Prior to visiting La Jaivita Seafood, the little blue, boat-shaped restaurant on Crosstown Expressway, we’d never eaten a whole fried fish. Our adventure to find the best 40 Things to Eat in Corpus Christi, however, placed it firmly on our radar when several Facebook fans suggested their Whole Fried Drum.
Like most locals we’d zipped by La Jaivita at 65 MPH about 1,000 times catching the unique exterior out of the corner of our eye. On the inside, it looks like any other Mexican food joint, but the specials board and the menu (octopus cocktail and ceviche tostadas!) verify that their focus is, indeed, Mexican seafood.
La Jaivita’s Whole Fried Drum and the experience of eating it with friends and family, is incredible and makes the list.
We arrived with one of our daughters who didn’t cotton to the idea of a fish arriving at the table wearing its head and tail. She ordered a burger.
Most people we’ve polled since this adventure have never eaten a whole fried fish either. A lifetime of fish (especially fried) served in neat, clean filets teaches us that is the way fish should be served. It turns out that whole fried fish is a delicacy around the world because by leaving it whole, on the bone and in the skin, the fish retains its moisture and flavor.
Our plate arrived and we stared at it for a few moments. We honestly didn’t know what to do. How do you even start? Our Spanish-speaking waitress was of little help but we learned quickly that La Jaivita’s customers are the friendliest people in the world. Before the night was over we made friends with at least two tables one of which, you guessed it, ordered the same dish. Their instructions were simple: dig in. So we did.
The fish is fried in a lemon-pepper-infused batter that is incredible. The skin is delightfully crispy and delicious. The meat, moist and succulent, is incredible with hints of the lemon pepper infused throughout. After our first messy attack, we figured out that anything goes. We abandoned our utensils for finger licking fun.
Around that time our young tablemate took one taste, set her burger aside and hovered around the plate digging in alongside of us. The ultimate positive review.
We shared one fish but could have likely polished off one each. We accompanied the meal with a fantastic michelada, but regret not ordering the full bucket of Bohemias that our table neighbor had the foresight to do.
Next time. And that will be soon.
One more thing, and we almost neglect to mention this: No matter how funny you think it might be, no matter how much fun you’re having, plucking the fish’s eyeball out and popping it in your mouth is not a good idea. Leave the head, bones and tail on the plate.