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The Crab Pit ~ Inglewood

9:20 AM PDT on March 28, 2007

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The Crab Pit ~ 1220 N La Brea Ave. Inglewood, CA 90302 ~ (310) 673-1677

Driving to an assignment up one of my favorite alternate north-south routes through the megaopolis, I spotted The Crab Pit and its banner promising "tacos with a lot of soul!" At that moment, I knew I would have to cover it for LA Taco. With so much in the news about Hispanic v. Black tension in our beloved Southland, could it be that food might be something that we could agree upon? To paraphrase and extend the logic of a well-known angeleno, "Can't we all just sit down together, eat some tacos, and get along?" Maybe it would be too much to ask of The Crab Pit to unite working class interests equipped with only its Mexican/Cajun/Sea Food/Soul Food fusion menu items. While a turkey "Killer Taco" alone might not enable us to overcome our differences, I had all the faith in the world that it would allow me to overcome the hunger in my belly.

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Walking up to the counter, I asked which were the most popular menu items and was told that the gumbo and the turkey tacos were perrenial favorites, though our amiable cashier was partial to the shrimp tacos. My dining partner on this particular excursion was the Honourable CBro, who ordered two crab tacos with a cob of corn. I ordered a turkey taco and a shrimp taco with the garlic herb rice. We also decided to splurge in the beverage department, both ordering a concotion called "La Faja Honey Punch", which was described as a mix of six fruit juices, leaning heavily towards the grapefruit flavors, and sweetened with real honey.

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Though we ordered and paid at the counter, the food was brought to us along with real metal forks, establishing The Crab Pit firmly in that blurry gray area between fast-food pit stop and casual dining establishment. In another sign of cultural and ethnic fusion, this Cajun/Soul Food restaurant served up its tacos on the kind of affordable, boat-shaped Japanese ceramic dish that you might find at one of the Marukai 98 Cents Only stores. We appreciated dining on some affordable eats without the aid of polystyrene, for a change. Could cloth napkins be far behind?

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Let's turn our attention from the accoutrement to the food itself. These tacos are not your standard apparently-authentic taco truck fare. They are what I might call "second-generation American tacos", the kind of tacos that Mexican-Americans who were born here and have assimilated might make. Fried corn tortillas, not too crisp, with all-American fillings like ground beef, iceburg lettuce, tomato, and cheddar/jack/colby cheese processed with love and a box-grater. I grew up eating these tacos, three or more at a setting, with every member of my family making liberal use of Crystal Louisiana Style Hot Sauce, passing the bottle to each other from hand to greasy hand.

Though Louisiana style hot sauce was provided at the table, the meat in our turkey tacos was finely ground and already well salted, making the prospect of adding hot sauce on top of that seem like overkill. Actually, I found myself wondering if backing off on the salt in the kitchen would have made the flavorful turkey flesh come through to my palate a little more clearly. The yellow and white cheese was fresh and plentiful and topped off a beautiful presentation. When my mamma used to make it, she would put the cheese directly on top of the meat so that it would melt and soften and mix a bit with the meat - something to think about. The shrimp was meaty and perfectly cooked and seasoned - what you can and should expect from a food service that so clearly touts its cajun roots.

I looked over at CBro's plate and saw a few drops of greasy, orange-red crab flavor beginning to pool at the bottom of his cermamic boat-dish. If these cajun crab cookers were worth their cayanne, they probably cooked the crab with my beloved mixture of seasonings and flavors know as crab boil. If you caught my review of the crawfish joint in the OC, you might have an idea of my adoration of this taste sensation. While I was content with my choice of rice over corn, I was beginning to regret not getting the crab. How was your taco and corn, CBro?:

Mmmmmm... tasty tacos. These tacos were a fat package of mixings with a cajun flavor all their own. The sturdy tortilla held up as I continually doused the taco with house hot sauce to keep the seafood salty juices flowing. The buttered and seasoned corn cob was juicy and crunchy, not like the soft and squishy kernals of corn which has been left floating in a pot all day. This is hearty fair to test your tacao pallette.

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So maybe this makes sense, these "Killer Tacos with a lot of Soul". Ethnic specialties come to America and are often improved in the process. Pizza I ate in Italy was good, but the plenitude of cheese, multiplicity of toppings, and variety of crusts in the US brings pizza to a whole new level. I won't even start about how poorly the sweet-and-sour you can find in the Middle Kingdom compares with the candy-apple-red, pineapple enhanced version you can find here. True, the American versions of foreign food tends to be a little more greasy, a little less healthy. But, my experience has shown that fat-content and flavor-content often go hand and hand. Like in all things, just exercise caution, excersize moderation, and get off the couch and exersize your big American butt once in awhile.

In addition to being the home of the "Killer Taco", the Crab Pit is also the home of a "World Famous" lemon ice box pie, and you can ask for a free sample which comes in a little plastic cup about the same size as the ones that come with NyQuil or Pepto-Bismol. It was pretty good and the taste provided by the sample alone provided a nice finish to a satisfying meal. Cold and straight from the "ice box", the pie tasted like a lemony tart, sweet, and creamy-soft version of cheesecake. In my research, I found that lemon ice box pie is frequently compared to a key lime pie with lemon substituted for the key lime.

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The Crab Pit is a unique product of the Los Angeles area. We very well might have taken advantage of the patio dining if it weren't a day of such uncharacteristicly LA drizzle and overcast skies. Inside though, the decor was pleasing and appropriate enough, with the fishing nets and fake crabs hanging from the ceiling, the nod to the USC sports program, and the now almost obligatory wall of personalized photos from local celebrities and regulars. Where hasn't the KTLA news team eaten? Those people seem to be as ravenous and omnipresent as locusts. Maybe we're just jealous, as they seem to beat us to every well-hidden neighborhood gem. At the same time, we can't talk too much smack about being ravenous: as you can see by the shot of the table nearly licked clean, we thoroughly enjoyed The Crab Pit.

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