Mariscos El Submarino could serve their Mexican seafood dishes in the middle of traffic on the George Washington Bridge and we’d still implore you to seek them out. Fortunately for you and tri-state-area commuters at large, all you need to do is stop by this excellent counter-service restaurant in Jackson Heights.
Situated on the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue dominated by Mexican shops, delis, and restaurants, Mariscos El Submarino opened in early 2020 with a particular focus on towering tostadas, acid-bathed octopus and shrimp, and dynamic aguachile. You can order their aguachile in the rojo, verde, or negro variety - the different options correspond to the respective peppers incorporated in each one. Like a ceviche, expect the firm-squishy textural contrast of the aguachile to warrant a ballad dedicated to tilapia, only with slow-building heat and a stewier consistency. You will probably want to pick up the dish and slurp up the liquid, but your throat might disagree with that choice because of the shocking slurry of peppers. Sorry to your throat.
Although their aguachile negro is the dish you shouldn’t leave without (it comes in tostada form or served in a molcajete as large as your head), Mariscos El Submarino’s seafood specialties don’t stop there. There are enough shrimp dishes to warrant a crustacean adaption of Candyland (called Shrimpland, obviously). Mariscos El Submarino offers everything from a dizzyingly sweet shrimp cocktail, a burger with shrimp on top, several different kinds of ceviche, and a taco el enchilado made with shrimp that’s been chopped and marinated in a spicy, bright red sauce.
Other than a highly relatable sign that reads “’el amor puede esperar el hambre no,” the space here has the look of a fluorescent, nondescript lunch counter. And while you might find it a little too casual for a nice date or a big family dinner, we stand by the fact that as soon as lime-and-pepper-soaked shrimp and creamy avocado enter the equation, you won’t care one bit where you’re sitting. So order at the counter, grab a tamarind soda from the fridge (Mariscos El Submarino doesn’t serve alcohol), and wait for your plastic tray of freakishly divine fish to arrive.
Served in a molcajete as large as a classroom clock, the aguachile negro gets its color (and name) from a blend of smoky-charred green and red chiles that you’ll see flecked in the loose water-and-lime based sauce. After a couple sinus-clearing bites straight from the bowl, build your own tostada with soft tilapia, shrimp, and octopus, topped with creamy avocado slices, crunchy raw red onions, and half-mooned cucumbers.
The ceviche is milky white in color, and full of red jalapeños and all the great fish also present in the aguachile (tilapia, shrimp, octopus). It’s a solid study in citrus, but we couldn’t help but returning to the aguachile which has a bit more of the spicy-sweet-sour depth that this one lacks. Add some hot sauce for extra zing.
Sweet to the point where we wouldn’t recommend this dish solely on its own. But it works nicely to extinguish some of the flames from the aguachile, especially if you involve the SkyFlakes crackers on the side. We put several packets of these in our purse for later.