Tuetano Taqueria takes root in Old Town with new sister ceviche eatery Mar Rustico

The Sonora ceviche bowl at Mar Rustico in Old Town Urban Market.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The side-by-side quick-service eateries are in the newly opened Old Town Urban Market on Congress Street


Three years after founding her Michelin-recognized Tuetano Taqueria in San Ysidro, chef Priscilla Curiel moved her business 18 miles up Interstate 5 to the newly opened Old Town Urban Market in November.

At the new location, longtime Tuetano customers can still buy the bone marrow-topped birria tacos that made Curiel famous. But she and her husband, Fernando Covarrubias, are hoping customers will spread the love to their newest venture, Mar Rustico, a Mexican seafood outlet that they opened right next door in the urban market at Congress and Twiggs streets.

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Mar Rustico sells five varieties of ceviche bowls inspired by different Mexican regional cuisines, as well as raw and fried oysters, batter-fried fish tacos, clam chowder and smoked marlin burritos. Curiel got the idea for Mar Rustico seven years ago while doing culinary research for a new restaurant concept in La Paz, Mexico. The ceviche bowls range from $21 to $23 and are loaded with firm, fresh-caught fish and shellfish imported from Mexico by El Faro Seafood in San Diego. One of these weighty, fresh and delicious bowls could easily make two meals.

Priscilla Curiel squeezes lime juice into ceviche at Mar Rustico
Priscilla Curiel squeezes lime juice into fresh vegetables for one of her ceviche dishes at Mar Rustico, a new Mexican seafood eatery at Old Town Urban Market.
(Cintia Soto)

Curiel is a classically trained, third-generation restaurateur who earned a Michelin Plate honor in 2020 for her unique take on Mexican classics, her insistence on high-quality ingredients and her made-from-scratch ethos.

She braises her birria for 36 hours, she makes all of her flour and corn tortillas by hand and people drive for miles to buy her bottled Échale Macha, a rich but not-too-spicy salsa made from roasted chili peppers, seeds, nuts and herbs in an oil base. The salsa macha is the secret ingredient in Tuetano’s birria, and it’s also sprinkled into the marinades for Mar Rustico ceviche bowls, which are always made to order for ultimate freshness.

Raw oysters at Mar Rustico restaurant
Mar Rustico’s oysters are marinated in tomatillo, lime juice, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and green shallots.
(Mar Rustico)

All of Curiel’s ceviche bowls come topped with fresh avocado as a creamy balance to the acidic marinades, and they’re served with three baked tortilla shells for assembling your own tostadas. Here’s a look inside Mar Rustico’s five different takes on ceviche, a Latin American dish made with raw seafood that’s been cured in fresh citrus juices.

La Paz: This classic fish ceviche is based on Curiel’s mom’s recipe, made with fresh fish, diced green olives, cilantro, onion, Serrano peppers, Persian cucumbers, lime juice, a dash of soy sauce, salsa macha and a bit of avocado oil that’s imported from her cousins’ avocado ranch in Michoacán.

Sonora: This top-selling ceviche is made with cooked Mexican shrimp and cooked octopus prepared aguachile-style with a black cocktail salsa, onions, Serrano peppers, black sesame seeds and avocado oil.

Bermejo: Inspired by the Asian-influenced ceviches now popular in Baja, this dish is made with yellowtail tuna, crunchy jicama, Persian cucumber, cilantro, Serrano peppers and a house-made sesame ponzu marinade.

Mar Rustico's ceviche bowls are served with tostada shells
Mar Rustico’s ceviche bowls are served with three crisp tortilla shells for making your own tostadas.
(Mar Rustico

Balandra: Curiel took the recipe for a classic shrimp ceviche and then gave it a twist by marinating the shrimp in a Habanero chili dressing with fresh mango. It’s tossed with Serrano peppers, cilantro, onions, olives and Persian cucumbers.

Cabo: Raw shrimp aguachile is cured with tomatillo and mixed with cilantro, lime, jalapeño peppers, Mexican green onions and red onions. Up until Dec. 31, this was Curiel’s favorite ceviche, but she can no longer eat it because she learned on New Year’s Day that she’s expecting her third child with Covarrubias. Raw fish is not recommended for pregnant women.

For now, Tuetano and Mar Rustico have limited evening hours, but the couple plans to expand restaurant hours to 10 p.m. as summertime approaches. Both restaurants serve soft drinks, beers and micheladas.

Mar Rustico & Tuetano Taqueria

Winter hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends.

Where: Old Town Urban Market, 2548 Congress St., San Diego


Tuetano Taqueria and Mar Rustico co-owners chef Priscilla Curiel and Fernando Covarrubias.