For families who can’t escape to the ocean for spring break but want to delight in coastal ambiance and fresh seafood, the next best thing is waiting in Ukrainian Village: El Barco Mariscos.
If you go
El Barco Mariscos
1035 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago
Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 10 a.m.-midnight
Friday and Saturday.
Serving seafood with an authentic Mexican bent, this lively, family-friendly eatery greets guests with rows of delectable crab legs on ice and the aroma of sizzling platters of spicy shrimp making their way to patrons of all ages.
Owner and Mexico City native Rick Gutierrez says the inspiration for El Barco is that of a bustling cantina overlooking the ocean in Acapulco.
“This is food you would eat at a beach in Mexico. We didn’t want to be like any other restaurant in Chicago.”
And indeed, it is unlike any other venue.
The restaurant’s exterior is actually shaped like a boat with a nautical interior décor to match. Kids marvel at the gigantic Captain Hook statue and the dozen life-size blue marlins hanging from the cobalt ceiling.
Not to be outdone by the atmosphere, the extensive menu boasts what some declare not just the best Mexican food in town, but also the very best seafood in town. Try the shrimp fajitas or enchiladas and you’ll never want them with meat again. For seafood enthusiasts with an enormous appetite, order the parrillada, a feast teeming with grilled and breaded filet of fish, chicken breast, shrimp, skirt steak, crab legs and octopus accompanied by onions, fried potatoes, rice, beans and pico de gallo. Or go with what Gutierrez says is among the best dishes on the menu: the red snapper in garlic, wine and cilantro sauce.
One caveat for the squeamish: some fish dishes come intact, head and all. So if you prefer an entrée that doesn’t stare back, be sure to confer with the server. For die-hard landlubbers or children whose palates are not quite ready for seafood, there are several chicken and steak dishes to choose.