Sunday, July 26, 2009


I was thinking about the habanero salsa at Mariscos el Veneno the other day and how it nearly blew a hole through the roof of my mouth. It was the kind of pain that might accompany gum surgery without local anesthesia, like a really pissed off wasp had gotten trapped inside your mouth and was on a very ambitious stinging spree.

The salsa is hailed as their "special" recipe, but really, it's just minced habaneros with a dose of vinegar. If you know anything about habaneros, then you know about pain, and about crying at the table. I did that; I cried. And then I drank a lot of beer, which can also lead to crying, but thankfully, I held my liquor that night. In the case of habanero burn, water does nothing.

Mariscos el Veneno is a brightly colored but shabby Mexican restaurant on Ashland in Ukrainian Village. As is indicated by the name, you go for the seafood. The night we were there - when our tastebud efficacy was reduced by 40% - everyone was Latino in the place except us. And most of them ordered the gargantuan ceviche. It comes in an oversized margarita tumbler, and looks like it feeds 10 - 12.

I don't even remember what I ordered; all I remember is the salsa. I found the above picture on the internet, and it claims to be habanero salsa, but it just looks so innocent and passive. The one at Mariscos el Veneno was the embodiment of pure evil and likely glowed in the dark.

So, I know what's going to happen the next time I go, which will be soon. The server will put that little bowl of orange devil juice on the table and it will call to me, like salsas always do. And I will momentarily forget the pain, like one does after childbirth. I will grab a chip and scoop. And then the tears will flow, the bottle opener will be passed, the beer will be poured, and I will wonder why I never learn.

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