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6:30 p.m. Thursday: Best Mexican/Central American 

Otaez Mexicatessen

To get a slice of the vibrancy of the largely Mexican Fruitvale District in Oakland, sit down at a booth at Otaez. It's run by Chuy Campos and family, and offers a menu of classic dishes from enchiladas to goat-meat birria on the weekends. But it's the daily and seasonal specials that are worth tasting, such as milanesa, breaded fried steak, or caldo de res, a hearty beef soup, that warms up any winter's day. Recently for Lent, the restaurant served tortas de camaron, fried shrimp-flour patties served with nopales (cactus) in a red chile broth. With shrimp soup as an appetizer, a small bowl of capirotada bread pudding for dessert, and chased down with a sweet mango water, it was a delicious treat. Newly painted murals and a taqueria addition give the whole place a classy Mexican touch.

Readers' Pick: Juan's Place

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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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