Skip to Content
Featured

These Grilled Shrimp and Octopus ‘Vampiro’ Tacos in Salsa Negra Are Creating a Cult Following in Inglewood

Welcome to L.A. Taco's first-ever Ceviche Week, Presented by Tecate! Every day this week, we will bring you features celebrating L.A.'s Ceviche Life because for every great taco in this fine city, there is a great tostada not too far behind. In the perpetual summer that is Los Angeles, there is no better beer that accompanies mariscos than an ice-cold Tecate or Tecate Light. ¡Provecho!

[dropcap size=big]U[/dropcap]p and down Arbor Vitae Street, all the crudos on the block are talking about Meñito’s stunning ceviche negro and his filling vampiro de camaron with pulpo; an exciting mariscos-meets-tacos first in L.A.’s Vampiro scene. 

These new dishes are gathering attention in the ceviche enclave located where Inglewood and the Lennox neighborhoods meet. And the secret to these dishes? 

Salsa negra. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

The Sinaloan black gold known as salsa Negra. 

Manuel Lastor, known affectionately as Meñito for his kid-like appearance, is the clean-cut spectacled 29-year-old behind Meñitos Seafood. Since he moved to Los Angeles from Guatemala, he has spent the last 11 years learning the Sinaloan and Nayarit-inspired mariscos from the “Snook Whisperer” of Underground 106, Sergio Peñuelas. Peñuelas is the mariscos chef celebrated by the late Jonathan Gold. Both Puñuelos and Lastor met while working at Coni’s Seafood and Cheko El Rey Del Sarandeado. But now, the young apprentice is venturing out on his own and innovating the mariscos craft. 

Manuel "Meñito" Lastor. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

At its base, Lastor’s ceviche negro is very similar to what you will find at Underground 106 or Coni’s. You’ll find ultra-fresh shrimp pieces mixed with bits of onion, tomato, and cucumber. But the sauce is where this ceviche distinguishes itself from its primos. It’s the same sauce he uses for some of his other unique items like his one-of-kind must-order at every visit, vampiro. It’s a seafood taco that the neighborhood can’t get enough of. 

When asked about how it feels to inspire a new generation in the craft of Sinaloan mariscos, Peñuelas gives Meñito his hard-earned blessings. “He’s a great kid and a real hard-worker. I know he’s going to give it all he’s got.” 

If you haven’t guessed or googled the translation for “vampiro” yet, it’s Spanish for a vampire. In taco terms, it’s like a tostada. Except instead of frying the tortilla, it’s toasted over a grill or comal with melted cheese and topped with meat like carne asada or birria. 

According to our chief taco chronicler at L.A. Taco, Javier Cabral, “It’s a famous variation of a taco in the northern states like Sinaloa, Baja Norte, and Sonora. The way it got its name is because it’s supposed to have chopped garlic within the melted cheese.” Getting its name from the storied vampire repellent that is the stinking rose.  

Ceviche Negro at Meñito's. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

Lastor, in his 11 years working in mariscos, only learned about vampiros through a quick stint he recently did at a taco spot. It’s where he got the idea to make a mariscos vampiro. 

Along with toasting the tortilla, Lastor grills the shrimp and pulpo a bit, garnishes it with onion, diced tomato, cilantro, a couple of thin slices of avocado, and finishes it with a dash of his signature salsa negra. He doesn’t, however, include any garlic in the cheese like a traditional vampiro because “it changes the flavor too much,” according to him. 

If the complexity of warm crunching, tender snapping, and oozing textures of cheese and sauce tumbling through your mouth after your first bite isn’t enough for you to gladly expose your neck for another vampiro, the immersion of flavors from the salsa negra will make your fangs jump out for another bite. 

All his ingredients are fresh; nothing is ever frozen, and he fries his own tostadas. A rare step that again, separates him from L.A.’s extremely competitive mariscos wars.

The salsa he uses begins with an imported bottled salsa negra that is made in Sinaloa. “At first, it’s very dense and rich, so I lighten it up with some clamato, chiles, lime, and other ingredients.”  The end product is smooth, salty, acidic, with hints of worcestershire sauce, fresh squeezed lime juice, a touch of sugar, and blended with chiles. This kind of hot sauce doctoring up is very traditional in the wide refreshing world of mariscos. 

Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

The salsa is similar to Mariscos El Tocho’s famous chunky salsa negra, except it’s not as sweet, and it is velvety smooth, but both are incorporated into many of their dishes just the same. 

When asked about this comparison, Lastro replies, “That’s funny, others have told me the same thing recently, but I haven’t tried [Tocho’s] yet.”

His menu also includes various dishes, like his botana with shrimp, both cooked and butterflied raw, callos de media luna (scallop-like pen shell clam), pulpo, and his salsa negra. 

Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

If for a strange reason, his customers prefer ceviche without the salsa negra, he has a few options. We recommend his Ceviche Compadre, a ceviche with minced onion, finely chopped shrimp and callos de media luna in a spicy and acidic red sauce with hints of chiltepin dried chile. It’s reminiscent of the Valentina hot sauce-lime juice you end up with at the bottom of the clear potato chip bags in Mexico. 

Cheko’s famous zarandeado is also on deck along with some savory camarones en pimienta (peppered shrimp), camarones a la diabla, and a whole list of classic mariscos options like a refreshing cóctel de camarón. 

Meñito's Vampiro. Photo by Memo Torres for L.A. Taco.

All his ingredients are fresh; nothing is ever frozen, and he fries his own tostadas. A rare step that again, separates him from L.A.’s extremely competitive mariscos wars. The Inglewood and Lennox area continues to be home to some of the best mariscos in the county, and the recent emergence of Meñito’s Seafood only solidifies that reputation. 

When asked about how it feels to inspire a new generation in the craft of Sinaloan mariscos, Peñuelas gives Meñito his hard-earned blessings. “He’s a great kid and a real hard-worker. I know he’s going to give it all he’s got.” 

Meñitos Seafood is an underground restaurant in South Los Angeles. Orders are available by DM on Instagram until he eventually reaches his goal of purchasing a small truck or he finds a brick and mortar. To place an order, send him a DM at @chefmenito.

We hope you're enjoying Ceviche Week, presented by Tecate! Check back each day this week for more ceviche stories from Los Angeles!

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

‘This is Los Angeles:’ Family Behind El Burro at Placita Olvera Fight to Save 57 Years of Tradition and Culture

"It’s a huge part of L.A.'s identity," said Eugenia Nicole Macias. "We’re not going anywhere. Our grandmother raised us to make noise."

May 24, 2024

What To Eat This Weekend In L.A.: Sonoran-Style Chicharrón, Tikka Masala Fried Chicken, Japanese Curry Arancini, and ‘Flintstones Burgers’

Plus a breezy new restaurant in the South Bay, Guam-style barbecue at the races, smoked birria, and cassava tortillas. Here's where to eat this weekend from Cudahy to West Adams to Arcadia!

May 24, 2024

LAPD Officer Released on $30,000 Bond Following Arrest For Assault With a Deadly Weapon

A day after the incident the LAPD said in a statement that they were prompted to respond to the 8600 block of Belford Avenue after “a community member generated a radio call of an Assault with a Deadly Weapon.” Police later identified the suspect as “off-duty Officer Richard Podkowski.”

May 23, 2024

Downtown’s Aguascalientes-Style ‘Flying Gorditas’ Sell Out On The Street In Three Hours

The family behind this stand also owns a Mexican chile and spice import company , so their guisados taste remarkably fresh. Their gorditas have been so popular that they are opening a brick and mortar restaurant in East L.A. this Saturday.

May 23, 2024

This Peruvian Street-Style Fried Chicken Inside a 30-Year-Old Taquería Is the Valley’s Best-Kept Secret

“I'm very proud of bringing our food, Peruvian food, and the acceptance from our Mexican brothers,” says chef Omar Zavala, who is from Peru and took over Taqueria Juanito's with his wife, Carmen, five years ago.

May 22, 2024
See all posts