Food + Drink

Fresh Local Seafood

Mario Piña and Alli Jarrett are both serving up tempting regional flavors.

Houston may be best known for Tex-Mex, BBQ, and steak houses, but when it comes to eating, the Bayou City is also very fond of its seafood. From fancy white-tablecloth seafood emporiums to all-you-can-eat crawfish joints, Houston’s proximity to the Gulf Coast ensures an abundance of fresh-from-the-water options.

Two members of Houston’s LGBTQ community are making the most of that deliciousness in two very different ways. Chef Mario Piña’s La Fishería restaurant, located in downtown’s historic district on Milam Street, was started by celebrity Mexican chef Aquiles Chavez in 2012.

Mario Piña, La Fishería

“I came here in 2017 from Monterrey,” says Piña. “One week later we had Harvey.” The devastating hurricane shuttered the restaurant for seven months, and it didn’t reopen until March of 2018. Since then, the chef has built a steady following of fans. And one of the things they come for is his grandmother’s flan.

“When I was a child, I would sit on my grandmother’s porch and eat her flan,” he recalls. The Flan de la Casa is a creamy Mexican-style crème caramel served with Kahlua caramel sauce. Other specialties include the Pulpo a la Parrilla, a tender grilled octopus in lime plated with veggies and yucca; a trio of seafood tacos; and the Pompano al la Limon, a whole pan-seared and roasted pompano fish with a buttery lime sauce.

Plus, he’s just added a few new dishes like the seafood linguini. “Even though we’re a seafood restaurant, a lot of people ask for pasta, so I created this dish,” Piña says. The bar features cervezas, wines, and an impressive menu of whiskeys.

The chef is also a food blogger whose Instagram handle is Memo Rex Commander, after the third album of the Mexican band Zoé: Memo Rex Commander y el Corazón Atómico de la Vía Láctea. When he’s not in the kitchen you’ll find Piña at concerts. “I went to 30 concerts last year,” he says proudly.

Meanwhile, over at Alli Jarrett’s Low Tide Kitchen & Bar in Spring Branch, the menu evokes the childhood flavors of Jarrett’s East Coast upbringing.

Alli Jarrett, Low Tide Kitchen & Bar

“I’m from South Carolina,” she says. “I grew up going to the beach at Pawleys Island, so I love seafood.”

Jarrett also owns the popular Harold’s Restaurant, Bar, and Terrace in the Heights, as well as Harold’s Tap Room.

Low Tide Kitchen & Bar started life in downtown’s Finn Hall food hall, but that location ended with the pandemic. In 2022, Jarrett relocated to Spring Branch to open another version of the restaurant.

“Spring Branch reminds me of the Heights when I first moved there 20 years ago,” she says. “There’s a lot happening here, it’s really growing.”

Dining here will evoke the smell of salt marsh air and the sound of the waves from the Low Country, and the menu is drool-worthy. From the shrimp burger to the oyster nachos, everything is fresh and simple.

“Just good, honest seafood,” Jarrett says. Her partner, Karin, craves the simple fare like the fried shrimp and hushpuppies, while other best-sellers include the crawfish dip and chips, crab cakes, and stoneground grits and shrimp.

“And our ceviche is award winning,” Jarrett says. The dish of white fish, cucumber, onion, cilantro, citrus, and tomato took home the top Trailblazer Appetizer Award at the 2023 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Roundup & Best Bites Competition.

There’s also a darn good burger made with 44 Farms beef, a butter bean burger for vegetarians, and the popular Sister’s Fried Chicken and Mash.

Both Piña and Jarrett feature signature dishes inspired by their grandmothers. “Sister’s Fried Chicken is similar to the fried chicken that we serve at Harold’s,” Jarrett notes. “It’s based on a family recipe that my grandmother used to make.”

At Low Tide’s raw bar, you can get Gulf Coast oysters like the Oysters NOLP (North
of Long Point) or East Coast oysters on the half shell. Wash them down with a Low Country cocktail of whiskey and fruit juice, and it’s all good. 

Jarrett, a longtime golfer, stays busy with her restaurants these days, but she’s also very active in charities, her church, and the industry as an advisory board member of the Texas Restaurant Association.

While very different in regional flavors, both Chef Piña’s La Fishería and Chef Jarrett’s Low Tide Kitchen & Bar serve up seafood that is some of the best in Houston.

La Fishería is located at 213 Milam St.
For more info, visit

Low Tide Kitchen & Bar is located at 2030 Bingle Rd.
For more info, visit


Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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