Junior’s Meat Market owner Juan Zavala spent years learning about the restaurant business at his mother’s seafood eatery in Jalisco, Mexico. With the encouragement from his meat market customers, he decided to use those lessons and several of his mother’s recipes to open Los Langostinos Mexican restaurant in February 2020 at a strip mall just off U.S. Highway 97 in Redmond. The business struggled as most restaurants have during the pandemic, but Zavala’s restaurant appears to be sticking around.
In addition to his mother’s recipes, Zavala put his own mark on the restaurant, starting with the drink menu, which was designed by bartender Tony Seagobon. Seagobon has created specialty cocktails like a Pink Guava Pina Colada, Mezcal Y Ginger (which includes muddled basil, cucumber and sweet and sour), and an Old Parr Sour using Great Old Par Squatch, sweet and sour and organic agave nectar topped with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon.
And the dishes, don’t expect to see rice and beans on the menu. White or spiced rice comes with a number dishes. But Zavala explained that he doesn’t offer beans because everybody makes the beans at home. Clearly, this is a nod to his Hispanic clientele. Most of the menu features seafood — shrimp and langoustine (extra large) prawns, fish and yes, even a lobster tail item. The food presentation was impressive as we watched the servers walk by carrying mortar bowls with prawns and other ingredients popping up over the rim. Several soups and fish-stew dishes, staples of the Jalisco region, are also offered.
The dishes are beautifully presented and seem fit for a fine-dining experience. Yet, the restaurant is humble. Richly painted walls have few decorations with a nautical theme. And though every meal was well plated on nice dishes, the cutlery is bendable like something you’d find in a diner.
A friend and I opted to start our dinner sharing a Tostada de Camaron (Shrimp Tostada) appetizer. Shrimp marinated in lemon juice and mixed with tomato, red onion, cucumber and cilantro was piled high atop a crispy corn tortilla. It was basically ceviche on a tortilla. The server explained that it is traditional in Mexico to spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the tortilla. This added just a hint of fat and balance to the dish. It’s topped with several slices of avocado. This generous serving of large chunks of shrimp was light, fresh, and a welcome alternative to the typical heavy beans, cheese that makes the base of a typical tostada. It was a good way to start the meal, but it was such a large serving that the two of us decided to put it aside so we didn’t get too full before the entree.
A seafood and meat platter was the perfect way to sample the biggest variety of Los Langostinos’ offerings. We expected that each plate would include a small taste of each meat or seafood. Both dishes had such generous portions that either single platter could have fed both of us for two meals.
The Piña de Mariscos includes a variety of seafood served in a half-pineapple shell that doesn’t add any of its tropical flavor to the dish. Although it is listed as being served in salsa diablo, it wasn’t spicy. Langostinos were served whole in the shell, butterflied and grilled. The meat was tender and sweet. We used a spoon to scoop out the other seafood including a mussel, chopped small scallops and shrimp, and thin strips of octopus. While it was fine, this frozen seafood wasn’t particularly flavorful or tender. We chose this dish because the seafood was natural, unlike other similar menu items that included imitation crab. As this is Central Oregon, we can’t expect all of the seafood to be fresh, but other local restaurants have served higher-quality shellfish.
The Asado Ranchero meat platter was comprised carne asada beef, marinated chicken, chorizo sausage and a skewer for shrimp wrapped in bacon with red peppers and zucchini. The shrimp was my favorite as the tender, sweet shellfish was thoroughly wrapped with smoky bacon. Each meat was very good. The chicken was juicy with Mexican marinade. The chorizo was tasty not oily. The carne asada was slightly marinated then charred on the grill. I prefer my meat to have a bit more marinade, but it was good meat. Zavala later explained to me that each meal is cooked to order. The meats on this dish can be either grilled or cooked on the barbecue for a smoky flavor. I recommend grilled. It won’t say anything on the menu, simply ask for your preferred preparation when you order.
The best way to eat the asado ranchero is to grab several different items and put them in a tortilla with some pico de gallo. Fried cheese, grilled jalapeño, cactus, avocado and a little rice mixed well with the meats to make tasty bites. The platter also includes what Zavala calls, “barbecue onions.” They appear to be scallions that have been allowed to grow into small bulbs. These were mild, sweet and complemented the meats. We found it best to pierce the bulb with a steak knife so we could cut them as the onions were very slippery.
In search of more traditional Mexican food, another friend and I dropped in for lunch. I had to try the shrimp burger, but was surprised to find that it wasn’t any kind of burger or chopped shrimp patty. It was more of a shrimp sandwich with bacon wrapped shrimp. A thick layer of melted yellow and white Mexican cheese held the shrimp together on the hamburger bun. A slice of fresh tomato and lettuce were sprinkled with chili oil (Zavala explained that it is supposed to be a creamy sauce). A grilled pineapple ring was a great tropical balance to the smoky shrimp. Caramelized onions and jalapeños added a hint of sweetness and zing to round out the smoky, seafood flavor. It’s served with a pile of thin, french fried potatoes. This was definitely something I would return to eat.
Having lived many years as part of a Mexican family, I am familiar with their home cooking. Los Langostinos may not be a fine-dining restaurant, but the recipes remind me of the simple home cooking you’d find in a fish-loving Mexican household.