El Rincon Taraxco
1414 Junction St., Detroit
Bathrooms handicap inaccessible
A Mexican restaurant with no beans? Rincon Taraxco, which bills itself as "the First Mexican Seafood Restaurant in Detroit," opened in 2000. It features oysters and octopus rather than chimichangas or chicharrones; there's just one taco on the menu, and that's fish. Rincon ("corner") sits in the heart of the barrio but off the beaten tourist track, and most customers' first language is Spanish, as is the menu's (it includes English translations).
Decor is basic — Formica tables and vinyl chairs — except for the mermaid mural with the face of Selena, which seems to have been defaced and repaired. Service is idiosyncratic, and don't bother with the nonfish dishes, which are greasy and disappointing.
But Rincon Taraxco's price is very right, the drinks menu is out of the ordinary and live musicians will take requests from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sundays. On a cold January night we enjoyed tenor Antonio Bustos with his 10-gallon hat and accordion accompanists.
Owners Carlos Martinez and his cooks are from Jalisco, which borders the Pacific. All in my party agreed their soup was the best choice — a small is enough for a meal. Fish soup ($6.28) is spicy enough to make you cough but not enough to make you send it back, with big chunks of tilapia and carrots, potatoes and cabbage. There's a shrimp soup too, and a more expensive "Seven Seas" with shrimp, tilapia, octopus, clams, oysters, scallops and real crab legs in the shell. The latter can be ordered as an appetizer, as can shrimp, oysters or clams in their shells.
Instead of tortilla chips and salsa, you start your meal with tuna salad and saltines. I don't get how saltines are even a food — could there be emptier calories? — but my companions appreciated the tuna mixed with mayo, lima beans, carrots, corn and peas, doubly so since it takes a while for your orders to arrive.
Deal with that by ordering a $1 horchata (a rice drink; here the flavor is more vanilla than cinnamon) or a michelada: your choice of beer (nine Mexican brands are on hand for $3), mixed with lime juice, tomato juice or Clamato, celery salt, hot sauce and soy sauce. I have to say that I enjoyed the michelada I had in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, last month more than Rincon's, but I was prejudiced by sitting at an outdoor café table, temps in the 70s. It has a flavor with lots of umami, almost bloody.
Or order a Vampiro, which is also red. The ingredients list sounds awful beyond belief, but you're not going to Rincon because you want the tried-and-true. Their Vampiro recipe is lime juice, tequila or vodka, and Viuda de Sanchez-brand sangrita (a spicy tequila chaser or co-sip made with chili de arbol). The awful ingredient is Squirt. I did not order it.
Shrimp, oyster and octopus cocktails can be had, with a sauce including ketchup. I'd go with ceviche or a good combination order, tostada campechana with ceviche, chewy octopus and shrimp. The ceviche is made from tilapia, with lime juice.
The fish on order at Rincon are catfish, smelt, tilapia and red snapper, cooked a host of ways. I had a simple filete al mojo de ajo (catfish with garlic) and appreciated the good-size chunks of soft garlic baked along with the fish, which was a bit soft. Slices of both orange and lime are garnishes, along with a blob of sour cream. Filete a la Veracruzana carried a guisado of red and yellow peppers.
Seeking more crispness, next time I asked for a whole fried catfish, which indeed was deep-fried a medium-brown on every available surface, including between the "ribs." It was large and tasty, the meat coming away from the bones with ease.
Another whole fish that sounds intriguing is huachinango (red snapper) zarandeado. It's covered with mustard and mayo and stuffed with shrimp and octopus, then steamed and grilled. My mayo-phobic companion asked for just mustard and got ketchup instead, not a happy choice.
All the dishes are served with a deconstructed salad: separate heaps of shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes.
I've been to Rincon at widely separated intervals — many years in between — and one aspect of the friendly service has been so consistent it must be house policy. Each guest's silverware is brought only when his or her dish is, which may be one at a time. It's only a problem, I suppose, if you can't wait to eat from your partner's plate.
Rincon takes credit cards and has a parking lot. It's open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.