How ironic is it that just a block from the old Stockyards is a temple of seafood? For the past 15 years, Mama Nena's has been a fixture there, breading and frying more shrimp than you can imagine.
"I first put some shrimp inside some flour, I mix it up and then I shake it off. And then I put it into the batter, then I mix it into the batter. Then I put it into bread crumbs. And then I just do it by hand," said Mama Nena's owner Lito Alambar.
Alambar only uses Gulf shrimp, taking care to devein it as well. The result is a finely coated specimen, without the usual too-thick of a shell. You've got two types of cocktail sauce to choose from -- hot or mild. Another fried and filling snack is the shrimp diablo, which includes jalapenos and bacon.
But there are healthier options. Shrimp shows up grilled in skewers over fluffy mounds of sofrito rice embedded with habituela beans. There's also a shrimp cocktail, served in a glass the size of a small aquarium, along with hunks of fresh avocado, plus, tiny chopped shrimp in a citrusy-bright ceviche.
And if shrimp isn't your thing, catfish also makes frequent appearances on the menu, both fried and grilled.
"I know a lot of people want some healthy food. So, I figured why not grill, and I love grilling. So, I figured why not grill the food instead of frying it all the time," said Alambar.
During Lent, Alambar also makes a hearty shrimp soup, containing hunks of chayote squash, carrots, potatoes and chipotle chilies. He says without a doubt, this is his busiest season.
"That's when it's prime time for me. I look forward to Lent 'cause that's when I really get this place going," Alambar said.
No surprise that Ash Wednesday is the busiest day of the year here at Mama Nena's. But Thursdays and Fridays are really big during Lent and a lot of people come for the catfish and shrimp soup. But make no mistake, they're really coming for the fried shrimp.
The restaurant is typically busiest on Fridays during Lent. So be sure to plan ahead.
Mama Nena's Shrimp House
1623 W. 43rd St.