How do you decide where to stop and eat on a road trip?
On a recent surf trip I was blown away by the pata de mula clams that we found at a roadside restaurant. I know that the ingredients in Mexico are amazing but I am still working my way through the shellfish selection. Eating raw shellfish in San Diego is a very expensive habit. In Mexico, I have found the best seafood is often served in the most humble settings.
Pata de mula clams in English are known as blood clams because there is hemoglobin in the shell. They are wild harvested across much of the pacific coast of Mexico.
I probably wouldn’t have stopped had the place not been highly recommended. Gabriel had been a few weeks ago and couldn’t stop talking about it. He was looking for oysters in San Pancho and heard that the best oysters were 15 minutes down the highway 200. Just outside of Lo de Marcos is a nondescript roadside restaurant selling some of the best Mexican seafood I have ever tasted.
There is no running water. It’s just a shack underneath a big tree in front of a pineapple field. There is a table with a shade umbrella and a big pile of clams waiting to be shucked. Normally there are oysters too but we got there late and they were already sold out. Honestly, I am stoked that they were sold out of oysters because I got to try something that I may not have ordered otherwise.
I had tried pata de mula clams before but never like this. There was a seafood cocktail bar near the Minerva in Guadalajara that I used to enjoy. They would shuck the pata de mula clams and mix them into a prepared cocktail with ketchup and other stuff. There is something about natural seafood. When the clams are in perfect condition all they need is a few grains of salt. The texture is a little bit tougher than an oyster. You actually have to chew them. And the flavor is rich. The inside of the shell is filled with what looks like red ink.
In addition to the pata de mula clams there were white clams. I have been pouring over google search to find out what type of clams these are but I can’t find them. They are bigger than the almeja reina and a different color than the almeja chocolata. They are more delicate than either of those clams anyway. This was my favorite. It doesn’t taste like seafood but like the ocean. The pata de mula clams were is little tough but this clam was just right.
You can order the clams prepared or natural. The prepared clams have some salsa and chopped onion, cucumber and tomato. The prepared clams are tasty but you are here to taste the clams, not the salsa. Some of the delicate notes of the clam are hidden behind the salsa. I recommend ordering the clams natural.
Ceviche and Salsa
When we first arrived there was only fish ceviche. As we were ordering a motorcycle rolled up and the lady said that the shrimp ceviche arrived. The shrimp ceviche had just been made and while the outer parts were turning white the center of the shrimps where still raw. This is exactly how I like to eat it.
I liked the solid collection of Nayarit salsas. The Mexico Lindo Habanera salsa is from Sinaloa but the rest are from Nayarit. I always love trying new local salsas that are crafted specifically for the local delicacies. These salsas are the perfect compliment to raw seafood.
Signs of Quality Mexican Seafood
My father-in-law always says that when you are traveling you should look for the restaurants where the truck drivers are stopped because they always know where to eat well. While we were eating there was a non-stop flow of truck drivers stopping to grab a bite to eat. Some would just grab a cup of ceviche to go but others would take their time. There was one guy who was driving a refrigerated seafood delivery truck. If the guy who works for the wholesale seafood company is stopping to eat here, you know that it is good. That guy knows quality seafood and he chooses to stop at Ostiones el Vali.
Honestly, I would not have stopped had this not been a solid recommendation. You are putting a lot of trust in the hands of the person serving your food. There are some serious concerns when eating raw seafood, especially raw mollusks. 24 hours later I have absolutely zero stomach discomfort.
Not only is this roadside stand one of the best places to eat in Mexico, but it is also 100% gluten-free. A plate of seafood like that would cost a hundred dollars in Los Angles or San Diego if you could even find it. We spent $330 pesos (less than US$17) for a dozen pata de mula clams, two large clams, four tostadas, and two half-liter cokes. An absolutely lovely surprise after a day of surf. Another reason why I love Mexico so much.