Realizing a dream
Mexican seafood restaurant comes to life a decade after the idea
Jesus Sandoval was a teenager when he left Chico to spend a summer working as a cook and server in his uncle’s mariscos restaurant in the Los Angeles area. Each year thereafter, Sandoval repeated a message to his uncle: “We should open something like that in Chico.”
That’s because of the lack of authentic mariscos, Mexican seafood, in the area.
Last summer, nearly a decade after his experience in that So Cal eatery, Sandoval convinced his uncle, Luis Alejandro Sandoval, to move to Chico and they soon began work on what would become Mariscos la Costa. The restaurant, located at 1141 Forest Ave., features many recipes from coastal regions of Mexico like Sinaloa, Yucatan and Nayarit, so naming it “la costa,” Spanish for the coast, was an easy decision. Sandoval says the most popular dishes include shrimp cocktails, fish tacos, ceviche, seafood stews, fajitas and enchiladas.
Mariscos la Costa has now been open for a little more than six months, and is getting some traction in the local dining scene. During a recent interview, Sandoval reflected on the efforts getting the eatery to this point. He noted it was daunting leaving steady work in the construction industry. And while he had previously worked at different restaurants, as a busboy, dishwasher and server, he had never started his own business.
“You’re thinking about so many things during the process, and you ask yourself, ‘How do I do this?’” he said. “But I’ve always been taught to go forward and not be afraid. I’ve always had family support that kept me going.”
It was that support that helped get the restaurant up and running. With Sandoval’s uncle heading up the back of the house (creating the menu, managing the kitchen and being the head chef), Sandoval took care of the rest of the operation (managing the wait staff, customer service and the logistics of opening up the restaurant). He also brought in his sister, Alejandra, who quit her job at a hospice facility, to work as a full-time server.
Sandoval was aware that several restaurants had failed in that particular spot on Forest Avenue. Still, he said the family pressed on, knowing that there are few eateries on that side of town. They were handed the keys to the space Nov. 1 and spent the next month finding equipment, remodeling the inside, and getting the proper permits before opening the doors in early December. The biggest hurdle during that time was finding the right ingredients, like mojarras, halibut, cactus and queso fresco. Eventually, they found a supplier in the Bay Area.
Now, with things running smoothly, Sandoval said the most rewarding part of his job is concentrating on offering people a type of food they may never have tried before.
“Walking out at the end of the day, looking back and seeing how it’s come to life, is a really good feeling,” he said. “Seeing customers smiling and having someone walk out the door, giving you a thumbs up, we kind of live for that.”