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Where Y'Eat: Seafood, the Mexican Way

Ian McNulty

We have a handle on good seafood here in Louisiana, but a trip to Chilangos Seafood shows the delicious variety from a different approach, and maybe even a different accent.

The raw oysters hit the table at Chilangos Seafood on a beer tray lined with ice cubes and scattered with sliced lemons. This part was familiar enough for the local norm of oyster-crazed Louisiana. But they were also garnished with freshly chopped pico de gallo and little cubes of avocado. Slurped down from the half shell, these ostiones a la Veracruz, as they’re called, were salty, cold, tart, a little creamy and a worthwhile reward, all on their own, for the latest trek out to Williams Boulevard, that always-reliable source for interesting international foods in Kenner.

There would be a lot more to follow. In particular, shrimp cocktails, Mexican style, which are bracing, juicy concoctions of tomato juice, onions, avocado, garlic and lime served in thick, bulbous, schooner-style mugs; or meal-sized soups with a greater variety of seafood than a Frenchman’s bouillabaisse; or an octopus dish cooked in ink that temporarily stained my lips but left an indelible mark on my flavor memory.           

Chilangos Seafood was opened a few months ago by proprietor David Montes. He’s a native of Mexico City ("Chilangos" is what people from that town call themselves). He came to New Orleans via Houston not long after Hurricane Katrina and set up a taco truck outside of an abandoned gas station in Metairie. By the time Jefferson Parish officials outlawed taco trucks in 2007, Montes had decided he wanted to stick around anyway, so he ditched the truck and opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Taqueria Chilangos on Roosevelt Boulevard, also in Kenner.

Chilangos Seafood is its new spinoff and, for people who have a taste for tropical seafood preparations, it’s an exciting find. Compared to the average Williams Boulevard eatery, it's a nice enough looking place. Compared to the average taqueria around here, though, it's like the Taj Mahal, or at least a Disney set. A colorful seafood motif is worked into every corner, from the cartoon mermaid perched over its neon sign to dangling seashell curtains to coral reef scenes molded into the tables and barstools.

The bar at Chilangos Seafood glows with neon, there’s often a karaoke machine set for those inclined to belt out Mexican ballads, and the waitresses mix up their signature Chilangarita, a frozen margarita with an open beer bottle upended in its slush, sort of a spring break gimmick that packs a wallop.

Of course Chilangos Seafood does fish tacos, though with flavorless fried tilapia and too much shredded lettuce they aren’t the eatery's strong suit. You’re better off picking more elaborate dishes anyway.

Like, for instance that aforementioned octopus dish. What you get is a big plate of tentacles, cut into chunks the size of gnocchi and cooked with salty, pitch-black ink, which suffuses it all with an illusive earthy flavor that somehow only comes from the sea. And, back to the seafood cocktails, the kitchen prepares a righteous version of vuelva a la vida, or “return to life,” a dish so-named for its purported abilities as a hangover cure. This one mixes shrimp, oysters and more octopus in the powerful tang of Mexican cocktail sauce, all awash in garlic and citrus.

We have a handle on good seafood here in Louisiana, but a trip to Chilangos Seafood shows the delicious variety from a different approach, and maybe even a different accent.

Chilangos Seafood

3617 Williams Blvd. Kenner, 504-471-6104

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.