By Christina Autry
Ostioneria el Marisquero is introducing the Five Corners District to seafood dishes inspired by Mexico City, created by veteran chefs with over 20 years of experience. With seafood soups, blackened salmon, calamari, and a whole range of fresh seafood plates in high demand, co-owner Yanet Hernandez is confident that the Five Corners is the perfect neighborhood to establish the first of what could be many Ostioneria el Marisquero locations.
Yanet, her husband Marco Aviles, along with brothers Raul and Gerardo Garcia felt that after years of working for established restaurants, it was time to start their own. The team saw a gap in the local seafood market of south Houston, and knew that they could turn that into an opportunity. “For us, to own our own business is the American dream,” says Yanet.
Once they put in their application to lease an orange building formerly used as a Mexican restaurant at Post Oak and Fuque, it was accepted by the property owner right before Christmas of 2019. “It was an early Christmas present,” remembers Yanet.
“It all happened very fast,” she explains. “The location and building had everything we needed: a busy street, a stand-alone facility, and parking.” A remodel was in order, however, to change the interior from Mexican restaurant décor to a seafood theme.
“It took a lot of work,” Yanet says. “We didn’t have time to sit down and think about it. We needed equipment and permits. We didn’t take any loans. We kept our regular jobs during the remodeling process, put our pennies together, and made it happen.”
“I had never done this in my life, but we didn’t hire anybody to do it for us. We learned for ourselves, we researched and asked questions throughout the process. We were blessed to meet very nice people in City of Houston offices who helped us get our permits and paperwork. My family was very supportive. Whenever we needed help, they would jump in.”
By the end of February, Ostioneria El Marisquero was ready for its grand opening event. On the night of the grand opening, enough ingredients were purchased and prepared for a moderate-sized crowd. To their surprise, by 7PM, the restaurant was so full that they had to start turning away new guests, offering them a 10% coupon to use on another day. “In that night, we ran out of all the ingredients we had for the whole week!” remembers Yanet.
After such an encouraging start, the first three weeks of operations were bustling. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Houston, triggering the closure of Harris County dining rooms. The new restaurant was forced to create a new “to-go only” business model overnight to stay in business. With customers nervous to venture out of their homes, sales decreased. Luckily, after a couple weeks of adjusting to the new carry-out restrictions, hungry customers, many of whom had enjoyed Ostioneria El Marisquero prior to the virus, started returning. “We ended up getting back up to about 70% of our sales,” says Yanet.
Once Governor Abbott allowed restaurants to open 25% of their dining capacity, the restaurant jumped on the opportunity, while following strict sanitary guidelines. “We have disposable menus, sanitizing stations, tables spaced six feet apart, patio seating, tables disinfected within 2-3 min of customers leaving, all staff wearing gloves, and masks. We are following all the rules,” says Yanet. Of course, customers are still welcome to order to-go and curbside.
“The community has been very supportive,” she says. “People tell us that they hope we can survive because this restaurant option is needed here. We want to continue supporting our staff and their families.” The family-oriented atmosphere, seafood from Galevston and Keemah, and the variety of pastries, cakes and breads made in-house each day contributes to the restaurant’s happy visitors. These baked goods are created under the guidance of Yanet’s father, who has been a pastry chef for over 25 years.
The restaurant was inspired by a chain of restaurants in Mexico City owned by Raul Garcia’s brothers. Customers have said that they came specifically to this Five Corners restaurant after having visited its sister-restaurant in Mexico City.
Most other customers have found Ostioneria El Marisquero through word-of-mouth thus far, although the business is now present on Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Google, and has created their own website displaying their menu. “We’re always open to suggestions and comments, thoughts, or anything new you want to see on our menu,” says Yanet. Drop by the restaurant between 10AM-10PM any day of the week, and find out why everyone is excited to try the Five Corners District’s new seafood restaurant.