Mariscos Villarreal Seafood Restaurant
811 2nd Street
Grand Island, NE
Owners Eduardo and Nelly Villarreal
Tropical foodie trip curbs March blues
In Nebraska the gloomy moods of March inspire visions of the tropics. So we Rural Foodies are easy catches when our foodies network alerts us to a seafood restaurant serving only the freshest of seafood in the tradition of Nayarit, Mexico cuisine. Imagine strolling on warm sand beaches, gazing at the aquamarine ocean and sunny skies, paddling a kayak to a coral reef, and at day’s end relaxing at a seafood restaurant viewing the sun slide below the horizon. In lieu of a holiday in sunny Mexico, Mariscos Villarreal promised a taste of the tropics, and we soon set sail over the prairie toward Grand Island and the Mariscos Villarreal tropical seafood restaurant.
The chef/owner Eduardo and wife Nelly were born in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, the smallest of Mexico’s 32 states. The Pacific Ocean laps Nayarit’s white sand beaches and validates its claim as the Mexican Riviera. Surfing, fishing, golfing, fine sand beaches, shelling, sailing, kayaking, bird watching and the tropical climate attract visitors worldwide.
We arrive at our mini- vacation destination and slip into a convenient parking place behind the restaurant. Chef Eduardo meets us at the door with a welcome greeting and a smile. As he seats us in a colorful corner with a view of magnificent murals in tropical hues, Chef Eduardo explains that “mariscos” is Spanish for seafood. The menu offers only fresh seafood including shrimp, crab, oysters, red snapper, octopus, tilapia, langostinos and, occasionally, live Maine lobster.
Chef Eduardo and Nelly met in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico where Nelly’s parents own and manage a seafood restaurant. Eduardo was groomed as a chef and manager, and under their guidance, he also acquired the concept for the Mariscos Villarreal.
The lime green, white and mango restaurant décor sparkles with light and color and feels warm and comfortable. Live plants and fresh flowers add to the tropical charm of the setting.
We are seated, and Chef Eduardo followed quickly with a large, printed menu studded with colorful photos of the seafood plates, appetizers, soups, specialties of the House, and an interesting variety of soft drinks including a fresh limeade, a fresh lemonade, a sweet rice drink, coffee, Mexican sodas, and American sodas. The limeade, orangeade, and sweet rice drinks are made in house with fresh ingredients and served chilled.
Eduardo emphasized that the fish and accompaniments are purchased fresh and prepared perfectly to enhance their flavor. We noticed steaming hot plates beautifully garnished with avocado slices, freshly cut lime and lemon twists, cucumbers and herbs passing our table in Nelly’s competent hands.
As a first course, we chose a tostada with shrimp ceviche served with a hot/spicy sauce and a cool fresh lime. The sauce impressed us with its many layers of flavor yet a drop or two with each bite suited our palate. Chef Eduardo especially asked how much heat/spice we wanted in the sauces served with the seafood, and we told him “poquito ” (little).
The seafood is cooked to order. Diners select from the menu and then tell the chef the level of heat they desire in the sauces and accompaniments to their entrée. We ordered an ice-cold shrimp cocktail prepared Mexican style (delicious!), a seafood and pineapple combination presented in a pineapple shell, the langostino plate, red snapper sautéed to perfection in a light butter sauce, and shrimp in a delicate red sauce. Entrées are served with a buttery and flavorful rice molded into a neat cylindrical shape. The seafood popped with freshness, flavor and juiciness. The portions are generous and served with fresh tostadas and a variety of bottled chili sauces.
Seafood is addictively delicious when it is fresh and perfectly prepared in recipes tested over time in Nayarit to please worldwide travelers and patrons who live nearby.
When the tropics and fine seafood call to me again, I will be traveling to Mariscos Villarreal for the fresh and flavorful experience of Chef Eduardo’s creative recipes and extraordinary seafood.