About a decade ago, Jason Avitia Pineda’s family moved to Mexico.
They started a taco stand in Tijuana, but personal reasons forced the family to move back to Tucson a couple years later.
“We moved from there to here. It was hard moving from country to country,” Avitia Pineda says. “I guess we never lost the vision of doing something again involving food.”
That vision finally became a reality again this month, when his family — including his mom, sister and sometimes his dad — opened their new restaurant Ajuua at 2310 N. Country Club Road, near Grant Road.
The restaurant is Mexican, but not Sonoran. The menu is seafood-centric, inspired by Costa Rica, Sinaloa — where the family is from.
“We know there’s different kinds of food that Sonoran and Sinaloan people eat. A lot of times, we make it different than (Sonoran food). We’re just putting what we know out there,” Avitia Pineda says.
For example, you might be familiar with barbacoa. But Ajuua makes it Sinaloan style — chunkier cuts of meat with potatoes and carrots. There are 17 seafood options on the menu, from ceviche to fried octopus to Instagram-worthy marisco cocktails.
“Sinaloa people are known for their seafood so we tried to do our seafood Sinaloa style,” Avitia Pineda says. "Every little dish they do is very over-exaggerated, I don’t know how to explain it.”
Inspired by his mom's home cooking, Avitia Pineda says his family has always wanted to start some kind of food-related business.
“(My mom) has always cooked and always liked it since she was small,” Avitia Pineda says. “I remember when we moved back, we would always tell my mom that she cooks really good food and we always motivated her.”
While his mom isn’t the chef at the restaurant, the family is taking the opportunity to learn from the cooks who are there.
Avitia Pineda’s favorite menu items are the breakfast chilaquiles (yes, the restaurant serves breakfast, too) — and anything with seafood, which comes to the midtown restaurant from Mexico.
Beyond the seafood, customers have been loving the fritangas (fried) section of the menu, including the tacos dorados that come with chicken or shredded beef. Also on the menu: tamales, pollo asado and steak.
In the future, the family hopes to update the menu to include birria and carne asada tacos among other additions, and build out a bar area. There’s indoor dining and a very charming patio outside.
“There are a lot of people we know that are from Sinaloa here, too, and they’re like, ‘Wow, we haven’t had this for a long time,’” Avitia Pineda says. “It's cool switching it up a bit.”
Location: 2310 N. Country Club Road
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Price: Ranges. Fried octopus, $19.99. Barbacoa, $15.99. Three tacos dorados, $11.97.