The northern Sacramento Valley town of Chico, CA is located over three hours distant from any Pacific Ocean fishing port, and it's also nearly a 12-hour drive from Chico, to the Mexican border. However, if you love Mexican seafood - known as mariscos in the Spanish language - you don't have to drive south of the border, or to the ocean, as Chico is host to Mariscos La Costa, home of authentic Mexican seafood, along with an amazing array of other authentic Mexican favorites.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: Mariscos La Costa, located in a small strip mall on the east side of Chico, is as close to an authentic Mexican seafood restaurant as you're going to find in the Sacramento Valley. There is a small outdoor patio, shaded in the afternoon, and the restaurant offers plenty of easy, free parking.
Photo: It's a little after noon on Saturday, August 24, 2019, and I've arrived to enjoy a "Molcajetes Mariscos" at Mariscos La Costa.
The dining room is in two sections, separated by low partitions, and the kitchen, which is centrally located between the two dining rooms. There is a shelf, just inside as you enter, with a few souvenir items for sale, including ceramic pots and a ceramic bull's head, complete with horns.
Photo: The menu lists all of your Mexican favorites, but the emphasis is on seafood, or "mariscos" in Spanish. I just glanced at the menu, as I had my sights set on a "Molcajetes Mariscos."
Photo: My friendly server, Carmen, who I'd had the pleasure to meet five days previously, brings my order of Pacifico beer, and a complimentary basked of tortilla chips, and bowl of salsa, for my appetiser.
Photo: The Pacifico beer is frosty cold, the complimentary chips and salsa are both fresh and delicious, and make a perfect appetiser.
Photo: Enjoying a "Molcajetes Mariscos" is a two-step process - if you don't count the chips, salsa and beer - and Carmen brings out the place of rice, beans, and guacamole, along with corn tortillas, and a small plate which will be used to eat the molcajete.
Photo: I took one look, and one smell of the plate of rice and beans, and I knew that I was in one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Sacramento Valley!
Unlike the rice I enjoyed during my previous visit, the rice served with this meal was typical Mexican rice, seasoned, and cooked to a golden brown. The rice was perfect, as it had a little "snap," was wasn't excessively chewy or hard. The rice was absolutely perfect!
Speaking of perfection, you need look no further than the refried beans, covered with Mexican cheese. To add an amazing touch, and a little "chill," the plate included a scoop of some of the best guacamole known to mankind.
Photo: Meet Carmen, my super friendly server, who brings my "Molcajetes Mariscos" to me with a smile. I enjoyed visiting with Carmen, as we'd met during my previous visit, on Monday, on the way to Lassen National Park.
Carmen was pleasant, attentive, efficient, but not intrusive. As I polished off my chips and salsa, she offered to bring another complimentary order, but I declined, as there was no way I could eat them.
As it was, I brought over half of my "Molcajetes Mariscos" home in a box, and after supplementing the leftovers with corn tortillas, it was good for a total of three wonderful meals.
Photo: I grin... who couldn't grin? You have to grin when such a feast is set on the table in front of you, and all you have to do is dig in, pig-out and enjoy! Thanks, Carmen for snapping my photo. Note the complete rack of hot sauce on the table, which is great, but isn't needed when you enjoy a "Molcajetes Mariscos" at Mariscos La Costa.
The small, empty bowl in front of me is a vital component to eat this beast of a lunch, which could easily provide a meal for two. You scoop a piece of cactus or fish from the molcajete, and place it on your plate to cut it up, and enjoy. The large whole shrimp, perched on top, was a challenge, but in the end, I nailed him, using the "fork and fingers" method, with plenty of napkins.
Photo: My lunch today of a "Molcajetes Mariscos," which comes with refried beans, rice, guacamole, and tortillas. You choose between corn or flour tortillas; I chose corn, which is my de facto standard tortilla. Naturally, there is a Pacifico beer on the side, which is my Mexican beer of choice. Quite a lunch!
Despite the fact that I've been taking trips to Mexico for the last 50 years, and that I frequently dine at Mexican restaurants, I wasn't familiar with a "Molcajete," which, looking back over my countless visits, seems odd. During our previous visit to Mariscos La Costa - scroll down this article - just as we were leaving, I saw our friendly server, Carmen, carrying this steaming concoction out of the kitchen, and my jaw nearly dropped to the floor, as I'd never seen anything like it before. I asked her what it was, and she told me it was a "Molcajete," and I told myself the next time I visited this fine restaurant, I'd really splurge - they're $29.95 - and enjoy one. Six days later, due to happenstance, here I am...
A "molcajete" is actually a large stone mortar and pestle, used to crush and grind food, but the definition has morphed into a savory entree, served in a large stone bowl. Because of the insulating properties of stone, and the fact this wonderful dish arrives steaming hot from the kitchen, the stone "molcajete" holds in the heat, and the dish is still steaming hot, a half hour later.
So I splurged, and from the "Molcajetes" section of the menu, I ordered a "Molcajetes Mariscos," which at $29.95 wasn't exactly cheap, but some of the best things in life aren't free or cheap. A Pacifico beer is always a good way to round out a great Mexican lunch...
My "Molcajetes Mariscos" arrived in a huge, stone mortar, steaming hot from the kitchen. I must admit that I was in "shock and awe" of the over-the-top presentation, but also "dazzled and amazed" that the HUGE meal also included refried beans, rice, guacamole, and a choice of corn or flour tortillas; naturally I chose corn tortillas, as they go much better with fish.
Besides the rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas, your lunch of "Molcajetes Mariscos" includes a steaming hot molcajete stocked with fish, octopus, clams, scallops, abalone, jalapeno peppers, cactus strips, along with a HUGE shrimp on top of the wonderful mound of seafood, with a face that grins at you. All of this seafood goodness is cooked using the restaurant's version of rancheria sauce, and the natural juices that come from the seafood. It congers up one word: "Wow!"
The seafood... oh the seafood!!! Every piece was cooked to perfection, and melted in your mouth. Of course the large shrimp, perching on top of the dish took a bit of "disassembly," and in this case, hands work better than forks, but talk about FUN! ... and the reward of tender shrimp was worth the effort. The jalapeno peppers added to the presentation and the flavor, and the strips of cactus were tender, juicy and amazing.
My friendly server, Carmen, brought a little bare plate, not shown in the photo, which works great, so you can pull things out of the molcajete, put them on your plate, and eat at your own pace. Careful: The molcajete retains heat for a long time. As an aside, the beans, rice, guacamole and corn tortillas were amazing, and complimented one of the best Mexican meals that I've had the pleasure to enjoy.
How many ways can you say, "perfect?" How many ways can you say "juicy, tender, delicious and perfect?" This is top-of-the shelf lunch, and nothing like I've ever experienced before! If you get the idea that I was absolutely "stunned" at this over-the-top lunch, you're correct.
Photo: Close-up view of my "Molcajetes Mariscos," with the back side of the shrimp, along with the octopus, cactus and fish, drooping over the molcajete. Combine all of this seafood goodness with the savory rancheria sauce made at Mariscos La Costa, and you have one of the best lunches you can enjoy in Chico, or anyplace else.
The rancheria sauce was so delicious that I actually scooped it from the plate, and put it back in the bowl to enjoy with the rest of the mariscos. As the old saying goes, "Good to the last drop."
Let's go back to Monday, August 19, 2019, to enjoy lunch at Mariscos La Costa...
Photo: It's early afternoon, Monday, August 19, 2019, and we've arrived at Mariscos La Costa to enjoy an amazing lunch.
View of the main dining room after you enter the restaurant, showing the comfortable, modern decor. Just by looking at the spacious dining room, you'd never guess this restaurant specialises in seafood, but when you open the menu, you really get an idea where the heard and soul of this fine restaurant lies.
There is a small outdoor patio, but we didn't find it especially attractive, and it wasn't in use during our visit.
Photo: The "La Costa" sign is hung on the wall, and "branded" with rope. Mariscos La Costa has been serving delicious mariscos at this location for slightly over four years.
Photo: After looking over the menu, and placing our orders, I had the opportunity to look around the restaurant, and take a peek into the kitchen, as Carmen prepares an order. The kitchen is visible through the arched window, near the center of the photo.
Photo: Our friendly server, brings out complimentary ice water, along with my over-the-top "Michelada." Note the beer, and the "heart" of the "Michelada" are separate.
Photo: Carmen pours my Pacifico beer into the glass, to make my stunning "Michelada." Today was a first for me, as I'd never enjoyed a "Michelada" like this before. By the way, the beer is gravity-fed into the frosted glass; the beer is replenished as you sip on your drink with a straw.
Greg and Michael seem very interested, as Carmen makes my "Michelada" complete with the beer. I chose Pacifico beer, as it's my favorite Mexican beer, but your "Michelada" is custom made, and you choose the beer of your choice, even Coors Light, if you desire.
Photo: For me, Mariscos La Costa seems to be a restaurant of "firsts," and today was the first day that I've ever had the chance to enjoy an over-the-top "Michelada," complete with a whole shrimp, cucumber slice, and a Pacifico beer, poured by our friendly hostess, in a frozen mug. The large shrimp actually has a face, which adds to the stunting presentation.
You get your choice of beer - even a Coors Light if that's what you want - but to me, it seems if you want to enjoy a quality "Michelada," you should choose a Mexican beer, and I chose Pacifico, as it's my Mexican beer of choice. Along with the beer, the drink includes lime juice, hot sauce and tomato juice, served in a large, frozen glass, glazed on the rim, with chili power and salt. Flavorful! Delicious! Stunning presentation!
Oh yes!!! The "Michelada" served at Mariscos La Costa isn't your dad's "Martini," or your mom's "Old Fashion," as this drink is bursting, over-the-top with flavor, with every sip. You truly get the "taste of Mexico" with this drink, and at the end, you get to dip the slice of cucumber, and the shrimp into the bottom of the glass and simply enjoy...
This drimk of "off the shelf" and "over the top" in every way...
Photo: I grin, as I'm ready to enjoy my "Michelada," complete with a freshly poured beer, a slice of cucumber, and a shrimp, that actually still has a face. Yes, this drink was amazing, and worth every penny of the $9.95 I paid for it. The alcohol content is that of one beer, so this is more of a "flavorful" drink than a "buzz" drink.
This just happened to be my first "Michelada," and it won't be the last one for me...
Photo: Our friendly server, Carmen, brought out a complimentary bowl of tortilla chips, along with two bowls of fresh, in-house made salsa, and we devoured this amazing appetiser!
The tortilla chips were fresh, warm, crispy, and simply delicious. The salsa was fresh, flavorful, spicy, but not to hot, and made an outstanding dipping combination, combined with the tortilla chips.
Between the four of us, we ate through three baskets of chips, and four bowls of salsa, all on the house. Such a great "perk" when you dine at Mariscos La Costa.
Photo: Carmen places Michael's chicken salad on the table, as she holds Greg's lunch choice, an absolutely giant "Pollo Asado" burrito. The burrito includes grilled chicken, rice, beans, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream, along with guacamole, and kept Greg full for the rest of the day.
Photo: Michael decided to go healthy, and order a "Grilled Chicken Salad" from the "Salads" section of the menu. Besides the highlight of the salad - perfectly grilled chicken, complete with grill marks - the salad included lettuce, bell pepper, zucchini, celery, carrot, Mexican cheese, and was topped with sliced avocado. The salad includes choice of dressing, buy Michael went with a bowl of salsa on the side.
Photo: Friendly Carmen brings Robert's order of "Grande Three Item Combo" to our table with a smile, as Michael looks on. We enjoyed amazing service during our visit!
Photo: From the "Mix and Match" section of the menu, Robert ordered a "Grande Three Item Combo," and his choices from the menu were two steak tacos, and one steak enchilada, covered with red sauce and cheese. He chose a double order of refried beans, rather than beans and rice, and the restaurant was happy to make his lunch the way he wanted it. The plate also includes sides of guacamole, along with sour cream and a slice of tomato.
Photo: We're four "happy diners" today at Mariscos La Costa! Left to right... Eric - your photographer, author and web master - Robert, Greg and Michael. Thanks, Carmen, for taking the photo.
Photo: From the "Fish Plates" section of the menu, I went with "Mojarra Frita," which is a whole, fried tilapia, which is the main entree. Included sides are white rice, refried beans, fried potatoes - which Mariscos La Costa includes with nearly every order - corn tortillas, and a couple of lime wedges. Isn't the presentation beautiful?
The whole tilapia was perfectly deep fried, with crispy skin on the outside, and tender, white meat, perfectly cooked, on the inside. If you've ever eaten a whole tilapia, you know the fish has lots of bones, so this is a "fork and finger" job, and the end result is you're enjoying finger lickin' good tilapia.
The menu advertises the rice as "white rice," and although I've eaten a literally thousands of Mexican restaurants in my lifetime, I've never seen rice prepared this way in a Mexican restaurant, as this is the way rice is found in Spanish restaurants. The rice appeared to be steamed, then lightly fried, with diced carrot, peas, corn and string beans mixed in. Definitely a different variety of Mexican rice, and certainly delicious!
The refried beans were creamy, flavorful, and had just the right combination of beans and sauce. The melted cheese definitely added flavor, and really highlighted the beans.
This lunch was simply over-the-top delicious in every way, and then when you factor in the "Michelada" I enjoyed... I was shell-shocked, and in Mexican food nirvana for the rest of the day.
After enjoying dining at this amazing restaurant, I posted a 5-star review on Yelp, which is the premier "foodie" dining review site. I have nothing but good things to say about Mariscos La Costa. If you close your eyes, take a bite from your amazing marisco, or whatever your ordered from the menu, you'd think that you'd be dining on the Mexican Rivera, or the Sea of Cortez, under a palapa with an ocean view. Open your eyes and you'll see you're in Chico, which is many miles from the Pacific Ocean, and long ways from any fishing port. However... the seafood served at Mariscos La Costa delicious it's beyond description... it's that delicious!
When you're in the mood for delicious seafood with an authentic Mexican touch, head over to Mariscos La Costa, located in beautiful Chico, CA.
Mariscos La Costa
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