Somewhere deep and lost (at least to me) in the CH archives is an extremely positive report of a little place in Watsonville called Las Islitas Mariscos. After the report, I spotted the restaurant's sign on Main St. but I always seemed to be passing by at night on the way to Tepa Sahuayo so I never made it in. Well a year or so later I finally found myself in Watsonville at lunchtime and thought this would make a great stop.
The restaurant looks like a hybrid between a taqueria and a sitdown place. There is a counter with a menu board but everyone was seated and there were regular menus and table service. Still it was nice enough (better than the average taqueria), very clean and fairly large with maybe 25 or 30 tables. The menu is ALL seafood- I don't think there was a single meat dish. The service was fine but no English was spoken so if you are like me it is a fine opportunity to drag out that long forgotten and barely learned in the first place high school spanish.
I tried 2 tostadas, the fish ceviche and steamed shrimp. The fish in the cevice was chopped up extremely fine and mixed with a bit of onion, tomato and carrot. The shrimp were cooked a touch past a modern restaurant but not overdone. They were piled on top of a salad of small diced cucumber and tomatoes. The seafood in both dishes seemed very fresh. The tostada shells were not house made but were of good quality from the local La Rosa tortilla maker. I think the shrimp tostada was around $5 and the cevice was around $3. Not dirt cheap but the portion of shrimp was generous and seafood is not the best place to try to save a couple of $$.
I also split an order of the shrimp empanadas. Available in orders of 3, 6, or 12 these were quite good. Smaller than the ones at Tepa and not as crispy but great flavor. The masa dough was red from a bit of chile and not greasy at all. Inside the empanada were large chunks of shimp and insanely hot shrimp juice. (that sounds a bit odd but i did not pick up any flavors of lime juice or ??) These were accompanied by a salsa that seemed to be a puree of chiles with salt and a bit of lime/vinegar. Fairly spicy and a nice addition to the empanadas and my cevich tostada.
Also seen on the menu were a range of sauced shrimp appetizers, nice looking cocteles, other seafood tostadas, caldos, and a range of 'plates'. I managed to get a taste of the broth in the Caldo de Camarones and was impressed. Another companion ordered a fish empanizado that looked well prepared- very crisp and non-greasy.
I look forward to another round so I can try some of the full plates. No way I could return without another big order of the empanadas. Anyone else tried this place?
Las Islitas Mariscos
1230 Main St
Watsonville, CA 95076