Mariscos El Pescador: A Snail's Grace

[Hole In the Wall] This Santa Ana lonchera is the only place in OC that sells the spectacular sea snail

The lonchera version of a clustertruck occurs every day on the corner of Bishop and Main streets in Santa Ana, where a parade of Mexican food trucks keeps you fed from morning until night. The lineup changes without notice, but the two constants over the past couple of months have been Ruben's Tacos y Mulitas (which has occupied a space here for years, but packs up every evening and moves to the corner of Walnut Street and Cypress Avenue for the rest of the night) and Mariscos El Pescador, which also closes shop at the end of the day. It's a small miracle the latter has stayed around as long as it has because Ruben's also has its own Mexican seafood truck—an excellent one, at that. For months, the two would park next to each other, a showdown of Bobby Flay proportions—and El Pescador won, since Ruben's mariscos trucks now heads to other places during the day.

That doesn't mean El Pescador can rest easy; another seafood truck now parks directly across from it, using the same slogan. But El Pescador remains on top, and not just because of an awesome wrap job that features Popeye either punching out a marlin or fishing it out of the ocean—take your pick. The ceviche tostadas are as wide as a plate; the aguachile, that legendary Sinaloan preparation of seafood left to marinate in chilled lime juice, then sluiced with a vicious green sauce, cools and heats as though you are eating an ice cream cone while standing barefoot on the sidewalk. The fried fish and shrimp tacos crunch with little grease and feature one of the best creams you'll taste—as pink as Thousand Islands dressing, but with spice.

But the main reason to visit El Pescador is the botana de caracol—the sea snail plate. Caracol is a dish I'd only found in OC in a long-gone Honduran restaurant, and it's a shame because properly made caracol, chewy as a clam but with a briny taste akin to an oyster, is spectacular. Not only does El Pescador make it great, but it also gives the creature the aguachile treatment—a brilliant move, one that accentuates the caracol's wonderful brininess. It's not a cheap dish—$20, the most expensive thing you'll ever buy from a lonchera—but it's large enough for two, comes with tostadas and is your greatest bet against this summer from hell. Wait, that's too much of a downer ending. . . . How about this? El Pescador's caracol plate is like John the Baptist, heralding salvation during these hot times.

 

This column appeared in print as "A Snail's Grace."

 
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