Vietnamese men have their coffee shops, where caffeine is beside the point because the waitresses are strolling around in high heels and bikinis. For Mexican hombres, that same restaurant genre is occupied by the marisquería—a seafood spot that plays like a Mexican Hooters thanks to uniformly busty waitresses. But these dives are better than their Vietnamese cousins. For one, there’s alcohol! Better yet, there’s usually legitimately good food, there’s no smoking allowed, and live banda sinaloense bands tend to play late into the night, much to the delight of male and female patrons. Marisquerías try to channel the vibe of Culiacán, the rip-roaring capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa that has informed Mexican youth culture for the past 25 years.
Marisquerías are so hot in OC’s Mexican-food scene that the owner of Palapa’s Marisquería & Sushi isn’t even from Sinaloa—he’s a zacatecano. Doesn’t matter—Palapa’s gets it right, starting with a complimentary appetizer of a spicy avocado salsa and puckery ceviche ground so finely you can snort it up your nose. It stocks all of Sinaloa’s seafood classics: furious aguachiles, shrimp prepared dozens of ways, tacos gobernadores (essentially shrimp quesadillas) and fine shrimp cocktails. Palapa’s also dabbles in the curious genre of Mexican sushi, which proves that Mexicans can turn even the daintiest of traditions into a fried, spiced ode to mestizaje.
Palapa’s is not for faint foodies, though. The prices are going to be high, but that’s because the portions are meant to be shared, not consumed solely by your fat ass. There’s usually a $4 charge for valet during weekend nights because the tiny lot gets filled fast (pro tip: park at the home of your Orange-living pal, and Uber—you’re here to get drunk, anyways). The volume is always cranked to 14, so bring your outdoor voice. And though customer service is spotty, that ain’t the point: All the waitresses have to do is walk around in their leggings and tight shirts, and that’s all the #chichischrist and #nalgamedios you’ll need for the year.
Palapa’s Marisquería & Sushi, 331 N. Tustin St., Orange, (714) 633-1337. Instagram: @laspalapas.