by Tom Hanchett
For Rubén Granados at La Riviera Marisqueria, seafood has always been celebration food.
He grew up in Huejutla de Reyes, Mexico, cooking at his mom’s restaurant. Holiday trips to Tampico, three hours away on the Atlantic Ocean, meant celebrating with shrimp and other ocean treats. Later, coming to Los Angeles as a teen, he discovered Pacific seafood on vacations.
“I began to dream, could I have my own restaurant?” He worked as a waiter, learning the business. Weekends he sold tamales in apartment complexes, walking because he could not afford a car.
Rumors of opportunity pulled him to Charlotte in 2003. On a whim he auditioned for Latino radio station LaRaza 106.1 FM. His nine-year career as an impish character called “La Puchis” made Granados a much-liked public figure — and connected him with restaurant investors.
Granados’s La Riviera Marisqueria eatery on Albemarle Road boasts “Un Bocado del Pacifico!” — a bite of the Pacific. There are two menus. One has standard Mexican restaurant fare. Ask for the other, splashed with big photos of elaborate seafood entrés.
I am intrigued by the full page of ceviches, cold dishes featuring shrimp in lime juice. Variations add peppers, onions, tomatoes, fresh fruit and more. Names honor Pacific locales including Nayarit, Sinaloa and Mazatlan. “Every small town has its own style of food,” explains Granados.
The Mazatlan is my favorite. Creamy avocado slices and sweet bits of mango play off against tart shrimp and tangy onions.
Granados’ own favorite is a huge platter called the Riviera which reminds him of Tampico family celebrations. A whole fried fish nestles alongside french fries, salad, rice and a pico de gallo of fresh tomatoes. Plus there’s a ramekin of shrimp criolla, whose mild tomato broth carries flavors of Granados’ youth.
La Riviera really gets hopping on weekends with eaters celebrating the end of the workweek. A mariachi band strolls from table to table Fridays 8-11 p.m. Karaoke starts at 10pm on Saturdays. A norteño trio often drops in on Sunday in the late afternoon or evening.
La Riviera Marisqueria
Sunday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.
6023 Albemarle Road
Charlotte, NC 28212
(704) 566 – 6101
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