El Ceviche Loco: Bell's Seafood for the Masses

Ceviche de Pescado at El Ceviche Loco
Ceviche de Pescado at El Ceviche Loco
G. Snyder

Back in 2010, during the City of Bell scandal, there was a kind of running joke among members of the L.A. press corps that the most redeeming aspect of weeks spent at city council meetings and cheap motels was the food -- more articles likely were hashed out over glorious plates of mole poblano at La Casita than in the L.A. Times' newsroom.

It's pretty certain that many a bleary-eyed reporter or beleaguered councilman probably stopped by El Ceviche Loco in those days, a vaguely Nayarit-style mariscos shack on Florence Avenue that is to this section of town what Bay Cities Deli is to Santa Monica. El Ceviche Loco is housed in one of those A-frame buildings that likely was a Wienerschnitzel some point in its existence, before being being converted into an ocean-blue edifice covered with multicolored banners and a cartoon marlin sporting a mustache and sombrero. On the weekends, even before the morning sun has burned off the last remnants of gray sky, lines have begun to stretch down the block.

There are two-fisted fried fish burritos; bowls of warm, tomato-bathed cocktails called campechana; and surprising good version of ostiones rellenos, a layer of marinated oysters on the half-shell stuffed with shrimp and imitation crab.

But it's the ceviche you want, which the small kitchen churns out in staggeringly large batches. Mariscos connoisseurs will you tell that the fish -- tilapia -- is cut into large thimble-sized chunks, a method that makes it far more difficult to disguise not-so-fresh seafood. Allowance-clutching kids will tell you how a crispy homemade tostada piled with a generous heap of ceviche de camaron costs less than the lunch they buy at school. That toothless old dude probably will explain that the ladies at the counter are always as plentiful with wedges of ripe avocado as they are with napkins.

A young girl with a cellphone plastered to her ear strolls up to the takeout window with her little brother and picks up an armful of paper bags stuffed with enough food to feed a small quinceañera. "If ceviche were a man," she says to the person on the other end of the line, "I would marry him."

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