Mariscos El Moreno

10701 S. Central Ave.
Watts, California 90059
Mariscos El Moreno

Garrett Snyder

At Mariscos El Moreno, a Sinaloan seafood truck that currently parks in a dusty auto-repair yard in Watts, you will encounter something called the botana mixta la morena, an enchanting concoction that even in its smallest portion seems to weigh at least five pounds. The bowl literally brims with raw shrimp, tender octopus and fat, silver dollar–sized scallops known as callo de hacha, each separate texture grooving in a murky brown broth zapped with tar-black salsa negra and little floating chiltepin, a tiny red chili that resembles a pink peppercorn but is exponentially hotter and more flavorful. The stuff is like ocean-flavored napalm. Other specialty seafood platters boast flamboyant names and are equally extravagant: pavido navido, guamichilito, el jefe. It’s not uncommon to find El Moreno surrounded by a circle of pickup trucks bumping ranchera music, the passengers lingering on the tailgates clutching BYOB oyster micheladas, like you were invited to someone’s backyard cookout. Even with the untold number of mariscos vendors in Los Angeles, the fresh seafood and outlandishly potent sauces at El Moreno can make the others seem like a folk band playing at a vicious punk concert. —Garrett Snyder
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