The balance of heat and acidity, salt and tang—what’s not to love about ceviche? Found across Latin America and the Caribbean, the cured seafood most likely originated in Peru, where indigenous people “cooked” seafood with chicha, a fermented corn beverage. Spanish conquistadors and missionaries brought citrus to the Americas, so fruits like limes, lemons, and oranges became the new curing agents of choice.
Ceviche has gained traction in coastal towns across Latin America, with unique flourishes evident not just in different countries, but even in neighboring regions. In Peru, ceviche typically comes with tangy leche de tigre, choclo (corn), cancha (like Corn Nuts), and sweet potato. Mexican version often incorporate chiles and come with cooling elements that bring textural contrast, like cucumber, tomato, and onion. In the Caribbean, you might even find coconut milk in your ceviche.
Los Angeles has absorbed many of these influences from across the Latin world, making it a bonafide Mecca for this seafood delicacy. Here are five ceviches essential for any warm-weather (read: year-round) L.A. experience.
Address and phone: 10020 S Inglewood Ave, Lennox (310-672-0226)
Good for: Nayarit-style ceviche
Lennox, a tiny neighborhood east of LAX, doesn’t have many things to cheer about, but Mariscos Chente’s is clearly a point of pride. Vicente Cossio, the father of Connie Cossio (who runs nearby heralded Coni’seafood), is a master at preparing seafood. The actual space isn’t all that noteworthy, with a semi-open kitchen, an oceanic mural, and fish affixed to the walls. However, what’s on the plate will jolt your palate in the best way possible. Cossio’s aguachile is practically gospel, but Ceviche Rojo ($12) is even better, with shrimp in a jalapeno-based sauce layered with red chiles, pepper, tomato, purple onion, cucumber, and cilantro.
Order this: Ceviche Rojo
Address and phone: 3040 E Olympic Blvd, Boyle Heights (323-528-6701)
Good for: Jalisco-style shrimp tacos and ceviche
Raul Ortega, who grew up in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, has dazzled Angelenos with his Boyle Heights seafood truck for more than a decade. He’s most famous for the taco dorado, a deep-fried shrimp taco that’s appeared on more TV shows than Yasiel Puig. Still, on many levels, The Poseidon is even more impressive. Aldo “El Tepo” Torres worked with Ortega on the fully loaded tostada, which sports tangy shrimp ceviche, spicy shrimp aguachile, red onion, and marinated cucumbers; creamy avocado, cooked octopus, and a fiery multi-chile salsa complete the picture.
Order this: The Poseidon
Address and phone: 3809 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
Good for: Eclectic pan-Latin seafood preparations
Carolina Orellana and her charming husband Julio hail from Guatemala City, but it’s tricky to try and pin down their focus in L.A.’s Byzantine-Latino Quarter, where a sea-blue exterior signals your arrival. La Cevicheria delivers a casual experience in a white-and-blue dining room. The aguachile features shrimp in a fiery slurry of jalapeno, cilantro, onion, garlic, and lime. Still, the Concha Negra Ceviche ($14.99) is even more powerful, with pieces of firm blood clams, named for their dark liquor, arriving in a goblet with tomatoes, onions, fresh avocado, cilantro, fresh mint, and Worcestershire sauce. Load up crunchy corn tostadas with ceviche to achieve oceanic bliss. Is it true, as the Orellanas claim, that “ceviche is an aphrodisiac?” Find out here.
Order this: Concha Negra Ceviche
Mariscos El Cristalazo
Address and phone: 1665 S Hacienda Blvd, La Puente (626-918-0863)
Good for: Callo de hacha served in a giant martini glass
Cristal Vargas grew up in Esquinapa, a coastal Sinaloan city sandwiched between Mazatlan and Nayarit. She moved to the San Gabriel Valley and worked in a series of Mexican and Japanese seafood restaurants before she started showcasing the flavors of her homeland. She and husband Rene became a backyard sensation before opening a full-fledged La Puente restaurant in January 2015. Her signature Cristalazo ($25) is a massive martini glass full of minced cucumber and tomato, aguachile of shrimp, and Baja’s famed callo de hacha—firm pen-shell clams lavished with lime juice.
Order this: Cristalazo
Corazon y Miel
Address and phone: 6626 Atlantic Ave, Bell (323-560-1776)
Good for: Modern pan-Latin comfort food
Corazon y Miel, a modern pan-Latin restaurant from Eduardo Ruiz, Travis Hoffacker, and Robin Chopra in the South L.A. hamlet of Bell, features a corrugated metal awning and brick walls lined with colorful art. The name translates from Spanish to heart and honey, and both words factor into a clever antojito. Still, the ceviche de corazon ($12) is an even stronger opening play. Ruiz found inspiration in his trips to Ensenada, where seafood masters like La Guerrerense’s Sabina Bandera run the street-food scene. His bowl combines plump shrimp and octopus, cucumber and raw red onion, and a chunky burnt peanut salsa with ginger, Japanese soy sauce, lime juice, and olive oil that builds in flavor with each bite. Spoon the ceviche onto house-made tortilla chips.
Order this: Ceviche de Corazon