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camarones and service a la diabla-Playa azul

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so yesterday we were entertaining my sister in law and her two kids and were down in pilsen looking at day of the dead altars.

we decided to hit playa azul for lunch. Granted 3 adult and 4 gringo kids approaching aren't the party that are gonna make most places waitstaff jump for joy and there were some language issues but:

cheese enchiladas came with chicken after specifically ordering without chicken

3 orange juices came to the table a 3 cans of orange crush (this query -do you have orange juice was actually conducted in spanish)

my sister-in-laws order of snapper was completely forgotten. At first we thought that this had to do with slightly longer cooking time on the snapper then the other dishes but as the meal progressed i asked the waitress, who pointed out on the menu what we had ordered but then we saw her go over and place the order to the kitchen(after we had eaten most of our other entrees)

on the plus side my camarones (off the specials board) were great. I am not one to reach for a second drink because of spice level easily but this order did. The shrimp were tender and cooked nicely and the sauce was so nice i was putting it on everything i could find. Sure I ate my rice withthe sauce, and tortillas of course, But i caught myself dipping an avacado slice in there as well. The empanada de camaron was also tasty with nice bits of onion and cilantro in the filling with the seafood.

So my question is - was the service an isolated incident or have others had the same experience? I would hate not to go for those shrimp again.

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  1. I, too, happened to be at Playa Azul yesterday, for a late breakfast/early lunch. I found no problem with the service (I went with a native Spanish speaker) and the food was terrific. Shrimp soup and seafood with rice were both marvelous. The seafood was fresh and abundant and the prices almost giddily low.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Hugh B

      great timing guys! i spent yesterday on my bike cruising pilsen for an interesting lunch spot to take a bunch of people to after a tour of the mexican fine arts center next sunday. i'd heard the old standby nuevo leon has gone downhill. i stopped for lunch at cuernavaca on 18th st. a trip to the ladies room was so unpleasant (the toilet seat hanging on by one hinge, no towels or soap), that i left without ordering. we ended up at la condesa on ashland. the menu was really dull. i was prepared to settle for chile rellenos if nothing better came along, but they didnt even have that. i ended up with a decent bowl of shrimp soup. but my friend's chicken in some kind of greasy red garlic sauce tasted llike it had been frozen and thawed several times- very stringy and dry. not being prepared to actually eat a second lunch in my search for the frontera grill of pilsen st. (i've decided it doesnt exist), i reluctantly decided to take my group to playa azul, even though i've never been. your visits have convinced me its worth a try. (anybody tried decima musa on 19th st., it wasnt open during the day?) thanks, joan

      1. re: joan

        I have had some very good food at Playa Azul in the past but had a pretty mediocre meal there a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t going to post anything but since the topic came up, here are a few comments on food and service. We were the only ones there about 9:30 on a Thursday night. Our server, who spoke limited English, did a decent job but nothing exceptional. We had a so-so sopa siete mares and an okay huachinango a la mexicana.

        The large bowl of soup had a fairly bland broth and lots of seafood. It looked great and tasted okay. The accompanying minced onion, cilantro, limes, and salsa helped a lot. The octopus, shrimp, and oysters were very good but the rest of the seafood was of lesser quality. The big pieces of crab and some sort of lobster in the shell were barely worth the effort needed to crack them open. One of the simpler soups might be a better bet. Our server, when she noticed we were sharing, thoughtfully brought extra bowls and claw crackers without us asking.

        The whole red snapper was deep fried (no breading) and covered with a sauce of stewed onion and peppers. The fish was oily but edible and the sauce was nice. If I were to order the snapper again I’d probably opt for a non-fried version. The rice and salad (with a blob of mayonnaise) were unremarkable. The fish was nearly $20 (market price) which I thought was no great bargain.

        She stopped by once or twice during the meal to fill our water glasses and see if everything was okay. After we were finished she asked about dessert (none for us) and left the check. She never returned to pick up the money (not sure if this is a pay-at-register place) so we left the tip and waved goodbye on our way out. All in all, completely adequate service for that type of restaurant.

        I think it’s still possible to eat well at Playa Azul but it probably takes some knowledge of the menu (that shrimp sounds like a winner). I’ll probably return again some day but will check out some other places first. High on my list is the seafood place next door to Doña Lolis. I went to Doña Lolis a week ago and noticed they have a new seafood menu. Well, maybe it’s not new but I hadn’t seen it before (it’s printed on a separate sheet of paper). Maybe there’s a seafood rivalry heating up around Clark and Lunt.

        As for Decima Musa, I wish I could help. It looks and sounds like a cool place but I haven’t heard much about the food. It’s been around a while so presumably they’re doing something right. I still have a yellowed clipping from some community newspaper over 10 years ago that talks of the family recipes used by the two women who own it. The name refers to a nun who some consider to be North America’s first feminist. It’s at 1901 S Loomis in case someone wants to give it a try.

        1. re: Rene G

          thanks, rene, for more feedback on playa azul. my expectations aren't so high at this point that i'm likely to be disappointed. i hope to try decima musa soon, and will report back. joan