What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow?

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kangolpimp
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2003/07/09 01:30:42 (permalink)

What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow?

Can anyone offer an educated opinion on which region or regions of Mexico offer more delicious food than others? And are people necessarily more into food in this region than other regions? If someone asked me a similar question about the USA, I'd say that New Orleans would be one (of several) good answers, because people there take their food very seriously, and many New Orleans residents are constantly thinking about what their next meal will be. The food is a very important part of the culture. I am curious if there is an analagous region in Mexico. If I had to guess, I'd say the Yucatan, but I am really going by what I know of Yucatan cuisine that I have sampled in American restaurants, having never been to the Yucatan myself. In France, the answer to my question would be Lyons, where not only is the food better than anywhere else in France, but the people there are also more enamored of their food than in other regions.
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    EliseT
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/09 05:13:44 (permalink)
    I don't know a whole lot, but I'll add my 2 cents. I am near the border so we get alot of Mexican influences, but I have really only spent time on the Baja peninsula myself. I think which region has the best food depends on your individual palate. Food from the Yucatan peninsula has become really popular in Los Angeles lately. Lots of garlic and citrus flavors, and Yucatan chicken is very popular.

    I know Puebla is good for mole, and Oaxacan Mole adds bananas. I had an amazing mole at Antonio's on Melrose. Later, when I found their recipe in a book it had bananas (and 3 kinds of nuts), so I can attest that mole Oaxacan made with bananas will blow you away.

    Veracruz usually means lots of seafood, and you're probably familiar with the standard tomato-based Veracruz sauce for fish.

    As for myself, I have noticed that taco stands with Michoacan in the name always seem to have the best carnitas.

    As to which regions are most cuisine obsessed, I will have to defer to other Roadfooders.

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    Sundancer7
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/09 06:46:31 (permalink)
    I was in Puerto Penasco or as some say Rocky Point and everything there was seafood. Makes good sense to me as it was right on the Gulf of California.

    It was a great drive from Tucson and the desert was intense.

    All seafood was very fresh

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
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    Richard Brooks Alba
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/11 15:20:14 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by kangolpimp

    Can anyone offer an educated opinion on which region or regions of Mexico offer more delicious food than others? And are people necessarily more into food in this region than other regions? If someone asked me a similar question about the USA, I'd say that New Orleans would be one (of several) good answers, because people there take their food very seriously, and many New Orleans residents are constantly thinking about what their next meal will be. The food is a very important part of the culture. I am curious if there is an analagous region in Mexico. If I had to guess, I'd say the Yucatan, but I am really going by what I know of Yucatan cuisine that I have sampled in American restaurants, having never been to the Yucatan myself. In France, the answer to my question would be Lyons, where not only is the food better than anywhere else in France, but the people there are also more enamored of their food than in other regions.

    Well, I s'pose my ignorant bias is as good as anyone else's:
    Mexico has a tremendously rich & varied culinary tradition going back thousands of years. Rather than ask which foods you should try, shouldn't you be telling us what sorts of Mexican foods you have liked so far, so that you could get an educated recommendation? I'm awfully curious as to what Yucatecan dish you had that would have you conjecture about the Yucatan's culinary superiority. I have no first-hand knowledge of Yucatecan food at ground zero, but look forward to trying it once I make it down there. But if I were to claim that the cuisine of New Orleans was the best because of a po'boy I had in San Francisco, wouldn't folks think I was daft? (They should!)

    The objective truth is that Mexican food found north of the border is a woeful substitute for the real deal. The real deal also won't be found in tourist dives in Mexico - because the food as been altered to suit the tastebuds of tourists. Here's how you might go about finding your own personal dream region of cuisine in Mexico: look at Mexican cookbooks that are regionally focused. (And know that American cookbooks of Mexican cooking are not the same - they will almost invariably make or suggest substitions that are convenient but INAUTHENTIC [how many recipes have been ruined by such culinary atrocities!].) Many Americans like the foods of northern Mexico for the beef; others like the coasts for the seafood - but unless your tastebuds are so simplistic that something so broad as this is sufficient, your best bet is going to be trying the food out for yourself & taking good notes (and not just your reactions - you'll want to get the spelling right of the dish itself [& the ingredients], and the place you tried it [w/ location information]). There would be no point to telling you to go to Puebla for mole if you don't like sauce-covered food, right? An excellent place to start would be Mexico City - people thoughout the country have migrated there for economic opportunity, so the cuisines of greater Mexico have a market that can sustain them all - not only because of the tremendous number of people from those regions will support it, but because there is a growing foodie aesthetic that is trying to preserve the variety of Mexican cuisines. Think of it as "one-stop-shopping." Even if the version you are served here isn't the absolute ultimate, it won't be far off - few ingredients are wonting in the local markets, and preparations aren't altered much to accommodate less sophisticated palates. In travel across the republic, I never encountered any food that was indifferently prepared - even in fastfood joints [where they were preparing items in non-local fashion], folks were always attentive to the task at hand - so everyone there is serious (& knowledgeable) about food. It's entirely possible that you could find the greatest Mexican cuisine you ever wanted right here & never have to leave the DF [the federal district where Mexico City is located].
    Buen provecho,
    Richard
    Berkeley/SF, CA

    P.S. If someone were to suggest that the U.S. equivalent to "Lyons" (Lyon? Rhône-Alpes?) were California (say, because the local foodie culture had embraced the cuisines & foodways['slowfood,' fastfood, macrobiotic, raw, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum] of the globe, without too much of the parochial baggage - and without losing its own traditions), would Roadfooders jump at the opportunity to take issue with such a suggestion - and propose their own - OR would they see how very ludicrous it would be to take something so subjective as "more delicious" and try to reach some sort of objective "truth" about it?
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    kangolpimp
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/11 17:24:21 (permalink)
    It was subjective answers that I sought, though. Just as it is my experience that in New Orleans food is taken more seriously than in most regions of the USA. I formed this opinion based on food I tasted in NOLA, not in SF, though I must admit I am very fond of your Mission style burritos.

    I also reached this conclusion by living in NOLA for several weeks at a time with close friends who are fulltime residents. To the extent that I could, I immersed myself in the local culture, and it pleased me.

    As for the Yucatecan chow I've had, it's been mostly seafood and it was presented nice and fiery, the way I prefer. I've had this in highbrow and lowbrow Mexican joints, both were great in their respective way. And the chef at one of the upscale places I dined at gave me several recommendations for where to dine in The Yucatan. His enthusiasm was instrumental in my forming an opinion that The Yucatan was a very cuisine-centric region of Mexico. I could be dead wrong, but in my initial post I used the phrase "if I had to guess".

    I do not think the concept of "more delicious" is a ludicrous one at all. If I did, I wouldn't bother reading Roadfood reviews and bookmarking restaurants I plan on visiting, which, after all, have been reviewed by palates not my own. Subjective, yes. Ludicrous, hardly.

    Your Lyon/California scenario, which admittedly you presented as something that wouldn't fly, is too all over the map to place it in the context I initially posited. It is (or used to be) an accepted culinary fact that Lyon set the mark for cuisine as a city in France. This is not to say Michelin 3 star joints aren't to be found in many other regions, but it is more to note what region constitutes the very essence of excellence in haute French cooking.

    In the end, it shouldn't matter what I like (except of course, to me). It's more important what you like. If I feel your opinions carry culinary weight, I am likely to be influenced by what you say or suggest. That's the point of throwing out this sort of question for discussion. If it were only what's good to me, I would set up my own Roadfood website where I was the only one who could post.

    Kangolpimp: Hey Kangolpimp, where in Mexico is supposed to have delicious chow?

    Kangolpimp: Oh, I dunno, Kangol, I hear the Yucatan may be a contender.

    Kangolpimp: Thanks for your input Kangolpimp - btw M or F?

    Kangolpimp: None of your freakin' business, I am here to discuss food, pervert!
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    jdg68
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/13 12:37:47 (permalink)
    I also believe that what one finds in restaurants here rarely gives one an accurate idea of what Mexican food is really like. I try to learn a little at a time. Mexican food seems to always be a great example of taking what is locally available and making use of it (in a wonderful way).
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    kangolpimp
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/13 15:51:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by jdg68
    I also believe that what one finds in restaurants here rarely gives one an accurate idea of what Mexican food is really like.


    Obviously, I quite agree, else I would not have posted this topic in the first place. If I thought dining in Mexican restaurants Stateside was the ni plus ultra of the Mexican gustatory experience, my post would seem a bit superfluous.
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    Richard Brooks Alba
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/16 17:13:59 (permalink)
    Kangolpimp [et al.],
    To further illustrate what I was trying to explain, here are some typical Yucatecan dish descriptions I cribbed from Yucatan Today <yucantoday.com>, slight de-annotated:

    POLLO PIBIL
    Chicken marinated in achiote (annatto), sour orange juice, peppercorns, garlic, cumin, salt, and then wrapped in banana leaves and baked. (With pork this is "cochinita pibil.")

    LIME SOUP
    A soup made with shredded chicken, bits of fried tortilla, and lime juice.

    MOTUL-STYLE EGGS
    A breakfast dish of tortilla, covered with refried beans and a fried egg and then smothered with tomato sauce, peas, chopped ham and shredded cheese. Often served with fried banana slices.

    POC CHUC
    Tender slices of pork marinated in sour orange juice and served with a tangy sauce and pickled onions.

    PAPADZULES
    Chopped hard boiled egg rolled up in tortilla and covered with pumpkin seed sauce.

    FRIJOL CON PUERCO
    The Yucatecan version of pork and beans. Chunks of pork cooked with black beans, served with rice, and garnished with radish, cilantro and onion.

    PANUCHOS AND SALBUTES
    Pre-cooked tortilla with shredded chicken and garnished with lettuce and onion. The difference: panuchos are stuffed with refried beans.

    The cuisine of the Yucatan isn't known for its seafood - fiery, or otherwise. That isn't to say that seafood isn't found there - but when Mexicans are jonesing for Yucatecan eats, it's far more likely to be marinated pork or panuchos. And the heat won't commonly come from a dish itself, but from a table salsa [yes, possibly habanero-based!].

    If you have culinary preferences that you're hoping to find a resonant match for, asking for an objective truth like the 'best' or 'most delicious' food by means of subjective responses may get you closer to your goal, but is far more likely to just muddy the waters. How does N'Awlins compare to other cities in the U.S.? To say that one likes the food there better is clearly NOT the same as saying that the food there IS BETTER. People mix up these linguistic constructions all the time - the former is an opinion, while the latter is [an argueable] statement of fact.

    I feel that Lyon (& its surrounding region) is worth high regard for its cuisine - but a long-held or popularly-held opinion is still just an opinion. Some may feel that quenelles & beaujolais are over-rated and that the Lyonnais belief that their city is the "gastronomic capital of the world" is just supreme hubris. (And thus, not a universally accepted 'fact.') Like any other favorite, part of what sustains this popularity is the popularity itself.

    I've seen too many restaurant polls that found the most gawd-awful places to crown as 'best' in their respective classes to trust opinions that come from unknown sources. Zagat Guides seem like the biggest waste of paper in publishing - good places go unacknowledged for lack of a sufficient number of responses, while Hard Rock Cafes are made to sound like a reasonable alternative to a real restaurant? Where's the justice in that?

    By not giving any guidance (regarding your Mexican food preferences), don't you see that most of the posts would be of experiences likely in or near tourist zones [including the border area], with few responses likely to dislodge the Yucatan - even under apparently incorrect auspices, insofar as typical Yucatecan cuisine goes - as your Mexican food heaven? With some guidance, like you like spicy seafood, I think you would have received more helpful input.

    I'm curious - what other regional cuisines from Mexico have you tried, and what reaction did you have to the food or the people who prepared it?
    Buen provecho,
    Richard
    Berkeley/SF, CA

    P.S. I never suggest that the "concept of 'more delicious' is a ludicrous one" at all (even if I find the linguistic construction a little awkward) - only that it would be ludicrous to arrive at an objective truth with a subjective instrument like popular opinion.
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    kangolpimp
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/07/16 18:01:22 (permalink)
    Thank you, Richard, for that list of chow. I've never had dishes like that, and now you, as much as the chef in my initial post, have me salivating for what sounds almost like Mexican soul food - no?

    I'm afraid you'd find my list of regional Mexican samplings wanting, and filtered through the border cuisine paradigm that you have a disdain for. Sure, I'd like to sample what real Mexicans eat in their own environment, but I've only been to Tijuana, and have yet to travel to anywhere you'd consider the heart of Mexico. So, I make due with border cuisine and Tacquerias and the occasional upscale Mexican restaurant in New York. I've had delicious food at places such as Zarela, Rosa Mexicano, and Zocala, and a few dishes even slightly resembled the food you listed for me. For example Rosa Mexicana makes a wonderful "pipian" sauce which is I believe what that Hard Boiled egg dish had.

    Your earlier suggestion of Mexico City as a Mecca for all cuisines is something I thought of myself, that it would be like New York or Los Angeles in that many different styles of domestic cuisines are well-represented. With, what is it...12 million denizens nowadays, how could it NOT be? Eating my way through Mexico City sounds like a dream vacation, and if I ever accomplished this, I may have been educated enough for my post to be an itinerary with reviews rather than a query.

    One thing: we are dealing with roadfooders, here, not Zagat voters. It may be popular opinion, but it's the cream of popular opinion. Everyone here LOVES to eat, whereas all I know about Zagat voters is that they like to vote.

    Here's a dish I love, Richard - spicy Carnitas where the outside is fried very crisply and looks almost as if it were breaded, but really it's just the caramelization of the meat and spices. Where in Mexico might I go to find the best representation of this particular offering?
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    Richard Brooks Alba
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/09/27 15:13:52 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by kangolpimp

    Thank you, Richard, for that list of chow. I've never had dishes like that, and now you, as much as the chef in my initial post, have me salivating for what sounds almost like Mexican soul food - no?

    I'm afraid you'd find my list of regional Mexican samplings wanting, and filtered through the border cuisine paradigm that you have a disdain for. Sure, I'd like to sample what real Mexicans eat in their own environment, but I've only been to Tijuana, and have yet to travel to anywhere you'd consider the heart of Mexico. So, I make due with border cuisine and Tacquerias and the occasional upscale Mexican restaurant in New York. I've had delicious food at places such as Zarela, Rosa Mexicano, and Zocala, and a few dishes even slightly resembled the food you listed for me. For example Rosa Mexicana makes a wonderful "pipian" sauce which is I believe what that Hard Boiled egg dish had.

    Your earlier suggestion of Mexico City as a Mecca for all cuisines is something I thought of myself, that it would be like New York or Los Angeles in that many different styles of domestic cuisines are well-represented. With, what is it...12 million denizens nowadays, how could it NOT be? Eating my way through Mexico City sounds like a dream vacation, and if I ever accomplished this, I may have been educated enough for my post to be an itinerary with reviews rather than a query.

    One thing: we are dealing with roadfooders, here, not Zagat voters. It may be popular opinion, but it's the cream of popular opinion. Everyone here LOVES to eat, whereas all I know about Zagat voters is that they like to vote.

    Here's a dish I love, Richard - spicy Carnitas where the outside is fried very crisply and looks almost as if it were breaded, but really it's just the caramelization of the meat and spices. Where in Mexico might I go to find the best representation of this particular offering?


    Gawrsh - I don't eat carnitas in Mexico nearly as often as I did when I was a kid. My trips down there are shorter, and less frequent, so I typically have a jones for foods (or food experiences) that I can't replicate locally - I tend to seek out soups & vegi dishes, because meat seems to figure so prominently up here, and variations on the corn-masa-based sope and/or quesadilla.

    I once had some really good carnitas in a street market near a Metro station in Mexico City. I think part of what made them taste so good was the fact they were a "forbidden pleasure" by way of where I was eating them. (My family generally avoided street vendors - unless they were friends of friends....) I have recently had carnitas here in San Francisco that were quite serviceable - the right combination of crisp & tender, juicy & flavorful - at a couple of places. One of them reminding me of my Metro-adjacent experience - no burrito fixins, just the meat, tortillas, some ripe limes, and some table salsa. If you live anywhere near a decent-sized Mexican population, I would suggest looking for neighborhood markets that sell prepared meats, and/or checking with Mexican restauarants that do take-out, to see about buying carnitas by the pound. If so, they would typically include the tortillas, etc., so you could roll your own!
    Buen provecho,
    Richard
    Berkeley/SF, CA
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    tiki
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/09/27 15:20:38 (permalink)
    In my not so humble opinion---ANY and ALL ethnic regional cuisine is GOOD!--one particular place may excel at these regional foods but i have yet to find any real ethnic cooking style that didnt bring something to the universal table that they and only they could bring!As anyone that has spent enough time on our interstate knows there is always somone,somewhere that is cookin up a storm!!!Our quest is to FIND it!!!Try ALL the mexican regionsBet youll yhave a good time and bring back great memories!
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    ExtraMSG
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2003/10/09 02:36:09 (permalink)
    Oaxaca is the obvious answer. There must be more Mexican cooking schools per capita there than anywhere else in the country. However, Mexico City probably has more variety because of its size and location near Puebla and Veracruz, and really not being that far from Guadalajara, Oaxaca, and Acapulco, too. You also have attempts at Mexican haute cuisine and fusion cuisine in the wealthier areas, something very difficult to find elsewhere.

    If you were to go on a road trip, probably the way to do it would be to go from Mexico City to Puebla to Oaxaca and maybe try to fit in a trip to Veracruz, especially if you're a fish lover. Veracruz, btw, seems to be the seafood capital of Mexico.
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    marberthenad
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2004/03/20 23:40:01 (permalink)
    A little restaurant in Mountain View, CA did it for me -- it was a couple and they were from Puebla, and I was told by local Mexican authorities that their cooking was good and typical for the region. So, imho, I am a fan of Pueblan cuisine.
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    JaneDough
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2004/03/24 12:42:46 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by kangolpimp

    Can anyone offer an educated opinion on which region or regions of Mexico offer more delicious food than others? And are people necessarily more into food in this region than other regions? If someone asked me a similar question about the USA, I'd say that New Orleans would be one (of several) good answers, because people there take their food very seriously, and many New Orleans residents are constantly thinking about what their next meal will be. The food is a very important part of the culture. I am curious if there is an analagous region in Mexico. If I had to guess, I'd say the Yucatan, but I am really going by what I know of Yucatan cuisine that I have sampled in American restaurants, having never been to the Yucatan myself. In France, the answer to my question would be Lyons, where not only is the food better than anywhere else in France, but the people there are also more enamored of their food than in other regions.
    I've traveled in Mexico, and I agree that Oaxaca has its food roots deeply embedded in the culture. But I understand your specific question, and will ask my Mexican friends what they think. Of course, one of them is now an Orthodox Jew living in New York, so his memory of traditional Mexican foods may be somewhat askew.
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    barrylann
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2004/05/04 14:16:27 (permalink)
    having lived in both New Orleans and Merida, I agree with being unable to compare places that are apples and oranges. In my opinion, they are completely different, equal, and fantastic. Yet like N.O.--the best places to eat aren't well known. Even when in the Yucatan, the best thing to do is ask people where they go for panuchos, coffee, gelato, etc... There are scores of "Luncherias" or cantinas to pick from; everyone you ask will have their favorite. My favorite is in the open air market where Calle 70 meets Calle 61. The Paseo Montejo in Merida has a lot of open air cafes and luncherias that serve good food. Look around the south end of the Paseo where it ends, there is a good place next to a plaza about a block or two east.

    One good place, and its a cafe, is "La Habana", its near UADY @ Calle 61&64 (I think). Pollo con Mole is dynamite here. Legend has it that Castro used it as a meeting place to plan his return to Cuba in the 50's. A couple of blocks north of La Habana is Cafe Alameda. They have a mix of Yucatecan and Medeteranean food--showcasing the mix of ethnicities in this metropolitan city. The thing to remember about the Yucatan region is that the climate and environment influence the gastronomy. Lots of citrus, chicken and pork, not much beef. Lots of spice not found in other parts of Mexico- -most of the dishes aren't served in other parts of Mexico. I have yet to find a place stateside that truly serves Yucatecan fare.
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    barrylann
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2004/05/04 14:20:26 (permalink)
    good rule of thumb in Merida:
    if the sidewalk cafe is crowded--the food is good.

    be skeptical of the "dead" cafe.
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    Emerald
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    RE: What State Or Region In Mexico For The Best Chow? 2004/05/06 21:48:52 (permalink)
    Great little stand near (east side) the Border crossing in Naco, Sonora......called Taco Fish. Fresh fish and soup and ceviche.
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