Sonoran cuisine has been in the spotlight in recent years due to the success of local Mexican-style carne asada stars like Sonoratown, Tacos El Ruso, and Sonorita’s Prime Tacos. And while Sonora’s carne asada traditions are certainly noteworthy, there’s so much more to the regional cuisine than mesquite-fired steak tacos, burritos wrapped in sobaquera tortillas, chile colorado-spiked stews, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs buried under a pile of condiments. With its entire western border along the biodiverse Gulf of California, Sonora is also a destination for standout Mexican seafood; one of Sonora’s most popular weekend breakfasts is caguamanta, a stew of stingray filets, tomatoes, vegetables, shrimp, and tuna fin in a seafood stock flavored with spices and dried chiles.
Mariscos Odaly, a three-year-old food truck in Fontana, attracts a huge crowd serving this delicacy that’s little-known outside Sonora, Sinaloa, and Baja California. Launched in 2019 by Gabriel Morales, the truck is run by the Hermosillo-born cook and his sons Osmar and Edgar. One can find Mariscos Odaly, named after Morales’s daughter, parked along a gravel strip on a section of Valley Boulevard lined with big-rig dealerships and fleet services. The rich scent of buttery seafood, ripened tomatoes, and mild chiles leads to a small blue trailer hitched opposite Odaly’s truck.
Caguamanta, a stingray stew, is ladled into red soup bowls near the covered seating area. Originally from Ciudad Obregón, native recipes for caguamanta called for turtles but the dish is now often served with stingray to protect the endangered species. At Mariscos Odaly, Morales serves his family’s recipe, unctuous from a bit of fat and full of plump Mexican shrimp, chunks of stingray, surimi (imitation crab), and gelatinous tuna fin. It’s garnished with a crumble of chile chiltepín and spoonfuls of scratch-made salsa brava made with charred chiles and vegetable oil. The soulful seafood soup has attracted a steady crowd since the marsicos spot first opened.
Recently though, Morales launched a TikTok account and quickly amassed 30,000 followers in only three months. As a result, the truck has attracted more local customers and drawn an influx of faraway ceviche-seekers from San Diego, San Jose, and the San Fernando Valley. The seafood-centric content attracting hungry eyes on the TikTok account are the molcajetes — extravagant ceviches prepared in Mexican volcanic stone mortars and named after infamous Mexican cartel members, including Chapo Guzmán, Caro Quintero, and El Mayo Zambada; there’s even a molcajete named after current Mexican president Lopez Obrador. “I’ve come up with these dishes and decided to use the names [of narcos] because they are famous, not because I endorse or approve of what they do,” says Morales. (Morales had a brief run-in with the cartel years ago when organized crime members approached his Mexicali-based cheese business, Quesos Odalys, to transport drugs inside shipments. He moved to the Inland Empire in 2019 and launched Mariscos Odaly as a result of the event.)
The El Chapo molcajete ($60) is loaded with high-end seafood, including a whole lobster, callo de hacha (pen shell clams), large cocktail shrimp, cooked octopus, raw Mexican white shrimp, and stone crab claws in a pool of lime and Mexican cocktail sauces, and dusted with crushed chile chiltepín and seasonings. The Lopez Obrador molcajete is $50 and does not include lobster. “I named it after a politician because todos los politicos se la pelan,” says Morales, which translates to “all politicians rip-off the public.”
Charolas (to-go seafood trays) delivered on jumbo aluminum trays are also a hit. The $150 culiacanazo feeds 12 to 15 people and includes a giant lobster, dozens of shrimp, rows of crab legs, and several pounds of high-quality shellfish garnished with halved limes, sliced cucumbers, red onions, and avocado. In addition to deluxe seafood preparations that are racking up views on TikTok, Morales also serves more understated and traditional dishes like smoked marlin tostadas, seafood cocktails, and an amazing selection of clams and oysters brought in from Mexico, like callo de hacha, white clams, pata de mula, and chocolatas. The seafood dishes are prepared in the trailer, which operates as a cold bar for the food truck operation.
Whether diners come for the stingray soup or the larger-than-life molcajetes, all of the recipes are inspired by Morales’s Mexican upbringing. “It’s part of my childhood, growing up and getting seafood from the carts by the beach [in nearby Bahia de Kino], and I used to make ceviches, seafood snacks, and seafood cocktails for my family back in Mexico,’’ says Morales.
There’s no other Mexican seafood truck or cevichería in the greater Los Angeles area going all-in on luxury seafood preparations like Mariscos Odaly, with dishes using everything from real crab to Mexican clams and lobster. Add in the ritual Sonoran seafood breakfast of caguamanta, and Fontana’s got a high-end seafood destination on its hands — banda and chiles included.
Mariscos Odaly is located at 14166 Valley Boulevard in Fontana, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.