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Los Angeles: $1 Seafood Taco Deals at El Siete Mares

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[Photographs: Jon Mackey]

Summers are all about proximity to water. Going to the beach, busting open a fire hydrant, laying down the Crocodile Mile. But if you live on the eastside of Los Angeles, you're at least two freeways and one construction project that ends in "-mageddon" away from the ocean. Your water options include: Echo Park Lake, which they drained last year and found a couch in the middle of, or the Silver Lake Reservoir, with its look-but-don't-touch chain link fencing. On particularly hot days you'll find dirty joggers clinging to the wires, desperately screaming out "Avenge me!" to the untouched reservoir.

If you can't get to the water, perhaps the next best bet is a seafood taco or two. Shrimp, fish, crab, and lobster are all represented in the eastside taco sphere in abundance, with Best Fish Taco in Ensenada and Ricky's Fish Taco as the primary examples. Just down Sunset Blvd., though, El Siete Mares offers a less perfected mariscos experience at a fraction of the price.

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Usually, looking for a good deal on seafood is a dangerous proposition, but at El Siete Mares (The Seven Seas) it's built into the price plan. Each workday offers a particular deal: Mondays are for $1.50 shrimp tacos, Tuesdays are $1 fish tacos, Wednesday gets you $1 shrimp tacos dorados, and so on.

A word of warning: Thursday is for ceviche tostadas, but it is not to be trusted. Not that you'll get sick, but at their $1 price point, don't be surprised if Tuesday's leftover fish makes it into Thursday's tostada and starts to taste like wet tuna with a few sad tomatoes thrown in.

The tacos themselves are largely unassuming, but offer a nice midday refresher for someone looking to dine in the shade and get a taste of the waves. The fish tacos, filled with smallish chunks of pale white meat, are fried in clusters instead of heftier individual strips. The result is reminiscent of fast food popcorn shrimp, but with less of a cornmeal crunch. The batter itself is a bit heavy on the flour at times, leaving a few little, dry bites as you make your way from end to end.

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The shrimp tacos are a better alternative, having retained some snap and freshness that leaves you with a cleaner mouthfeel. The shredded cabbage is surprisingly light and crunchy, which combines with the thin crema to make this a passable mariscos option. It's just a shame that the same weak batter can't be given a few more tosses of salt and pepper, to say nothing of the warm achiote or myriad other secret spices that Rick Pena utilizes to flavor his batter up the road.

Your best seafood taco option at El Siete Mares is the tacos dorados, a diced shrimp taco sealed and fried to give off a crispy bite and creamy interior. Unlike the fat, overwhelmingly flavorful tacos dorados across town at 2012 LA Taco champion Marsicos Jalisco, the dorados here rely on a kick from the thick salsa roja to really fall in line. Still, these are well-fried tacos with enough shrimp inside to satisfy in that warm, crunchy, buttery, fresh way.

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If you're looking for down-low recommendation, don't be afraid of the carne asada. It could use a bit more time to firm up on the plancha, but the tender, salty bites are a nice reminder of what proper seasoning can do to a piece of protein. Then again, it's not a great sign that one of the best tacos at a mariscos stand is the carne asada. But if it's summer time, the thermometer is threatening to break 100 degrees and you're 20 miles from the ocean, the seafood tacos at El Siete Mares will suffice.

El Siete Mares
3131 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake (map)

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