I think I wanted everything on the menu at Mixteco. Not only because I had heard such great things about the Mexican restaurant from Frontera Grill alum, Raul Arreola, but because the menu items include phrases like “crispy tortilla drizzled with queso fresco,” “bathed in salsa Campechana,” and “chicken doused in a complex black mole.” It’s these mouth-watering descriptions that most likely contribute to the long nightly waits at the BYOB restaurant on Ashland and Montrose. The word is out, and the place was totally packed around 8PM on a Thursday night, and with no waiting area inside, you may want to shoot for a nice night if you’re stranded outside, practically licking the glass as you watch happy diners devour corn masa boats with mushrooms and chile pasilla salsa, wood-grilled rack of lamb with Oaxaca black mole and wood-grilled black tiger shrimp in a Oaxacan green mole with grilled zucchini.
When we finally got inside and sat, it was our turn. Brave the extreme decibel level and dig right into the starters or, entremeses. We wanted gaucamole, but opted instead for chicken tamales with Oaxana black mole, sesame seeds and chopped cilantro. The mole is deeply, smokily dense, with a whisper of dark chocolate at the end, the tamales light as air, moist and too small, we would’ve easily polished off another order.
Although tasty, the tamales were pretty thick with mole, so the calamares al ajillo balanced our first course. Warm, wood-grilled calamari in served in garlic sauce and mixed with baby arugula, roasted red peppers, and esquites; a street-food favorite in Mexico consisting of seasoned sweet corn. Tossed in lime juice, it’s a perfect balance of sweet, salty and citrus with tender, fresh calamari rings. The combo offers a strong, vibrant array of flavors, but the salad still remains a light palate-cleanser for what’s to come.
Eleven main dishes, or platos fuertes are where the majority of those delicious descriptors can be found, and each dish is laden with accompaniments like roasted or grilled vegetables, sweet mashed potatoes, and sauces from black moles to guaje-arbol. I have been thinking about the Dorado for a straight week now; wood-grilled mahi mahi in a fried guajilla salsa with diced avocado and cilantro served with mashed potatoes and grilled, smoky asparagus. The fish was fresh, juicy and mouth-watering, and still flavorful even when resting in a pool of peppery, smoky sauce.
My porcine-craving dining companion agonized between slow-roasted pork marinated with achiote and sour orange and the chuleta en manchamantales; wood-grilled pork chop with Oaxacan sweet mole served with mashed sweet potatoes, fried plantains, chunks of grilled pineapple and Mexican chorizo. She opted for the chop, a dish that had me at mashed sweet potatoes and fried plantains. The tender, generous pork chop was delicious as well. It’s the kind of dish you might look at and think, what’s with the over-pooling of sauce? But the sweet mole is delicious enough to sop onto housemade flour tortillas (served with every dish for maximum mopping opportunities), but still allows the rest of the flavors on the plate—wood-grilled pork chop, bright pineapple, sweet caramel-y plantains, spicy chorizo, earthy sweet potatoes—shine.
There’s so much more to try on a second (hopefully soon) visit to Mixteco, this time armed with a robust red vino to stand up to all of the spices and sauces. I’m also hoping the unfinished ceiling soon morphs into the sound-absorbing cover the waiter told me was in the works. And whether or not it has, you may be too distracted by tender wood-grilled meats and vegetables, perfectly mashed potatoes and delicate yet complex sauces easily sopped up with housemade tortillas to even notice. 1601 W. Montrose, 773.868.1601