Smile Politely

Casa del Mar, a seafood escape in Southeast Urbana

A cropped photo of seafood from Casa del Mar in Urbana, Illinois. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

I’ve been to Casa del Mar just once before to meet a friend for lunch. This time my partner and I went for an early dinner during the week. Located at the Pines in Southeast Urbana in the former Milo’s building, Casa del Mar boasts a large outdoor patio with a lovely pond view. There was ample indoor seating with booths, tables for large groups, and a full bar. We were greeted immediately as we entered and quickly led to a booth. Despite it being only 5 p.m., half of the restaurant was already full. My grandmother used to visit Casa del Mar weekly with a group of friends, and it was evident by the crowd that others were doing the same.  

Once seated, we were immediately brought water and chips. The complementary salsa was delicious — and that’s not always the case with free salsa.

A large margarita glass filled with an iced lime margarita with a salted rim and a lime wedge on top of an orange table. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

My partner and I both ordered a jumbo margarita ($8.99) which was on special. The waiter, despite having multiple tables, was attentive and quick to take our order. We had just finished our basket of chips when our food arrived.

A close-up of fresh shrimp, avocado chunks, diced tomatoes & onions plated on a dark blue plate. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

Refreshing and bright, the shrimp ceviche ($15) was a great starter or a meal all on its own. Fully cooked by marinating in fresh lime juice, the diced shrimp came mixed with avocado, tomato, and onion alongside a basket of hot tortilla chips. I love ceviche with a capital L, and I was extremely impressed by how fresh and delicious it was. Often times, ceviche is a mix of seafood, so this shrimp ceviche was a great option for those who only prefer shrimp. I will definitely be back to order this dish and a margarita while sitting on the patio as I dream of being seaside. 

Big sauteed shrimp, steak and chicken pieces on top of rice with foil-wrapped tortilla in the back ground on top of a cream colored plate. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

From the “Favorites” portion of the menu, my partner ordered the playa plate ($13.99), a three-meat dish with grilled chicken, steak, and shrimp served over rice and covered with a cheese sauce. All of the meat was seasoned and cooked very well. The shrimp was not rubbery, which seems to happen often in a mixed meat entree. Served with warm tortillas, this was a great dish, and it would please anyone craving plenty of meat with the traditional Mexican-American flavor at a good price.

Big sauteed shrimp, steak and chicken pieces on top of rice with foil-wrapped tortilla in the back ground on top of a cream colored plate. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

We also ordered the pollo el rey ($13.99), which had a filet of grilled chicken topped with a mix of sautéed chorizo, potatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cheese alongside refried beans and rice. There was not a lot of heat from the jalapeños or the chorizo, but they still provided a lot of flavor. There was plenty of food to fill three tortillas and still have leftovers. I think this dish would be perfect for anyone who doesn’t like their food too spicy but still wants to have an array of flavors. 

A top view of a cast iron plate with a piece of grilled fish on top of shrimp, onions, and peppers with foil-wrapped tortillas on the left side. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

Although these seafood fajitas ($19) were the most expensive item we tried, they were worth the price. A hefty serving of shrimp, crab, and tilapia cooked with sautéed green bell peppers, onions, and tomato. Served with refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, and three tortillas, it was plenty of food for a meal and even some leftovers. I was highly impressed with how well the filet of tilapia was prepared. For a Midwestern seafood lover, this dish was perfect.

From taken from above, four plates of food surround a large margarita. Photo by Tayler Neumann.
Tayler Neumann

Overall, we enjoyed our dinner at Casa del Mar and see why it has become a Champaign-Urbana hot spot. The location is great for out-of-towners, and the atmosphere and food make you want to come back.

Casa del Mar
2870 S Philo Rd
Su-Th 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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