This Van on the Beach Serves Some of the Best Seafood in Oaxaca
A day of perfect eating in Puerto Escondido should end at Costeñito Cevichería.
Last summer, after spending some time in Oaxaca City and then Mexico City, I wandered down to the coast and found myself somewhere unexpected: in front of a vintage Volkswagen camper van, its side doors splayed wide open, as I looked at what seemed to be seafood grilling inside of the car.
It wasn’t a random street food stop. It was a restaurant. The name? Costeñito Cevichería.
I'd been meandering around Playa Zipolite for the day, a town most people know as either a small, nude beach, or a place where surfers flock to chase Pacific Ocean swells. Having been out of America for a month, I was craving pancakes and breakfast that wasn’t tacos. My choice was El Cafecito Puerto Escondido, a small café serving carb-laden platters of crispy bacon, huevos oaxaqueños, pancakes like my mother's, French toast, dense rolls with soft centers, and spicy salsa. But then, some hours later, I was hungry again.
So, I paid, and strolled closer to the Pacific Ocean. Seahawks swirled above my head as I walked and ultimately as I landed in front of the vintage Volkswagen van, staring in both awe and confusion.
The nondescript white truck sat among palm trees, to the right of a small thatched-roof hut that announced the restaurant’s entrance and right in front of the larger thatched roof building that was the restaurant, its tables planted in the sand on Playa Zicatela within feet of the lapping waves. Costeñito Cevichería brands itself as a spot for ceviche, but as I learned during the two times I dined there while in Puerto Escondido, there’s a bigger offering: the grilled seafood.
You have to ask for it—the grilled seafood that will be cooked inside the Volkswagen van, where a makeshift coal-powered grill sits. It’s not on the menu. In fact, I’d argue that most people who end up at this beachside restaurant do because someone else told them to come and what to get.
I ordered shrimp both times, but the octopus is beautiful, too. The first time, I got the grilled shrimp bathed in an oregano butter sauce. The next, I got the fried shrimp and the grilled whole fish, which is whatever the catch of day happens to be, like snapper or bass. For 400 pesos, a massive butterflied catch arrives at your table, having been grilled in the van and covered in either oregano butter or in a parsley, garlic, and lime sauce. All the grilled seafood, including the shrimp and charred octopus, comes with salad and potatoes.
Costeñito Cevichería is like so many restaurants in the Playa Zicatela area and in all of Puerto Escondido—whether you’re stopping by El Cafecito for breakfast or their pastries, fish tacos from Smoked Fish Tacos, or the fiery octopus and shrimp from Coco Fish Zicatela—in its beachside simplicity and identifiably Oaxacan spin.
Eating grilled seafood from a van reminded me of all that is grand about Puerto Escondido: an undisturbed slice of paradise off the coast of Oaxaca, not yet rendered unrecognizable by touristic development. Here, what you see is what you get. And in this case, what you get is grilled seafood you'll remember forever.
Costeñito Cevichería, Calle del morro S/N, Marinero, 70934 Puerto Escondido, Oax., Mexico. +52 954 127 0424.