Siblings Alfredo and Jessica Solis, the Mexico-born chefs and restaurateurs behind local favorites El Sol, Mezcalero, and Anafre, shift gears in D.C. with an ambitious seafood restaurant that casts a huge net across Latin America.
Mariscos 1133 (1133 11th Street NW) surfaces in Shaw on Friday, February 11 with dinner service to start on ceviches, crab cake sandwiches, empanadas, and other Latin dishes that harken back to Alfredo Solis’s days running downtown’s Ceiba for Passion Food group. At Mariscos, murals of an animated octopus and darting tropical fish splashed around a 40-seat dining room set the tone for an underwater feast that captures flavors and coastal cooking techniques in Peru, Baja California, and the Caribbean, to name a few.
“I love seafood and want to show people there’s more than tacos, enchiladas, pupusas, and Peruvian chicken in Latin America and Mexico,” he tells Eater.
Mariscos, which means “seafood” is Spanish, opens with a treasure trove of fresh fish, crustaceans, and bivalves prepared various ways (raw, fried, and grilled).
Sizable seafood mains include a whole grilled red snapper, which arrives butterflied and plated with pineapple adobo, rice, beans, and flour tortillas. A Puerto Nuevo-style lobster transports diners to Baja’s sandy tourist town known as “Lobster Village,” where the local delicacy is deep fried, split open, and painted with chipotle butter sauce.
The theatrical order was part of his opening seafood menu at Anafre in Columbia Heights, which morphed into a Mexican-inspired pizza pop-up during the pandemic. Unlike Anafre, which still slings Yucatan shrimp tostadas and other Mexican apps it started out with in 2019, Mariscos 1133 isn’t tied down to one Latin country or regional cuisine.
“I don’t want to call Mariscos ‘authentic’ — it’s a nice fusion, crossing Mexican and Latin American ingredients and putting everything together with a nice mix of flavors,” he says.
One of his two ceviches, for instance, is a seafood-only smorgasbord of octopus, shrimp, lobster, crab meat, and oysters, swimming in the same spicy tomato sangrita that reappears at the bar to make a michelada. Green shoots, edible flowers, and lots of citrus accents and zippy sauces brighten up seafoods anchored on already-colorful plates.
Refreshing Caribbean flavors come into play in a pork entree (lechon caribe) — served with rice, pigeon peas, sweet plantains, and orange citrus mojo — and grilled sugarcane shrimp skewers slathered with pineapple barbecue butter.
He says the pandemic has posed supply chain and price hike issues, but his longstanding relationships with local seafood purveyors Congressional Seafood Co. and ProFish have helped. He regularly swings by their markets in the morning to grab snapper or pound of crab meat, he says.
The catch-all menu at Mariscos caters to carnivores, too.
“Some people love meat, some love fish, some don’t love seafood at all — we’re going to have something for everyone,” he says.
Enter a habanero jam-topped burger, portobello sandwich, and Cubano — a comeback hit from his short-lived Little Havana (now Anafre) in Columbia Heights. A tender, slow-braised pork shank sneaks in a fiery finish via morita chile salsa and was also a fan favorite at Anafre. An edited version of the spicy chorizo mussels served at next-door Mezcalero make their way down to Mariscos, too.
For sandwiches, there’s also a crab cake; blackened mahi-mahi; grilled jerk chicken; and pan con lechon. On the lighter side, a “Puerto Vallarta salad” fit for a Baja beach resort is a colorful compilation of crab meat, shrimp, cucumber, corn, queso fresco, boiled egg, avocado, and pickled red onion.
Some meaty mains steer into South American territory. He prepares a Peruvian lomo saltado “his way” and refrains from dicing up beef. Instead, a 10-ounce slab of strip steak marinated in aji amarillo joins two carbs (homemade French fries and rice) alongside tomato and red onion cooked separately. Brazil’s beloved churrasco marries grilled skirt steak and chimichurri with sides of yuca and black beans.
Cocktails and spirits follow the food’s lead and hop around the same Latin regions. The 12-seat bar sends out a pisco sour (Peru), caipirinha (Brazil), and mojito and Dark & Stormy filled with island rums. A pina colada served a frozen pineapple vessel competes for attention with a Coronarita, or a Corona bottle draining into a frozen margarita. The potent conversation starter isn’t just for Cancun tourists, he says.
“It’s the most popular drink in Mexico and any beach town. You’ll be drunk after two or three,” he warns.
Solis tasked Scott Clime, his longtime friend and former colleague at Ceiba, to create the drinks list. A medley of margaritas (traditional, mango, passionfruit, and tamarind) come by the glass or pitcher, with option to sub mezcal for tequila. Mexican spins on classics include an Oaxacan Old Fashioned, Mezcal mule, and El Negroni.
An extensive wine list — 22 by the glass and as many by the bottle — highlight grapes from Spain and South America, starting $7 by the glass and $35 for a bottle. Beers from Mexico, Peru, and D.C. are served in bottles or from four taps.
“I love a draft beer in a real cold glass after a long shift,” says Solis. A “Michelada Solis” is served just the way he likes it, with mezcal added to the Mexican beertail.
While El Sol and Mezcalero are big on Mexican street tacos, Mariscos’s menu carves out room for three of its own: crispy oysters, shrimp, and beefy, cheesy birria. The Tijuana-style taco that’s surged in stateside popularity in recent years comes with a gloriously greasy bowl of consomé for dipping.
Shaw’s El Sol sister outpost in Vienna, Virginia recently closed after a two-year run, and he says he blames the pandemic, its massive size, and shrinking employee pool.
“We had to make the decision to close to put more attention on D.C.,” he says.
His new corner restaurant in Shaw will balloon in size this spring with the addition of a 65-seat patio. “It’s going to be a party [out there],” he says.
Breakfast and lunch will join the mix later, but for now, hours are Sunday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.