Campechana from Los Picos in Mesa: Eat This Now

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If you've heard anything about this restaurant, it's probably been about the pozole. Los Picos offers the pork stew and two versions of menudo -- red or white -- every day. And even better, you can get an all-you-can-eat bowl of either soup for just $7.50.

But with the hot weather coming along, we head to Los Picos for something else: a super large seafood fix.

See also: El Chullo vs. Tumi: Peruvian Ceviche Showdown

If you drive by Los Picos Parrilla Restaurant in Mesa you'll probably think the restaurant is closed. And we don't blame you. The restaurant's street-front patio showcases stacks of plastic chairs even during business hours and the tall business sign sits entirely empty. In fact, there's nothing on the outside of the building that signifies the restaurant's name. It's a little strange.

Nevertheless, Los Picos is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week and -- at least on our recent visit -- welcomes a steady stream of customers during the lunch hour. It's a hidden gem of a restaurant that serves a lengthy menu with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. There's everything from breakfast burritos to chimichangas and a whole section devoted to shrimp and fish platters.

We recommend you skip all that (except maybe the irresistibly good Ricos Chicharrones appetizer) and go for the Champechana. The mixed seafood cocktail comes in two sizes: regular for $10.50 or big for $12.95. The regular will be a small entree or large appetizer to share, while the big portion makes for a very filling meal.

At Los Picos the Champechana features a medley of seafood including octopus, shrimp, scallops, and calamari. You'll also get a single steamed clam and mussel on the half shell on you outside of the plate. The seafood swims in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, cucumbers, and avocado making for a seriously refreshing meal. We love how each bite offers a slightly different combination of ingredients, with one spoonful bringing up huge chunks of meaty octopus and the next offering a large, sweet shrimp and fresh avocado.

You can customize the experience by adding lemon if you like. You'll also be given a bowlful of saltine crackers and ketchup to use as you wish.

It's only fair to mention that the service can be fairly slow at this tiny restaurant -- when we visited there was just one serving working both inside and out on the patio. But what she lacked in speed she made up for in friendliness.

Los Picos Parrilla 1542 W. University Dr., Mesa 480-833-4711

Mon., Wed., and Thurs.: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fri.: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat.: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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