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  • Mariscos El Veneno (Ukrainian Village)

    Post #1 - February 16th, 2014, 8:00 pm
    Post #1 - February 16th, 2014, 8:00 pm Post #1 - February 16th, 2014, 8:00 pm
    I’d like to nominate Mariscos El Veneno as a 2014 GNR. Mariscos El Veneno is one of my favorite restaurants to recommend to other Chicagoans. Everyone seems to recognize that seedy stretch of Ashland “south of the three [now two] Pasaditas.” And the conversation always goes the same way:

    “Oh, you mean El Barco. I’ve been there before years ago. It’s okay.”

    “No, the place across the street. The other place for Mexican seafood. It has a smurf blue facade and is always crowded. You’ll know it when you see it.”

    Mariscos El Veneno is one of those singular neighborhood places that draws everyone in. On any given night, you can expect to eat elbow to elbow with construction workers tucking into platters of steaming langostinos, Mexican extended families passing trays of oysters and fried huachinango, and NPR-types supplementing halved crabs with bottle after bottle of wine. Whether or not you’re celebrating some special occasion, the atmosphere is loud, convivial, and focused on the food. It’s the type of place where you plan ahead to wear your “eatin’ shirt,” because you will get messy, and you won’t even care.

    Everyone has their Veneno favorites, but the ideal dinner for me begins with the complimentary marlin ceviche, which arrives on the table even before the menu. Placed on a saltine (not the tostada it comes on) and topped with salsa Huichol and a squeeze of lime (and maybe some of the fiery house-made habanero salsa if I feel brave), this bite is one of my favorite bites in Chicago, at least partly because it evokes fond memories of wandering through the beach towns of Nayarit, Mexico. Mariscos El Veneno is just another shining example of how fortunate we are to have such a broad range of Mexican cuisine represented in Chicago.

    Other must-haves: langostinos ordered by the tray or half-tray, the perfectly tender “pulpo especial,” piles of crabs swimming in buttery red sauce, and the “veneno salad” – a refreshing cold seafood salad piled high with marlin ceviche, octopus, scallop, shrimp, oysters, and more, that perfectly balances the heavy richness of the rest of the meal. And, of course, extra garlic bread to soak up all of the leftover sauces.

    Mariscos El Veneno is one of my absolute favorite places to throw down with a big group of friends. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Others on this board have sung its praises:

    YourPalWill wrote:IMO, it has GNR written all over it.

    Da Beef wrote:I've been a big fan of El Barco forever and Mexican has always been my favorite food. Count me in as a bigger fan of Veneno and its Nayarit (one of Mexico's 31 states) style of cooking.

    gastro gnome wrote:Holy Toledo, OH was that octopus good. Pungent garlic, chile heat and tender, not tough whole arms of octopus . . . The prawns were a little on the dry side, but when you bathed them in the mouth-tingling sauce, they were a real winner. And any meal involving red-stained hands and carapace sucking already has a lot going for it.

    JeffB wrote:The chapuzon de mariscos involves one of the most delicious, heart-stoppingly buttery sauces anywhere (and the long-cooked shellfish actually work in this prep), the shrimp aguaschiles are a robust doppelganger of TAC's raw shrimp (high praise), and the massive dungeness crab in Nayarit sauce has to be one of the best crustacean deals in town.

    turkob wrote:Mariscos el Veneno is exactly the type of gem that you can't believe you've never tried before.

    jimswside wrote:yeah.. im hooked on this spot. Cancelled a reservation for Sumi Robata for Saturday night and was glad I did. That $40 crab plate has to be one of the better deals in the city. and gets my vote for the #1 crab dish(feast) around.

    Jefe wrote:Fortunately I noticed the micheladas in the room, so we asked and were greeted with chalices of spicy brew that we tipped our beers into. The best I've had in Chicago and free to boot, as much as I loved the food, this was enough to make me a happy camper. It seemed as though the whole neighborhood was partying in there that night, a more inclusive vibe I challenge you to find at a restaurant on a Saturday night!

    Mike G wrote:Popped in here for lunch yesterday and had a meal that can be divided neatly into the "not bad" and the "bad.”

    Main thread: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=20273

    Mariscos El Veneno
    1024 N Ashland Ave
    773-252-7200
    BYOB
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #2 - February 16th, 2014, 8:32 pm
    Post #2 - February 16th, 2014, 8:32 pm Post #2 - February 16th, 2014, 8:32 pm
    So happy to see this nomination--both because it's a a shining example of a particularly delicious regional cuisine AND because it might mean a dinner will be planned soon!

    I've only been once but it was a terrific meal and I definitely want to return. Unbeatable combo of great seafood (the octopus is one of my favorite preparations in Chicago), reasonable prices, enthusiastic service and the best people watching I've enjoyed in a restaurant in a long time (drunken 1st dates, LP Trixies ordering French fries, etc.)

    GNR yes!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #3 - February 17th, 2014, 10:16 am
    Post #3 - February 17th, 2014, 10:16 am Post #3 - February 17th, 2014, 10:16 am
    I've been eating here since they opened– its at the end of my block, which qualifies it with a capital N in my book. Once I learned how to order, which frankly was just recently, I really fell in love with the place. It was always a family outing spot for us and in the old days, my folks were not yet hip to sharing platters, opting for dinner plates. Why the heck you'd fill up on food-service grade seasoned fries, squishy garlic bread, and orange slices is beyond me. You come here for mountains of butter-based-sauce-drenched seafood. I find that the consistency and quality of some of the items varies visit to visit, but the camarones, langostinos, and pulpo are all safe bets. The complexly rich-spicy-tart Pulpo Especial is a must order as is a mixed botana in garlic butter for us.

    You know though, a trip to MeV isn't all about the food. We were just in there a few weeks ago during our eight or ninth blizzard, in between polar vortices, and, man, was it ever the cure to the seasonal effective disorder. You can bet that even on the most frigid, blustery night, the place will be packed with merriment. Mariscos is celebration food and people come here to roll up their sleeves and get down. BYOB and kick things off with one of the best micheladas in town (sometimes free, sometimes not, sometimes garnished to the nines, sometimes not) and this place will thaw out your a$$ and teleport you to the Pacific coast.

    Image
  • Post #4 - February 17th, 2014, 11:54 am
    Post #4 - February 17th, 2014, 11:54 am Post #4 - February 17th, 2014, 11:54 am
    Glad someone nominated this spot. One of my favorite restaurants in all of Chicago - bar none.

    Cant get enough of those crabs, or the langostino's. The shrimp empenadas are a favorite as well.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #5 - February 17th, 2014, 12:20 pm
    Post #5 - February 17th, 2014, 12:20 pm Post #5 - February 17th, 2014, 12:20 pm
    Shocker that this had not already been nominated. Everything I wrote above still stands.

    The best time for el pulpo especiale is all the time.
  • Post #6 - February 17th, 2014, 12:36 pm
    Post #6 - February 17th, 2014, 12:36 pm Post #6 - February 17th, 2014, 12:36 pm
    I think it's about time that the quirky Mexican subgroup of excessive Nayarit seafood places, so prevalent in Chicago, gets recognized. LTH has been in love with these places off and on for years, going back to the original Islas Marias. Like Resi's and Laschett's, Connors and McEnroe, or Robinson and LaMotta, Veneno and Barco duke it out across Ashland and stay sharp to everyone's benefit. While Barco probably wins on parking, waitstaff, space, and booze, Veneno has the edge in the kitchen and deserves a GNR. Plus it's cool that one can (and several here did!) find the original Veneno in a tiny Pacific Mexican town -including a small push cart slinging seafood tostadas in the town square. Amazingly enough, my tostadas were pretty much the same in Bucerias as in Noble Square. I would really love to see a GNR hanging on the cart in Mexico.
  • Post #7 - February 17th, 2014, 12:58 pm
    Post #7 - February 17th, 2014, 12:58 pm Post #7 - February 17th, 2014, 12:58 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:So happy to see this nomination--both because it's a a shining example of a particularly delicious regional cuisine AND because it might mean a dinner will be planned soon!


    My thoughts exactly. Throw out some dates during the week of the 23rd, and I will gladly set up an event!
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #8 - February 17th, 2014, 1:12 pm
    Post #8 - February 17th, 2014, 1:12 pm Post #8 - February 17th, 2014, 1:12 pm
    2/25!!!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #9 - February 18th, 2014, 2:21 am
    Post #9 - February 18th, 2014, 2:21 am Post #9 - February 18th, 2014, 2:21 am
    I loved Veneno so much that I actually planned vacations to travel to Nayarit just to sample the food from the source. It's unlikely enough when the food is better in Chicago than the native region, but it's even more strange when the native region in mention is a coastal town and you're talking seafood, but I'd be damned if I found a place in Nayarit that served up as many dishes as well as Veneno does them. The chef really cares a lot about the quality of the fish and would rather take something off the menu before they substitute an inferior product.

    It has already been mentioned above in various forms, but this place is truly the epitome of a neighborhood place. It is so tiny, that it was doing the communal seating before it was hip. Half the time I'm there, I end up bumping elbows with a new friend, sometimes swapping beers or cocktails, or just menu favorites. The atmosphere is cozy, the music is loud, and the food is messy, so it's definitely an experience to dine there. This is one of my favorite places in the city.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #10 - February 28th, 2014, 5:44 pm
    Post #10 - February 28th, 2014, 5:44 pm Post #10 - February 28th, 2014, 5:44 pm
    I dream about the pulpo especial. The softest, most tender octopus swimming in a delicious butter sauce. Absolutely a GNR in my book.
  • Post #11 - March 3rd, 2014, 5:49 pm
    Post #11 - March 3rd, 2014, 5:49 pm Post #11 - March 3rd, 2014, 5:49 pm
    My husband and I made our inaugural visit on Saturday night and, based on this first visit, are hearty supporters of this nomination. Tremendous food (at a great value), warm welcome, great neighborhood vibe....just a perfect choice for a GNR.
    "There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that’s lying about being milk."
    - Ron Swanson
  • Post #12 - March 10th, 2014, 6:23 pm
    Post #12 - March 10th, 2014, 6:23 pm Post #12 - March 10th, 2014, 6:23 pm
    Plates piled high with delicious Mexican seafood and an energetic and comfortable atmosphere make this a perfect GNR. I support the nomination!
  • Post #13 - March 10th, 2014, 8:21 pm
    Post #13 - March 10th, 2014, 8:21 pm Post #13 - March 10th, 2014, 8:21 pm
    turkob wrote:Plates piled high with delicious Mexican seafood and an energetic and comfortable atmosphere make this a perfect GNR.
    Its been a while since I've been to Mariscos El Veneno, but my recollection dovetails with Turkob, so yes, GNR please.
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow

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