Restaurant Review: Alegria’s Seafood
The restaurant that bumps up against the dollar theater on Bethel Road has a rotating history that rivals Handke’s former digs in the Brewery District. In the past five years, the location has been a revolving door for restaurant projects with an endless parade of one short-timer after another — the most notable of which was Buffalo Wings & Bowls; sadly ahead of the Bonchon craze.
So it’s understandable that Alegria’s Seafood flew under the radar for a few months. It’s another operation that set up shop in the doomed locale. There’s hope, though. Alegria’s has been quietly turning out some fabulously fun Mexican seafood.
The floors are cement and utilitarian. The chairs are the exact opposite of utilitarian. Each cushioned, molded seat is meticulously painted in a different mural. Let’s say it again: each and every seat is different. We compared the seats with sculpted dolphin designs: all different. Those who prefer to sit in booths will miss out on bona fide house art.
They have free chips, salsa and cerviche; the chips are more functional than flavorful, and not a good indicator for what lies ahead. They take the edge off of hunger pangs, but not much else. At any rate, no one should complain about free anything, ever.
It takes a long time to go through the menu. It’s colorful and plastic with several pages of pretty pictures. Near the back, you’ll find things that are familiar like steak fajitas. But the reason to visit Alegria’s is for the Nayarit-styled seafood: there’s a whole page devoted to octopus dishes. Once you get your order set, things move pretty quickly.
For starters, you can open with a Shrimp Tostada ($5.99). It’s heavy with perky shrimp and loaded with layers of avocado and cucumber and tomato, almost too much for its shell. Its fresh flavors and textures are much more indicative of the restaurant’s ways, than the aforementioned free chips.
Or, perversity might lead you to an appetizer order of Fish and Chips ($7.99); long, deep-fried fingers of fish in a thick, resilient crunchy coating. They’re teamed with fantastically junky fries. We’re not talking about french fries designed for aficionados of hand cut, locally grown tubers, this pile is bright orange from a fried-on seasoning, with a crackling crunch. Pick your team, and choose accordingly.
But doesn’t everyone go to Alegria’s for the thrill of ordering a head-on fish? Sure they do. That’s the Huachinago ($15.99). It’s a red snapper, presented in all its glory (minus the eyeballs, which have been poked out) on a beautiful plate, laden with a garden of greens, an orange slice, some of those junky fries, and a dome of rice dotted with corn and lima beans. No, wait, there’s more: under the fish sits a bed of sautéed onions in a heavenly broth with a few bonus shrimp. And garlic toast. The whole meal is gorgeous to behold, and provides an adventureland of flavors: the shrimp and the broth were surprise favorites.
Regarding the snapper itself, its helpfully sectioned, so each bite of fish flesh is easily acquired with a poke of the fork. The fish is best when dipped in the brothy loops of onions that sit beneath it.
Meanwhile, Caldo 7 Mares ($15.99) is for those who like to play with their food. It’s a dark, murky stew that hides a playground of shell-on treats: fish, shrimp, oysters, crab legs, mussels, scallops and yes, octopus. There are also a few chunks of carrot and celery. You will be exhausted from the shelling and shucking (especially the shrimp) long before you have eaten all the treats. The broth scores extra points for its complexity: it’s much more than a salty stew, it boasts a fragrant, aromatic accent.
The bar in the back serves a variety of Margaritas, cocktails, tequila and beer. Service is not particularly polished, but polite and helpful. Here’s hoping it sticks around longer than its predecessors. You can find it at 2584 Bethel Road.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Alegrias.seafood.
Photos by Walker Evans. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.