The walls at Skinny Fish are sandy beige with beach blue water tones to make it a chill place.
It’s how Mike Mares describes the ceviche restaurant he and his wife Rosa own in Brownsville. Skinny Fish is an alternative to the Mexican-style ceviche restaurants that are common in the Rio Grande Valley.
Walk into Skinny Fish – a take-out only restaurant – and you will see options of healthy choices up on boards above the cash register. Ceviche with different fish and shrimp options are available along with vegetable choices like celery, corn, red onion and lettuce. Fruits like orange, avocado and mango are also additions a customer can add to their order.
There are set dishes with names like Gulf Coast and The Tropical, but the concept is for a customer to have the choice to mix-and-match and have the combination of fish or shrimp with their choice of vegetables and fruits.
“We’re not making the same plate every time,” Rosa Mares said. “We’ll make it the way you want it.”
Skinny Fish is located on Alton Gloor Boulevard near a hospital, various other health care facilities and gyms of different sorts. Many of the restaurant’s customers are medical workers and fitness enthusiasts on their way home from a workout.
“We’re here to help people get healthier,” Rosa said. “There’s lots of little (ceviche) places, but not one that specializes in it like we do.”
The health of Mike was the key concern in early summer. He fell ill with COVID-19 in June and was hospitalized for four days. Rosa and Mike each have full-time jobs in addition to their business. Combine that fact with one of them becoming seriously ill and it made for stressful times just as Skinny Fish was getting started.
It had been a long process just to get to a summer 2020 opening. It took several months to go through the city’s permitting process. The couple worked with the UTRGV Small Business Development Center to formulate an operations and financial road map to establish Skinny Fish. With all of that done, and the business finally open, Mike became seriously ill with the virus.
“It was a difficult time for our family,” Rosa said. “We pulled together as a family with my daughter and son-in-law helping us out while I was taking care of Mike.”
A recovery from COVID was ongoing through August for Mike. He was energetic during a recent business day at Skinny Fish. He greeted customers and helped new patrons with navigating the many ingredient choices to make an individual ceviche dish. Mike wants a friendly place that can be a business where “the Gulf Coast meets Kenny Chesney.”
Rosa said they have a commitment to give the Brownsville options beyond the usual Mexican food and barbecue. They want to offer something that’s fresh and can help customers boost their health no matter the diets they use. Having fun is another goal through a business that highlights customer service, cleanliness, family and religion.
If all goes well, there’s another goal to reach. Rosa Mares would like to retire from her federal government job in the next few years and devote her working efforts to the Skinny Fish on Alton Gloor.