My search for fresh Mexican coconuts started with a tall tale of a machete-wielding old man running a stand at the Phoenix Park'n Swap selling the hard-shell beauties, breaking them open enough to first enjoy the refreshing water, then fully cutting the top to expose the tender flesh inside, and slashing it with the machete into bite-size pieces, just like at the roadside stands in Mexico. And like all tall tales, it was a big fat lie.
Every aisle of the Park'n Swap was searched, and each one was a disappointment. Drat my gullibility when it comes to tasty childhood obsessions! As I am nothing if not stubborn, I continued my search, driving aimlessly for over an hour following up on recommendations from Yelp, going into every Mexican grocery store with antojos, restaurants, taco stands, asking everywhere for a hint of coconut, and coming up empty. After almost being run over twice in the same parking lot, coconut rage was setting in, as was the thought that there was a giant coconut conspiracy at work. Until the Mexican food gauntlet that is 16th Street gave me coconut gold.
I've driven past the unassuming El Pacifico seafood restaurant, on 16th Street just south of Osborn, for years, vowing to actually step inside next time I pass it, but my coconut rage needed a beer to be pacified, and nothing says cold Tecate like a Mexican seafood joint. So in I went.
Once inside, the friendly staff pointed me to a beat-up sign saying 'Cocteles En Coco.' I happily would have accepted a plain coconut, spiked with lime juice and hot sauce, but one stuffed with shrimp, octopus, its own coconut flesh and topped with avocado and tomato? My coconut rage vanished immediately and I proceeded to mow down on tender coconut flesh, lime-spiked fresh seafood, and drink a tall refreshing glass of coconut water poured straight from the shell.
Also not to be missed at the family owned and operated El Pacifico are the oysters, gently seasoned with hot sauce, red onions, and a generous slice of creamy avocado.
As proprietor of Muñeca Mexicana handcrafted food, Minerva Orduno Rincon makes everything from mole poblano to goat milk caramel to spiced (not spicy) cocoa. Find her at a farmers market near you.