Mama Nena's a temple of seafood

February 26, 2012 4:46:15 AM PST
For the past 15 years, Mama Nena's, a temple of seafood, has been a fixture just a block from the old stockyards, breading and frying more shrimp than you can imagine.

"I first put the some shrimp inside some flour, I mix it up and then I shake it off," said owner Lito Alambar. 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."

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.

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.

If shrimp isn't your thing, catfish also makes frequent appearances on the menu, both fried and grilled.

"Really yeah, cause I know a lot of people want some healthy food," Alambar said. "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."

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," he said. "I look forward to lent cause that's when i really get this place going."

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.