It reminds you of a place that reminds you of a place that might not exist. Mariscos Playa Escondida is hidden in the back of a strip mall on Charleston and 13th, and if you weren’t looking for it, you’d have no reason to find it. The walls are painted in seascapes. Palm trees real and fake stand throughout. Is there really somewhere like this in the real world?
Whatever whimsy inspired the restaurant, the food is seriously good. The specialty is seafood—shrimp, prawns, catfish, swai and more, cooked with anything from mojo de ajo garlic butter sauce to spicy la diabla to zarandeados, a cream sauce with grilled onions and jalapeños.
Start with shrimp empanadas (three for $8), perfectly fried pockets with a crisp exterior that retain all the flavor of the shrimp inside. The wicked accompanying serrano salsa will stay in the back of your throat for a while.
To get a taste of all the seafood, you can’t go wrong with a mixto ceviche, for the insanely cheap price of $7 if you opt for the tostada version. The assorted fish and shellfish retain their own textures, and when you hit this dish with lime and soft avocado, you’ll feel like you’re hanging out in South America.
Then there’s the molcajete, one of the great Mexican dishes. Assorted meats (steak, chicken, chorizo), scallions, nopales (cactus) and cotija cheese are cooked in the stone vessel that gives the dish its name, building layers of flavor. Homemade tortillas are the perfect way to attempt to get everything in one bite. Aren’t you glad Mariscos Playa Escondida exists?
Mariscos Playa Escondida 1203 E. Charleston Blvd., 702-906-1124. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.