What: Felipe’s huachinango (whole red snapper)
Where: Maracas Mexican Cantina and Grill, 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; also at 72775 Dinah Shore, Rancho Mirage
How much: $20.95
Contact: 322-9654 (Palm Springs); 321-1001 (Rancho Mirage); www.maracas-restaurant.com (warning: prices and other info woefully outdated)
Why: It’s primal and delicious.
One of the best lines from A Christmas Story (yeah, I know it’s almost February; please bear with me) comes when the family—their Christmas turkey destroyed by the Bumpus hounds—heads to dinner at Chop Suey Palace, and the enthusiastic staff delivers a whole goose to the table.
“It’s … smiling at me!” says Mr. Parker, played by the late, great Darren McGavin—just before one of the waiters helpfully chops off the head.
I don’t know where in the Coachella Valley one can get a whole goose for dinner, but I do know where one can enjoy a meal that’s smiling at you—a very good meal, in fact.
Maracas Mexican Cantina and Grill serves up all of the fare you’d expect from a restaurant with the words “Mexican Grill and Cantina” in its name—and some dishes you may not expect, too. One of those possibly unexpected dishes that we here at Independent headquarters absolutely love is the whole red snapper—which, as you can see from the accompanying photo, arrives at the table with a big, toothy smile.
This is not a meal for the faint of heart, nor is it a meal for people who mind getting messy when they eat: This whole fish is coated in “New Mexico flour,” fried and then served in all its primal glory. The cooks helpfully slice the flesh in a grid pattern before frying, but otherwise, when it comes to picking this fish apart into edible chunks, you’re on your own.
However, all your effort is worth it: The fried fish is moist, texturally satisfying (with a nice mix of soft meat and crispy skin) and, most importantly, delicious.
Trust me: When you’re at Maracas eating Felipe’s huachinango, the snapper won’t be the only one at the table who’s smiling.