If you ever see the words "to load up your rifle" underneath an oyster dish on a menu at a Mexican seafood restaurant, chances are that it has nothing to do with reloading an actual gun.
That's the case with "Viagra.com," a boldly named oyster dish served at El Coraloense in the southeast LA neighborhood of Bell Gardens. There, the bivalves are served on the half shell and topped with cooked shrimp, avocado, and a Mexican-style ponzu that's been spiked with Maggi seasoning sauce. People from Los Angeles and beyond make pilgrimages here simply for a couple dozen of these oysters.
"We sell upwards of 400 of these Viagra.com oysters on weekends," Leo Curie, Jr. tells me. He is the one of the main cooks in the hole-in-the-wall restaurant and the son of its founder, Leo Curi, Sr., who created the dish a decade ago when El Coraloense was just a street food stand operating out of the trunk of a car. "Customers have told me that they've driven from as far away as Arizona just to come eat these," Leo says as he shucks a dozen oysters with his mom Maria.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, there is a 15-minute wait for a table, and half of the them are filled with young couples eating mounds of ceviche, Mexican-style seafood cocktails, and those sexy oysters. I ask Natalie Curie—Leo's sister, who also works the line—whether they live up their name. "We have couples come in and order up to three dozen just for themselves," she tells me. "[The women] joke and say things like, 'I better be careful tonight!'"
The oyster selection at El Coraloense changes each day according to the seasons and availability. This sets the restaurant apart from many of LA's Mexican seafood places that serve those weirdly juicy, metallic-tasting pasteurized oysters. When I visit El Coraloense, I'm offered some creamy Blue Points.
"Bro, they really work. Trust me," Leo Jr. tells me as I slurp mine down. "We have this really old man who comes in with a different woman every single time, and he says it has worked miracles for him."
I take his word for it and bring a dozen of the prepared oysters back home to share with my girlfriend. After all, nothing says "will you be my Valentine?" like a plate of shrimp-topped oysters named Viagra.com.