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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Side Dish of Irony

This is a beautiful thing. The grilled tilapia tostaco ($3.75) at Turtle Bay in Monterey (333-1500), the best fresh-and-healthy value around (same price at the Seaside TB, 899-1010).

The thing that kills me is that at the very home of this killer deal they charge for chips and salsa, which seems like a faux pas.

I called to ask why. Cashier Karla Navarro was candid, and her response made some sense. "It's all homemade, not store-bought like a lot of places," she said. "We do it very, very fresh."

Of course, other places do that but don't charge (albeit the price is just $1.50). But there are more compelling reasons to stomach the charge:

• They refill it, according to Navarro, "Three, four, five, six times."

• A basket includes all you-can-eat, equally fresh homemade salsas which are simply superb, from the electric orange, burn-your-bridge habañero to the cool tomatillo-avocado (above right) to the classic jicama red.

• With a tostaco, your total is still just $5.68 after tax.

The tostaco's big brothers are also excellent at the area Fishwifes (375-7107 P.G.; 394-2027/Seaside), which are part of the same nuclear family of eateries. Those include the Grilled Tilapia Salad ($10.95, above)...

and the Tilapia Cancún with salsa brava, rice, beans, and vegetables on a green cashew sauce ($12.95).

Make sure to ask for extra helpings of the cashew sauce, a coup of a dressing invented by magician and original founder Julio Ramirez.