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Behind the Counter at Baja’s Best Seafood Shack

Mariscos Yiyo’s in Ensenada is serving up some of the freshest octopus, shrimp, and clams in the region

Alberto “Yiyo” Castro Roman often gets a jolt from his early-morning surf session, part of his daily routine in Playa Hermosa, Ensenada, in Baja California, Mexico. But Roman isn’t a surfer; as the owner of the popular Mariscos Yiyo’s, which he opened on the playa in 2010, he’s a street-food vendor who happens to make some of the best seafood in the region.

Roman’s mother is from Sinaloa, and his father hails from El Arco in Baja, California. His childhood was spent in San Quintín, just a little over 100 miles south of Ensenada, a region known as the land of oysters, clams, and strawberries. His favorite seafood to work with, the gorgeous Pismo clam, comes in fresh from his hometown on a daily basis. The clam meat has the slightest bit of sweetness to it, and Roman covers it in citrus, hot sauces, avocado, and chopped vegetables to create the perfect harmony of flavor.

At Mariscos Yiyo’s, which draws a crowd, particularly during lunch, the beauty behind Baja dishes emerges: They’re often passed down from generation to generation, but each cook or chef is sure to put their special spin on it. “My passion for Baja comes from the fact that I was born and raised here,” Roman says. “My roots are here in this beautiful place, as well as my family and friends. Baja is a place where you can grow, while accomplishing dreams, and living a plentiful life.”

Guitar-shaped pieces of wood from the nearby Fender factory fuel the fire of the outdoor grill.

Ramon puts the finishing touches on the molcajete Sinaloaensenadense, a play on words meaning Sinaloa and Ensenada. The dish is loaded with shrimp, octopus, chocolate clams, and oysters, dressed in fresh lime juice, diced tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers.

The Beso de Sirena (smoked Pismo clam) is a popular order; Roman sources the clams from his hometown of San Quintín.
Ramon’s favorite dish — and a top seller — is the pulpo enamorado, featuring octopus and shrimp tossed in garlic and butter and finished with acidity from his homemade pipichu sauce.

Kristin Díaz de Sandi is a freelance food and travel writer based in San Diego. Antonio Díaz de Sandi is a freelance designer and photographer based in San Diego and Tijuana.