La Playa Fresh Seafood Now Open in Gordon Square

The beachy Mexican seafood restaurant, from the owner of Blue Habanero, debuts in the former Boiler 65 space

click to enlarge La Playa in Gordon Square, now open - Douglas Trattner
Douglas Trattner
La Playa in Gordon Square, now open

Since 2018, Rafael Ayala has welcomed Mexican food fans into his popular Gordon Square restaurant Blue Habanero (6416 Detroit Ave.). Starting this week, he will welcome diners to his latest concept in the same neighborhood as La Playa Fresh Seafood (6410 Detroit Ave.) is now open next door.

For the past six months, Ayala has been converting the former Boiler 65 space into a colorful marisquería ripped from the beaches of sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Throughout the large space are brightly painted high-top tables and stools, palapa-topped tiki tables and live palms. On the wall are mounted swordfish, flying dolphins and vintage surf boards from up and down the Mexican coast.

"It's a fun atmosphere," says Ayala. "It's supposed to be relaxed."

Ayala, who is from Jalisco and spends a lot of time in the surf towns of that state, says that he has been kicking around the idea of importing his favorite cuisine. When he was approached by the St. Helena Church, the building's landlord, it was a sign that the time was right.

"I'm from Jalisco and we have a really large, diverse cooking style for seafood," he explains. "I love the food down there and I said, I've got to bring this concept to Cleveland. Everything came together when [the church] came and offered this space."

The seafood-heavy menu will offer Mexican beach staples like ceviche, seafood cocktails, aguachile, steamed shrimp, grilled fish, fried fish and seafood molcajetes.

"We put a lot of pride into our kitchen," adds Ayala. "Our chef is from Puerta Vallarta and he's amazing. It's all about freshness."

There will be plenty of beer, vibrantly hued drinks, fun tiki-style beverages and mezcal-fueled cocktails. A DJ will inspire a chill vibe that will extend out to the large patio.

After five years in the neighborhood, Ayala says that he feels confident that he is putting out a product that the community appreciates. With La Playa, he hopes to attract an even wider audience.

"I think we do a nice job from the heart to try to do our best and serve people the right way," he says. "It shows because we're busy. People like the food, people like the drinks, people like our atmosphere. This is what we're trying to bring here, but make it a little more diverse, more inclusive, more fun for everybody."

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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