Santa Monica represents when it comes to Mexican cuisine. Chef Jose Acevedo cooks up some of the best carnitas at Mercado down on Fourth Street. Tacos Por Favor, top to bottom, serves up excellent food with an even better salsa bar. And if mole is your kind of thing, look no further than Lares on Pico Boulevard. Not to mention the half-dozen family restaurants serving up sizzling fajita platters and wet burritos. Not all of it is necessarily “authentic,” but many of these places have become mainstays in the neighborhoods around town.
There is a potential mainstay that just opened three weeks ago in Mid-City on the corner of Cloverfield and Santa Monica boulevards. If you have passed that area before and haven’t noticed it you are not alone. Tacos Punta Cabras is shaded by a big tree, has yet to erect visible signage and is strangled by an intersection with zero street parking.
Tacos Punta Cabras does, however, set itself apart from all the aforementioned places with a small menu focusing primarily on seafood. A tiny menu means the eatery is set on getting a few things right instead of giving you every option under the sun, from birra barbacoa to flan de leche. Tacos Punta Cabras offers tacos, tostadas and “cóctele” (similar to ceviche, but served in a tomato-based juice) and that’s it.
From there you choose from shrimp, scallops, a mix of the two, or tofu. There is a fish taco too, which could be as good of a fish taco as I’ve had to date. Perfectly crispy, lightly breaded in a tempura-like batter and wrapped with cabbage and thinly sliced radishes, the taco was well worth what may seem steep for a taco at $3.50. My cycling buddy Ron Durgin, manager at the Santa Monica Bike Center, tried the tofu taco and concurred it was delicious as well. The salsas were sensational; the only setback is they give you a tiny cup instead of the free reign I’m accustomed to having at other place’s salsa bars.
The tostada, piled with shrimp and scallops, seemed more than reasonable at five bucks. The cashew creme sauce melded well with the shellfish, setting itself apart from your standard seafood style tostada. Tostadas by nature are somewhat problematic to eat and I will always side with the convenience of the taco. But if you prefer your seafood open-faced, the tostada is more than a serviceable option.
The cóctele is the final offering on their menu. Having never tried cóctele, but being a fan of ceviche, I was eager. Served in a clear plastic Solo cup and accompanied with plain white crackers, the dish is no frills to say the least. However, it is fully loaded with marinated shrimp and avocado. The problem was the avocados were not ripe, to the point that they were crunchy. Perhaps that is not always the case, but I’d unlikely be willing to try it again for $6 when I could get two of their tacos for $7.
Tacos Punta Cabras is essentially a hole-in-the-wall on an intersection unrelenting with traffic. As of right now it is cash only, the lines are long with doctors and nurses from neighboring Saint John’s, and the service is sluggish. With all that being said, it is still recommended and should be a welcomed addition to the Mid-City neighborhood. As always, I suggest riding your bike there, but with no parking this time I really mean it!
If you go
Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.