The race for best garlic shrimp in Austin is a tie. Fonda San Miguel’s version is for those who want to taste the flavor of shrimp first, garlic second; the restaurant’s beautifully cooked crustaceans give serious meaning to the word “jumbo,” and its colonial-style dining rooms define “handsome.” For brawny flavor and really crisp, fresh shellfish, head to Evita’s Botanitas, where the cooks lightly brown the garlic with a squeeze of lime and then flash-sauté the shrimp in the same pan; the irresistibly funky room is tricked out with pink walls, yellow booths, and murals of Aztec pyramids.
The standard for Mexican seafood in Dallas is set by La Calle Doce, a friendly family operation in a little old house in Oak Cliff. For proof, look no further than the generous platter of butterflied shrimp, quickly sautéed with loads of garlic and butter, firm to the bite but far from chewy. Coming in a close second are the big shrimp cooked with roasted garlic at fashionable Nuevo Leon and served with crisp steamed vegetables, rice adorned with grilled banana slices, and a lovely spinach salad.
Draped with serapes and filled with red booths, Benito’s puts on a show with its plate of a dozen expertly grilled shrimp, dredged in garlic and chile powder and paired with sliced avocado, fluffy white rice, and deeply seasoned black beans.
Little cafes along the beaches of the Mexican Gulf Coast are known for this simple dish of shrimp, fresh-plucked from the ocean and sautéed with lots of garlic and olive oil. Handsome Montrose-area Noche Cocina y Bar serves the most impressive version in the Bayou City: six large, luscious shrimp encircle a pool of garlicky herb sauce and, in the center of the dazzling plate, a refreshing timbale of al dente corn, asparagus, and green beans. Less garlic and bigger shrimp is the style at laid-back Pico’s, where sea-fresh butterflied camarones are delicately fried and presented beautifully with the shell on.
Blissfully delicious is the only possible description for the big, tender shrimp sautéed with garlic at El Siete Mares, a funky, family-oriented seafood restaurant west of downtown.
See the Directorio for directions to any of these restaurants.