OGDEN — Mexican food isn’t just about tacos, burritos, beans and rice.
Just ask Eduardo Sanchez. What started as a doctor’s recommendation to eat healthier has become his family’s mainstay — Mariscos El Pariente, a small Ogden eatery focused on Mexican-style seafood like ceviche, shrimp cocktail and fish tacos.
“All my customers, they come especially to get seafood,” he said.
The restaurant, now at 385 Patterson St., started as a small northern Ogden locale in 2015, only offering shrimp cocktail. But as the lines grew, Sanchez sensed the strong demand and quickly moved to the present location further south, adding to the menu and gradually expanding into the current 16-table configuration.
The shrimp cocktail remains the marquee item on the menu, prepared with Clamato juice, avocados, onion bits, cilantro, his secret mix of spices and more. But it’s not the only thing. Sanchez offers ceviche — fish, shrimp and other seafood cured in citrus juices — tacos made of tilapia and more. Tomato juice and flavoring figures big in the shrimp cocktail and other offerings, but in everything, Sanchez puts his own stamp on things via the spices he uses. And fresh produce figures big, too — cucumbers, cilantro, avocados, red onions and tomatoes — making for healthy cuisine that doesn’t bust your gut.
He also offers a tomato juice-infused beer offering called a michelada, complete with hot spices.
“Seafood with beer, it’s very nice,” Sanchez said.
The food at Mariscos El Pariente reflects seafood offerings from around Mexico’s coastal states, like Veracruz, Baja California, Nayarit and Sinaloa, and Sanchez draws from his customers, coming up with his own take on suggestions they make.
“The people come here, ‘You have to make this,’” he said.
It’s a small locale and the ambiance is informal. You may hear salsa or a tropical beat from the music system or see Mexican League soccer on the televisions around the restaurant.
‘LOST, LIKE, 50 POUNDS’
Sanchez grew up in the El Paso, Texas, area, also spending a lot of time across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. There, a cousin ran a locale specializing in ceviche, where he first learned to prepare seafood. He also learned at home from his father, keeping up on it as he grew.
But it didn’t become a commercial venture until a diagnosis of diabetes and orders from his doctor to change his diet. He had been a trucker, driving across the country and eating fast food at truck stops.
“Eating, sleeping, driving. Eating, sleeping, driving. That was my job,” Sanchez said.
He scaled back on greasy truck stop fare that was heavy on carbohydrates. Instead, he amped up his consumption of seafood, heavy with protein. “I lost, like, 50 pounds,” he said.
Then came the momentous decision to turn his new diet into a business.
With limited Mexican seafood offerings here — he notes two other places that recently went out of business — Mariscos El Pariente has thrived, catering to a largely Hispanic clientele, many seeking the flavors of their hometowns south of the border.
Fresh seafood, too, figures in his success. Since seafood is more expensive than beef and chicken, he also does what he can to keep the prices in check.
It keeps Sanchez busy, but he doesn’t stop from dreaming.
“We’ve grown a lot,” he said. “We’re thinking of opening another restaurant in Salt Lake.”