Let’s start with a translation: In Spanish, mariscos is seafood, Pacifico refers to the big ocean, and Nayarit is a state in southern Mexico, just north of Jalisco. In total, the name conveys that this new Mexican-food restaurant specializes in seafood. That distinction was enough to draw me and The Grub Spouse to its Kingston Pike address, formerly occupied by Casen’s Steakhouse and, before that, a place called Slawger’s (a terrible name for a restaurant).
Inside, things didn’t look much different from what I remember, except that the coat of light-blue wall paint the new owners have added makes the place seem much brighter than the tomb-like Casen’s atmosphere.
The voluminous, spiral-bound menu does, indeed, offer many seafood dishes and in a wide variety of categories. For example, appetizers include fried calamari and fish quesadillas. There are entire categories devoted to ceviche (raw fish cured in citrus juices) and aquachiles (raw shrimp submerged in liquid seasoned with chili peppers, lime juice and more). Even scanning the listings of tostadas, soups and molcajetes, ingredients like prawns, tilapia and scallops were prominent. House specials include dishes like langosta estilo Nayarit (lobster) and pulpo al carbon (grilled octopus).
We were tempted by the camarones rellenos (bacon-wrapped shrimp with cheese) appetizer but wound up ordering the empanadas de camaron — shrimp and cheese empanadas ($9.99). For our main dishes, I decided to try the Filete Rey ($19.99), described on the menu as being a fish fillet stuffed with seafood (no further details given). I had come very close to ordering a fried snapper dish but changed my mind at the last second, when I learned that the Filete Rey was grilled.
The menu also features a section called Tex Mex Grill, a limited selection of more traditional Mexican-food dishes, such as tacos and quesadillas (although the Chicken Alfredo was a head-scratcher). We thought it important to sample that aspect of MFN’s offerings as well, so The Spouse ordered the Fajita Texana ($16.99), which comes with grilled portions of steak, chicken and shrimp in addition to the usual assortment of grilled vegetables, tortillas, sour cream , guacamole, Mexican rice and refried beans.
Some service-related comment: Our server was not a native English speaker. She needed assistance in translating some of our menu questions and in taking our order. I certainly have zero issue with that. I was, however, very disappointed in her general quality of service. There were long absences between appearances and little follow-up, even though the dining room wasn’t that busy. We waited forever just to get our check and to request to-go boxes.
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(There were other service-related quirks though not related to that particular employee. Chips and salsa didn’t show up at our table until long after we ordered; our appetizer was brought out with our entrees; and there was a five-minute interval between the arrival of The Spouse’s entry and mine.)
But the food went a long way toward redeeming the experience. The empanadas were tasty, though the inner filling was more of a shrimp-cheese mush than intact seafood. The avocado slices on top were a nice touch. The Spouse’s grilled chicken, steak and shrimp were muy deliciosas, and with the veggies and other toppings added to the mix, they made for some mighty fine fajitas.
I never did learn what kind of fish was featured in the Filete Rey, but it was mild and flavorful. And rather than being stuffed with seafood, it was smoked with generous amounts of white fish, shrimp, octopus and other briny goodies. It was all wonderful, and although it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, this dish came with warm, buttered bread, seasoned French fries and white rice (or what Dr. Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” would refer to as “ carb-filled redundancy”).
We ate until we were stuffed and still had metaphorical tones of food leftover to take home. And considering the economy’s inflationary status and the prices of seafood in general, I thought the prices were more than fair.
So if you’re a fan of Mexican food or seafood or both, put Mariscos Pacifico on your list of restaurants to try. Of course, depending on your server, you might prepare yourself for a few service-related bumps on the road to Nayarit.
Mariscos Pacifico Nayarit
Address: 9507 Kingston Pike
Full bar service
Hours: 11 am to 11 pm Mondays through Sundays
Try this new Kingston Pike Mexican-food eatery to experience an abundance of south-of-the-border seafood dishes.