Remember that Mexican beach vacation you went on
where you stumbled upon a seaside restaurant and ordered a shrimp cocktail and a cool, refreshing michelada? The one with the obnoxious murals and bright tropical colors, where, in spite of the gaggle of tourists all of who were squawking way too loudly, you had the best food. Maybe it was the booze, or watching the sun set over the sea (hopefully you have inserted your Pacific-side Mexican beach vacation here), but that simple meal was transcendental. And even if you've never been to Mexico, you have hopefully experienced a great meal on a beach somewhere. If not, and it is within your powers to do so, you might want to stop reading and figure out a way to make that happen.
I recently ventured into the Aurora location located on Havana near 6th. I can't think of a place farther from the beauty of a beach than this stretch of Havana, with its empty lots, vacant warehouses, congested strip malls and auto dealers (but then again, I have never been to Brighton).
With its bright blue roof and striped walls, El Camarón Loco is hard to miss. And the assault of color only gets better (or worse depending on your taste) once inside, where you have a faux-swordfish leaping over one mural, and in another a pack of sharks in floral-print shirts are sharing a round of cold ones. Pirates with eye patches, crabs with forks in their claws, frogs with sunglasses-- any beachside cliche you can think of is very likely on the walls of this small dining room. But don't get too distracted, as you still need to order.
I would have liked to have had a menu in hand, or even--I never say this-- table service. It was difficult to decide what to order reading from the gigantic wall menu while a toddler pulled my arm (it was mine, I checked) and the line literally snaked out the door. Unable to read through all 80-some menu items, I ordered the first 3 things that caught my eye -- and, you guessed it, they all had shrimp.
We started, or at least intended to start (the food all came at the same time), with a shrimp cocktail. This coctel de camaron was bright and refreshing as it should be, and memories of beach vacations past danced in my head with every bite. As far as landlocked cities not it Mexico go, it really doesn't get much better than this faithful version-- not too acidic, not to sweet and topped with three generous slices of avocado.
Camarones empanizados, or breaded and fried shrimp, were what we ordered with our toddlers in mind. These butterflied, tail-on shrimp were just what you would expect, and rolled up in a corn tortilla with the very good tomatillo salsa that accompanied them, they made a great taco.
Lastly was a sizzling plate of alambre de camaron. Alambres almost always come with other diced meat, and as the Mexican taqueria and torta custom, when you throw multiple meats together, one of them is inevitably a hot dog. So when I saw the pink fleshy cubes on my skillet along with my shrimp, I assumed it was exactly that, but upon tasting them I looked closer to see layers or marbled fat and I am pretty sure it was a least salt pork-- and while I love hot dogs as much as the next man, salt pork is a big step up from a hot dog in an alambre.
Instead instead of the roar of the waves we had the sound of six lanes of Friday evening traffic. We saw the sun start to set--not over the breaking surf--but behind a self-storage warehouse. We ate a lot of shrimp on the small but pleasant El Camarón Loco patio, which would be appropriate I suppose, given that the name of this restaurant translates to The Crazy Shrimp. Everything we had was very good, but there were many other plates that I want to try on the huge menu. And based on this experience, I will be back.