While I waited for my mother to get ready for our day of running errands in Tyler a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of her Tyler Morning Telegraph and found a review for a new seafood restaurant not far from where she lives. Since Johnny Cace’s closed its Tyler location several years ago, Mom and I have been hard-pressed to find fresh, affordable seafood without making the trek to the original Cace's in Longview.
“This is without a doubt a fresh seafood restaurant,” Leigh Vickery, the newspaper’s food editor wrote, so we decided to give it a try – and are we glad we did.
Mariscos DJ, owned by the Barron family, opened its brightly decorated eatery at 1201 East Erwin on May 1, with the idea of bringing “fresh seafood – Mexican style” to East Texas, said Alex Barron.
“Everything we do here is fresh,” Barron said during an interview over our lunch of ceviche de camaron (shredded shrimp cooked in lime juice), fish tacos and a heavenly guacamole that rivaled anything I’ve ever had – in or out of Mexico.
Barron has the experience to bring a concept like Marisos DJ to life. He and his family have been in the business since 1997, when they opened their first restaurant, Don Juan’s – El Original just down the street from their new venture. The brothers also operate Don Juan’s On the Square.
“We’ve had a positive response, so far,” Barron explained as he looked out over a lunchtime crowd that consisted of a Tyler policeman, businessmen, a large family and several ladies. “We wanted to bring fresh seafood to Tyler.”
Barron said all the food is cooked in Mariscos kitchen and made fresh daily.
“We get oysters on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” he explained. “And we run out before the next shipment arrives.”
Of course, Barron isn’t sure what will happen to his oyster supply now that the BP oil spill has begun to foul the coastal waters.
“So far, so good,” he said with a shrug. “But who knows?”
The menu at Mariscos DJ is extensive and can be a bit daunting to newbies like Mom and me. However, our waiter, Allan, was very patient and answered all our questions and helped us settle on the shrimp ceviche and guacamole. Good choice.
I first fell in love with ceviche on a trip to Cancun (before the hurricane and endless condos). Seafood is marinated (cooked, actually) in a mixture of lime juice, onion, peppers, cucumbers and anything else the chef might have handy.
Mariscos shrimp ceviche is shredded and served with tiny bits of fresh veggies. At $7.99, it’s a great value, served in a huge beer stein. One order is more than enough for two people. It tastes like summer on a spoon.
The guacamole ($3.99) was creamy, smooth and had just a touch of spice. It was almost all avocado, too – they use tomatoes in the recipe, but not as filler like some restaurants.
The fish tacos ($2.99 each) were our only disappointment. The fish – what little there was of it – was fried almost to extinction. It was served on a fresh corn tortilla with cabbage and a delightful tartar sauce, but if I order a taco again, I’ll ask that the fish be baked or broiled.
Barron said the most popular menu with locals has been the soups and the camarones ala diabla (shrimp sautéed in a “special very hot sauce”) at $10.99.
“They seem to really like the shrimp,” he explained. “We sell a lot of that, but it is very, very spicy.”
When we sat down, Alex brought us some “shrimp broth.” I’ve never tasted anything like it, but I’m willing to order the shrimp soup on my next visit, which can’t come soon enough.
Mariscos breaks the mold of what is expected at a Mexican-inspired restaurant. Chips and salsa do not arrive before your meal. The few chips we had with our guacamole were large and freshly fried. When we asked for more, we had to wait for another batch to be cooked up.
You can’t order iced tea. It’s not on the menu – but they do have Aguas Frescas (fruit-flavored water) in lemon, melon and horchata (the name of several kinds of traditional beverages, made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley). Mariscos also prides itself on making excellent margaritas, according to Barron.
“We use only 100 per cent Agave tequila,” he explained. “And you can choose your favorite – Sauza Hornitos, Cabrito or Cazadores.”
Mariscos DJ is a family-oriented eatery – until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Then, they bring in live music and the restaurant morphs into a Mexican pub.
If you’re going to Tyler and want to experience fresh seafood with a Mexican flair, Mariscos DJ is welcome respite from the relentless Texas heat.
Mariscos DJ is open seven days a week. No reservations are necessary – right now. Once word gets out, however, it would probably be wise to call and check on wait time.
A nice patio area is great for early lunch and dining after dark during the summer months.
Parking in front is very limited (about 5 spaces), so expect to park around back and maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll let you slip in the back door. Otherwise, it’s a long hike around to the front.
Mariscos DJ - 1201 E Erwin - Tyler. Tx. 75702-6128
Sunday-Thursday – 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Friday – 11 a.m. until midnight
Saturday – 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.
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