You know you've found a great strip mall when it's almost entirely obscured by a carnival that's setting up in the parking lot. The Washington Market Square is an eight acre strip mall just west of Crenshaw on Washington Boulevard, directly across the street from the Johnnie Cochran Middle School and Arlington Heights Elementary. The large patch of land is separated into segments, with one full side being gobbled up by the namesake Washington Market, and a 99 cents store taking up a good portion of another. For anyone in the neighborhood, Washington Market Square is also where you go to pick up a U.S. Postal Service package that requires a signature. You know, fun stuff.
At the northeastern corner sits a sort of strip-mall-within-a-strip-mall that plays host to a seafood-heavy Mexican restaurant, a fried-to-order fish and chicken shop and a Chinese fast food takeout place that may or may not be part of a series. Turn the page.
Hole-in-the-wall doesn't begin to describe this nearly suffocating space. Despite the wrap-around awning and multiple signs that litter the ample parking lot, Playas De San Blas is about three tables big -- and that's if you squeeze. The menu is mainly straightforward Mexican fare with a lean on pescados and camarones and other dishes from the sea. Other meat options to fill your tortillas include a mild carne asada and salty grilled chicken. Order them plain to save a few pennies, or spring for the supreme version for the full Taco Bell experience. Shredded lettuce, diced red onions and an ample dusting of the yellow cheesy stuff will befall your plate, plus a squirt of sour cream and a once-over from the salsa bar. Tortas, a soup or two and some fried full fish options round out the menu, plus cheeseburgers for anyone desperate enough to go there. Playas De San Blas is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and accepts credit cards. 4020 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-737-5574.
There's not a lot going on inside Fish 2 Go, which operates the other corner of this little strip mall subset of Washington Market Square. The picnic table seating helps to fill up the large, open room, but the kitchen in the back is absolutely cavernous. It's probably just as well that they keep the fryers far away from the counter, considering the brisk business this place does in the fried fish department. Their neon "You Buy, We Fry" sign isn't lying: A deli case loaded with fresh stacks of cod, sole, red snapper, tilapia and catfish sits just next to the register. The lunch options mostly clock in at under $10, and judging by the size of the fillets in the case, portions are reasonable. There's also a sizable fried chicken portion of the menu, some of which is made ahead and put out under heat lamps when things get busy. If you're looking to stay out of the oil altogether, give the teriyaki rice bowls a shot. An odd choice for a fried fish spot just east of Crenshaw? Perhaps. Fish 2 Go is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and accepts credit cards. 4014 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-733-2044.
It's unclear if this Little Beijing Chinese Fast Food is related to the other Little Beijing Chinese Fast Food, which sits in its own strip mall at Venice Blvd. and San Vicente. Regardless, this Little Beijing has everything you'd expect: a hushed ambiance, hardened laminate seating, a single rogue cooler haphazardly stacked with drinks and a single, long hot bar for all of your takeout needs. Even the dimly lit pictogram menu is there, the images of orange chicken and sweet and sour pork at once over saturated and underdeveloped. This place hand's the basics: thick, tacky noodles as a bed for fried and slightly congealed bits of chicken or pork. All of the vegetables are steamed to hell and back, and the heat lamps keep the room awash in radiant orange light. If you live in the neighborhood and have yet to find your cheap Chinese takeout spot, here you go. Otherwise, keep driving; there might be another Little Beijing Chinese Fast Food around the next corner. This location is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and is cash only. 4016 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-732-4328.
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