The Many Names of Mariscos Guillen La Playita

Chicharron and asphalt
Chicharron and asphalt
Ben Calderwood

It may have two or possibly three names, or no proper name at all--regulars call it the blue shack, and that will do nicely. Nothing at this cash-only Venice/Santa Monica taco stand is renegade, or even all that spicy. I fear a hissing shamble of Yelpers--watch out, the Elites are armored--will materialize and beat me with their iPhones when I say the shrimp ceviche is bland. What Mariscos Guillen La Playita instead delivers is fresh, fleet and cheap, and everything bulwharked by stacks of corn tortillas that tilt perilously toward to the whitewashed roof.

The five-buck burrito is by far the most popular unit of consumption. Laden with rice, guacamole and your choice of meat, it resembles a warm neck pillow and you might be excused for cuddling it if the surroundings were private. The lengua and chicharron tacos are more adventurous, lined with chunks of stewed, textural flesh and slicked with tangy salsa and pico de gallo. The aforementioned ceviche is bright with citrus--the shrimp snaps like a Pink's hot dog--but demands a liberal dose of house-made chile rojo (or Tapatio in a pinch) to really spark. And lest you think that octopus is the last thing you want to eat on Lincoln Boulevard next to a heap of junked BMWs, the pulpo tostada is tender, just salty enough to evoke the sea and flecked with bits of red onion, pickled radish and cilantro.

Ravenous, likely inebriated crowds descend on the place most lunches and late nights; expect a brief wait. Order whatever you fancy off the big board--you can fund a meal with the change in your car's center console--perch your paper plate and bottle of syrupy sangria fresca on the steel counter and tuck in. Of course if you do not venerate lo-fi street cuisine, the Whole Foods pret-a-manger beckons a hundred yards down the road. Hot case items and salads are only eight bucks a pound, and everything that tastes good is heavy.

Mariscos Guillen La Playita: 3306 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405; (310) 452-0090.


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