural juxtaposition is as intense as the flavor, the hard boney crunch of the shell giving way to the soft savory/acidic/spice of the filling. Eating one-plus of these is overwhelmingly fulfilling in an animalistic way, a way in which all other tacos we’ve yet eaten very much failed to be. And as your reptile-self awakens, as you crunch through your taco, pausing at times to break off hunks of tortilla and pile them with ceviche, you’ll realize that here, in Pomona, you’re eating the ocean – and that Mariscos Jalisco is the best poke place around.
*poke in Hawaii: different story.
**and Mariscos Jalisco has also long been known as one of LA’s most beloved food trucks, winning multiple area taco competitions, landing on dozens of national best taco lists, not to mention Jonathan Gold’s famed 101 best list just last year, and it has been featured on the Netflix show Ugly Delicious, was ordered in by Chrissy Teigen for Oscars night this year, and, plus, we ate there already in April and have been dying to go back.