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Where To Eat Ceviche In The San Fernando Valley

Chocolate clams ceviche at Finca Altozano in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico (T.Tseng/Flickr Creative Commons)
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Ceviche is so ubiquitous in some of Los Angeles's Latino-dominated neighborhoods that many people think it's a Mexican dish. Actually, it originates in South America, probably Ecuador or Peru, although its precise origins are murky.

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Made from raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and typically mixed with chopped onions, cilantro, chili peppers and seasonings, ceviche dates back nearly 2,000 years. Culinary historians think it originated in the Moche, a coastal civilization that flourished near the coast of northern Peru from 100 to 700 A.D. By the 1980s, the popular seafood dish had broadened its horizons, expanding to Colombia, Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico.

In Peru the dish is so popular it's celebrated with a national holiday on June 28. It's usually made with aji amarillo peppers, rocoto peppers, canchitas (corn nuts), yuca, sweet potato, onions and banana chips.

That's very different than what you'll get on the streets of Southern California. In the San Fernando Valley, we're blessed. A boom in mariscos trucks means there's a passable ceviche vendor on almost every block. Here are some of the best.

Mariscos el Bigoton
On the corner of Arleta and Osborne in Pacoima, between a 7/11 and a laundromat, Mariscos el Bigoton sells some of the best tostadas de ceviche, second only to the ceviche my aunt makes. What makes it so good? The tilapia is marinated in the juice of key limes, making it one of the most citrusy ceviches on the list. A pescado (fish) tostada costs about $2.50 while camaron (shrimp) costs $5 -- and the portions are very generous. If you're stopping by at lunchtime on the weekend, you might face a 20 to 30-minute wait. Fortunately, micheladas are the perfect companion to mariscos and Bigoton sells a premade mix. You will, however, need to provide your own beer. Pro Tip: After buying the michelada mix, customers will sometimes sneak back to their cars, add beer and drink their michelada as they wait for their food.
13504 Osborne St., Arleta. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
5458 Whittier Blvd, East L.A. Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Tucked in a small parking lot on Maclay Ave. in San Fernando, Ceviches is a hidden gem of a restaurant, serving Nayarit-style ceviche. The fish ceviche is finely minced and less lemon-y than most. Instead, the intense flavor comes from the addition of carrots (which also add crunch) and Nayarit-style purple onions. The prices -- $2 for a fish ceviche tostada and $3 for shrimp -- can't be beat. The tostadas are small, so you'll probably want more than one. Although you're about 30 miles from the Pacific, Ceviches tries to make your experience feel as beachy as possible. So grab a seat on under a palm tree umbrella planted on artificial turf and take the advice of a sign that reads, "Relax, you're on beach time."
313 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando. Open every day except Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 7 or 8 p.m.

Rosarito Fish Market
Rosarito Fish Market is on the pricier side -- a fish ceviche tostada costs $4.99 and shrimp costs $5.99 -- but it's worth the splurge. Topped with thick avocado slices, the pescado ceviche bursts with lime without being soggy. It's the perfect balance. The restaurant is large so you can bring your whole crew. If you're committed to riding the seafood and beer wave, the menu includes cevicheladas, a michelada with tortilla chips on the rim holding up fish or shrimp ceviche. Again, beer is not included.
1534 San Fernando Rd., San Fernando. Open Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Mariscos el Tiburon
Down Tujunga Ave., past Sherman Way before you hit the railroad tracks in Sun Valley, a lonely white truck on the side of the road serves some of the best cocteles de mariscos -- peeled shrimp served cold with a tomato juice blend similar to Clamato. Unlike ceviche, cocteles are usually eaten without tostadas. Imagine tostadas de camaron, without the tostada and swimming in tomato juice seasoned with onions, lime and topped with avocado chunks. Mariscos el Tiburon also sells ceviche, $3 for fish and $7 for shrimp. The ceviche here is on par with Mariscos el Bigoton and it's on the crunchier side as it's packed with cucumber chunks.
7100 Tujunga Ave., Sun Valley. Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5:40 p.m.

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Mariscos El Mazatleco
If you're in the mood for mariscos estilo Mazatlán, head to the shuttered Toys R' Us on Woodley and Sherman Way, and look for the bright blue truck painted with a parrot and a cartoon shrimp. You can buy a single fish ceviche tostada for $8 or a full order for $14. That may sound spendy but it's a mountain of ceviche topped with avocado slices and large chunks of cucumber. (You can also order a party tray for delivery.) In addition to its traditional ceviche, Mariscos El Mazatleco offers creative variations, like ceviche de mango and their ceviche especial, topped with fresh scallops. Woodley Ave. and Sherman Way, Van Nuys. Open Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Mariscos el Patron
Owner Juan Valentin, aka Patron, is from Michoacan but he tells LAist that his ceviche style "is straight from Pacoima." His fish ceviche tostada, made with tilapia, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and shredded carrots, sells for $3 and shrimp goes for $4. Both come with three tostadas, and their signature salsa roja. On weekends, it's best to show up before 4 p.m. because they're known to sell out of ceviche. Valentin also owns a well known taco truck, Tacos el Patron, that serves some of the best tacos, burritos and quesadillas in Pacoima. He expanded into the mariscos business in April and has already cultivated a loyal following. You can spot Mariscos el Patron's shiny blue truck in front of the Superior grocery store on Laurel Canyon and Osborne St., a couple blocks away from El Bigoton. Laurel Canyon and Osborne St., in front of Superior Grocers, Pacoima. Open Sunday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

La Barquita Mariscos y Tacos
If you're willing to go deep into the SFV, La Barquita Mariscos y Tacos awaits you in Chatsworth. Situated inside a plaza, between Leslie's Pool Supplies and a Foot Massage Parlor, La Barquita isn't a large restaurant but it's also not a hole-in-the-wall. Modern and clean, it serves tacos, shrimp cocktails and can accommodate groups, if you find yourself craving seafood and a live banda performance. You'll pay $11.99 for camaron ceviche and $9.99 for pescado. Both are cured in lime and tossed with cucumber and onions then drizzled with their housemade salsa negra and garnished with avocados and an orange slice.
20539 Devonshire St., Chatsworth. Open Monday-Sunday, usually from 10:30 or 11 a.m. until between 8 and 11 p.m.

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