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Over on the other side of town, out in tiny El Mirage, Mariscos Mazatlan exists in Las Glorias' parallel universe. Mexican seafood restaurant by day, nightclub by night, Mariscos Mazatlan trades in oysters in the shell and beer. Even if you're not feeling amorous, you can come here and eat fish soup, seafood cocktail, or shrimp prepared several ways.
We did. The bar and dance floor at Mariscos Mazatlan are walled off by a partition with windows and a door. Sitting in what remains of the restaurant--a tiny white makeshift dining area--I have the feeling of being on the outside looking in. Even though it's the middle of the day, the bar stools are upended and the club is empty of revelers.
5220 S. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85040
Region: South Phoenix
Truthfully, this is not the place to come for atmosphere. The tables are square and made of Formica. The soiled orange chairs look like fugitives from some 1960s high school teachers' lounge. The gauzy white butterfly curtains are more appropriate for a preteen girl's bedroom than a restaurant. A tape player blasts Mexican music and someone in the next room sings along.
But that's okay.
The food here is more than decent. I especially recommend the "devilish shrimp": firm, curly shrimp smothered in a spicy sauce made of fresh tomato, onion, celery, bell pepper and jalapeno. Equally delectable are the dozen buttery garlic shrimp I sample. As at Las Glorias, the rice and beans here are not to be ignored.
Fish soup is for adventurers. The amber-colored broth is delicately flavored, but be prepared for large pieces of trout lurking in it. Granted, we're not talking eyes or teeth here, but fins and skin are definitely part of the picture.
When it comes to Gulf of California- style seafood cocktails, there seem to be two basic types. One uses V-8 juice as its base liquid, the other doesn't. I prefer the latter, which is how they make cocktails at Las Glorias. Mariscos Mazatlan uses V-8. It's purely a matter of personal taste.
The waitresses at this authentic El Mirage eatery are kind and sweet and attentive. They are well-dressed and definitely outclass their environment. They tell me that the restaurant has been in this location for eight months.
Mariscos Mazatlan is in the minor leagues compared to Las Glorias. Not in terms of authenticity, just in terms of quality and atmosphere. Still, if you're craving camarones on the far west side, keep it in mind.
Finally, located near the old brick citrus-packing plants in my favorite part of Mesa, Restaurant Sinaloa is making its bid for the East Valley Mexican seafood crown. There is no on-premises nightclub here. Instead, this clean, blue-and-white eatery opens each morning at seven for breakfast. If you want music, plunk your quarters into the CD jukebox.
The menu is similar to most other mariscos restaurants. Cocktails, soups, shrimp, fillets and whole fish are the specialties at Restaurant Sinaloa. The filleted fish is snapper (Pacific, no doubt); the whole fish is tilapia, a farm-raised member of the carp family.
Deidri Corona, who owns the restaurant with her husband Cesar, manages the dining room. She is friendly and attentive. "You haven't been here before," she says to us. Later, when we ask to share a shrimp cocktail, she volunteers to divide it into two portions in the kitchen. We accept.
The food here is good, though not quite up to the level of Las Glorias, my new standard of Mexican seafood excellence. Sinaloa belongs to the V-8 school of cocktail mixing, but comes close to redeeming itself with lots of shrimp. A fried snapper fillet is lightly breaded and golden brown, but there are bones to watch for.
An order of garlic shrimp suprises me. Instead of a plateful of medium-size shrimp, I receive two six-inch prawns, butterflied, basted in butter and garlic and still attached to their shells. They must be eaten with a steak knife and could use more garlic, but I like them.
In fact, I like Restaurant Sinaloa. I plan to return soon to check out breakfast--and this cheerful little eatery doesn't even advertise with us.
You see? My friend from Minneapolis was dead wrong. Whether a restaurant advertises with this newspaper hasn't the slightest bearing on how or even if I review it. My job is to assess the pros and cons of the places I visit and to let you know if it's worth it to spend your dwindling discretionary income there.
Las Glorias, 5220 South Central, Phoenix, 268-3053. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Mariscos Mazatlan, 13609 North Main, El Mirage, 583-9388. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday and Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Restaurant Sinaloa, 45 West Broadway, Mesa, 464-0024. Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
I have seen the future of authentic Mexican seafood and its name is Las Glorias.
I love this place. I love the food.
We're not talking eyes or teeth here, but fins and skin are definitely part of the picture.
I receive two six-inch prawns, butterflied, basted in butter and garlic.