Much like your average nightclub or high school cafeteria, our hearts have a VIP section. It’s reserved, in part, for cash-only spots in the back of bodegas. And when a cash-only spot in the back of a bodega also happens to serve a quality cup of shrimp, there’s nothing we can do. That’s why we’re putty in the hands of La Esquina Del Camarón Mexicano, our favorite place for casual seafood in Jackson Heights.
At the back of a bodega on the corner of 80th and Roosevelt, behind a few shelves and a couple of fridges, you’ll find a restaurant that would fit in the basket of a hot air balloon. Stake out a seat at the single picnic table, then approach the tiny counter and order a coctel de camarón or the combo version with rounds of tender octopus. Either way, your cup of seafood will come doused in a zippy red sauce the color of Drake’s jacket from the “Hotline Bling” video, with a burst of fruity sweetness balanced by a heavy dusting of chopped onion and cilantro. Close your eyes, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting near a beach, even when it’s 20 degrees outside, the 7 train is being noisy, and there are several strangers sitting around your picnic table wondering why you just closed your eyes.
In addition to cocteles, this place also serves some massive fish tacos, crispy empanadas, and a few other snacks - but those plastic cups of shellfish are the most compelling reason to come here. So the next time you’re in the mood for quality seafood, and you’d rather not deal with a server, a host, or a menu with more than 12 items, head over for a dose of shrimp. Make use of the hot sauce sitting on the picnic table, and if you happen to pour a little too much, don’t panic. The beverage options are nearly infinite. That’s just one benefit of eating in the back of a bodega.
The most essential order here, this coctel comes in four sizes, and even the smallest one comes packed with enough shrimp and octopus to hold you over for several hours. Add hot sauce, dip your spoon in, and enjoy.
Our second favorite item at LEDCM (that’s the official abbreviation now), this tostada comes topped with a heaping mound of chilled octopus. We’d like to eat it on a lounge chair by a pool, but the cramped picnic table here also works fine.
If you need a break from cold seafood, we highly suggest the emapnadas de pescado. Light, crispy, and filled with flaky fish, they’re snack-sized and make a wonderful accompaniment to a coctel. The bit of avocado that gets added after the frying process is also a very nice touch.
We love and respect LEDCM, but the tacos here tend to fall short of our expectations. The grilled fish taco comes with a filet that’s about six inches long, and the sauteed onions are a nice touch - but tortillas don’t have much going on, and the whole thing ends up feeling lifeless.
If you absolutely have to have a taco, go with the fried-and-breaded fish variety. It’s crunchy, with plenty of fish, and a squeeze of lime really helps it shine.