Admit it. It's just fun to say: octopus cocktail. You want to say it five times fast. Go on. Try. When you're done, head over to Connie's Seafood Market on Airline for the best octopus cocktail in town.
I was first turned on to the delicious and underrated octopus in Waco, Texas of all places. No, seriously. There was a restaurant called El Siete Mares that served coastal Mexican cuisine in a bad neighborhood, far from the hermetically-sealed Baylor Bubble.
El Siete Mares cooked up the freshest seafood in town and -- just as great! -- was BYOB. Their light, tangy pulpo al vino (octopus sauteed in white wine) was a revelation, even as far from the sea as Waco was. And the little pieces of octopus, plump and toothsome, were simply a sheer joy to chew.
I wanted to try other versions of my new friend, but -- as you might imagine -- fresh octopus was very hard to come by in late 90s central Texas. The closest I could get was tinned octopus, found in one of the hundreds of aisles at the newly-opened H-E-B (referred to as the Taj MaHeeb for its immense size.). I found that tinned octopus cooked in its own salty ink with butter and just a hint of garlic was amazing served over linguini. But I still craved the fresh stuff.
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The availability of fresh octopus is just one of the many reasons that I'm glad to be back on the Gulf Coast. And one of my favorite octopus dishes in town is at Connie's Seafood Market, located on a stretch of road that could rival The Best Block in Houston for sheer variety.
I recommend heading over to Canino's and the farmers market behind it early on a Saturday morning and getting a haul of fresh produce. Then hit up El Bolillo for your churros, marranitos and -- of course -- bolillos. Next, head next door to Lone Star Culinary Spice Market and grab any spices you're running low on. Finish up your busy morning by catching an early lunch at Connie's before the crowds hit around noon.
Of course, no meal at Connie's would be complete without a side of their famously cross-cultural fried rice and egg rolls. But if you're tired of the fried stuff, their seafood cocktails are the best around. Order an octopus cocktail (or, if you're feeling adventurous, a Vuelve a la Vida cocktail which contains a little bit of everything) and enjoy the bright pearl onions, summery tomatoes, spicy fresh jalapenos, fat chunks of avocado and hearty pieces of octopus buried underneath. You won't regret it.