Caldo de Mariscos ($7.99)
At the corner of Fitzhugh Road and U.S. 290, a sign next to a Chevron station squawks about Chester-Fried Chicken.
No matter who's doing the frying, I'm down for chicken, but it turns out Chester's spot at the back of the gas station houses a taqueria now, one with a fine and crispy al pastor taco and a barbacoa version ($1.75 each) with all the fibery richness and none of the gameyness.
But the big surprise is Caldo de Mariscos, a sturdy bowl of vegetable stock filled edge to edge with seafood for just $7.99.
In that bowl, you'll find chunks of catfish with an earthy, river-bottom taste, plus firm shell-on shrimp, tiny oysters and even tinier octopus tentacles — a surprise in every spoonful. The only unwelcome guest was imitation crab that had lost its imitation crabbiness and had the mouthfeel of a matzo ball.
The place is spare, the kind of flourescent-lit room where characters in a Jim Jarmusch movie might play out the last hours of a night gone terribly sad. But two things worked against that: hot coffee with a kiss of cinnamon and a warmhearted waitress who tenderly strapped a baby girl into a highchair for the family next to me.
Well, three things. At the Chevron, you can get deer corn, goat feed, a 24-ounce can of Mickey's and a bottle of Beaujolais Villages. Those last two, they'll let you drink them at your table next door.
Taqueria La Escondida #2. 10900 W. U.S. 290. 288-1450.