Smile Politely

Mixing it up at La Mixteca

Always interested in new Mexican restaurants in town, I wandered over to La Mixteca at Cunningham and University in Urbana. Normally, I plan my orders for new restaurants ahead of time by looking at online menus. However, I didn’t have any luck finding La Mixteca’s menu, so I went in ready to be surprised. Not sure what to expect, I walked in and found a pleasantly spacious pair of rooms with the freshness that only a recent renovation provides. The space was also quite cool compared to the inferno of the outdoors. After a swift greeting, I sat down and pored over the menu while munching on the complimentary chips and salsa, which I very much enjoyed. The chips were nice and thick, allowing me to take as much salsa as I wanted without fear of any chip breakage occurring. While a little watery, the salsa contained nice chunks of peppers in it and a pleasing aftertaste that reminded me somewhat of mint.

Hearing that La Mixteca has off-menu specials, I asked what those were first and then went with one taco barbacoa ($2.99) along with a variety of other dishes. Wrapped in a handmade tortilla, a light smell of sweetened beef greeted me as I bit into the taco. The crisp onions and tender meat meshed well and were complimented by the lime that came with the taco. With just a hint of spiciness and cilantro, the taco barbacoa proved a wise choice for me to start with, as the other dishes I ordered were more complex.

Interested in something more substantial, I then tested out the sope with chicken ($5). Sprinkled with cheese and a drizzle of sour cream, my first impressions were good. I have trouble turning down cheese and sour cream on most warm dishes, especially tacos or taco-adjacent foods. Sampling a piece of the chicken, I was pleasantly surprised by its peppery-ness. I’ve come to expect most chicken at restaurants to be bland, letting the condiments and add-ons provide most of the flavor. Thankfully, this is not the case at La Mixteca. The chicken was wonderfully flavorful, and the remaining tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tortilla base rounded out the flavor. I only wish the tortilla was a bit thinner, as it became a bit overwhelming by the time I finished my sope.

Moving onto my last entrée, I took a bite of my tlacoyo with pastor ($5) and what did I find but juicy slices of pineapple mixed in with the pork strips. The pineapple proved a wonderful addition to this dish, as the salty pork and the refried bean-stuffed masa (cornmeal) base would have dried out my mouth, otherwise. As a fan of cilantro, I enjoyed the ample amount of it scattered overtop the dish, as well. Among the entrées I ordered, I knew the least about the tlacayo, so I was very glad to discover I enjoyed it thanks in large part to the pineapple.

I couldn’t leave La Mixteca without ordering their dessert special of the day. Taking my fork into the churro bar ($3.50), I immediately noticed the density of the dessert. This is certainly not a light treat, so tread carefully. Eating the churro bar, I made three observations. First, the density of the sweet comes from a large amount of cream cheese in the middle layer, so take note. Second, despite the name, the churro bar is not at all crispy and warm like a churro and is more akin to a rich pound cake. Thankfully, I was also pleased to notice a plentiful amount of cinnamon mixed throughout the entire churro bar, which is what I hoped when I ordered it in the first place. For anyone else interested in this dessert, take what I saw in mind, as this is a dessert best shared.

All in all, I’m glad La Mixteca opened in our community. It has quite the variety of dishes and the service is very prompt. I didn’t even have a chance to try their other types of entrées, such as the Hawaiian burger or the camarones a la diabla. I recommend the sope and plan to inquire about their specials when I return. 

La Mixteca
510 N Cunningham Ave
8 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

Photos by Matthew Macomber

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