Friday, August 29, 2008

El El Frijoles Rocks

On the wrong side of the highway in Playa del Carmen, on the Riviera Maya, El Oasis Mariscos serves excellent tacos de camarones. The dining area is under a pergola and has about a dozen crudely fashioned wooden tables with deceptively heavy matching chairs. The menu is in Spanish and is short and shrimp tacos are the specialty. While they are sold individually, a typical order would be three. They arrive at the table quickly: small batter fried shrimp on small freshly made soft taco shells. The soft crunchy hot slighty sweet shrimp with one of the house salsas is always a delight. When I am heading south toward Tulum, I plan my day around passing that taco stand at noon.

Taco joints north of the border seldom have that appeal. El El Frijoles on Route 15 in Sargentville, Maine was an exception. I liked everything about this place. Driving past heading toward Deer Isle, I caught only the name and I laughed out loud. On the way back later in the afternoon, I got a better look at the sign, the art gallery in front and the picnic tables. Two miles further up the road I turned around and went back. The name and promise of lobster tacos were too much to ignore.

Behind the main house/art gallery facing the road was a small barn which had been converted into a taqueria. Driving past, I had not noticed how many cars we parked under the trees. Most of the picnic tables were occupied. Things were looking promising. Inside there were four very small tables (total seating for nine only); we snagged one just as the evening rain started. We ordered the daily special, haddock tacos, as well as the lobster tacos and a couple ears of native sweet corn. Memories of the taco stand in Playa floated by as we waited. My expectations were high and they were exurberantly exceeded. The taco shells were fresh, hot, and home made. The haddock was grilled then topped with a mild green chili sauce; the lobster was topped with a sweeter red chili sauce. Both were world class. And the corn was the best I had eaten all year. Since it will be a while before we can return, we ordered seconds.

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