If you’ve driven down North First Avenue lately, you may have noticed a massive silver submarine where El Mezón del Cobre used to be. It’s not a mirage: The structure is actually a new restaurant by Benjamín Galaz, the owner of BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs.
The restaurant is called El Berraco, which according to Galaz is a Colombian term for someone capable of doing remarkable things. When it opens in a couple of weeks, El Berraco will serve seafood from countries along an old Pacific Ocean submarine route that skimmed the coasts of Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico and more.
To develop the menu, Galaz brought up chef Claudia Lopez Burquez of Girasole restaurant in Hermosillo, Sonora. She’s put together a playful mishmash of casual dishes à la BK as well as more colorful gourmet fare.
Highlights include fried octopus tacos, whole coconuts stuffed with shrimp and a “Ceviche Route” appetizer with side-by-side ceviches from Peru, Colombia and Mexico. There’s plenty of oyster and shrimp and even a whole grilled octopus, but you’ll also see Sonoran dishes like bacon-wrapped guero peppers stuffed with smoked marlin.
There will also be a full bar, with 20 beers on tap and more than 40 bottled beers from Mexico and all over South America.
The restaurant, at 2960 N. First Ave., will stay open until 1 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and until midnight the rest of the week.
“I’ve been in the food industry for 25 years,” said Galaz, who is from Tucson and Sonora. “I started with hot dogs, then selling carne asada tacos. Now we’re trying to come up with a new concept.”
Galaz said he’s spent the past year and a half working on El Berraco, and even set up his own welding workshop in the process. The skilled welder performed much of the remodeling work himself, which included making porthole windows and covering the building with stainless steel paneling. The inside of the building looks like a cross between a Mariscos Chihuahua restaurant and the submarine scene from “Titanic,” with colorful benches and moody dark neon lighting.
When it’s done, the dining room will also feature a wall-length digital fish tank, hand-drawn submarine posters and deep-sea divers’ helmets on the walls. Galaz says if the concept is successful, he plans to make it into a national franchise.