The Latin Tongue: La Mixteca

UPDATE: As of April, 2013 we have noticed that La Mixteca is CLOSED.


Another week, another new Latin eatery. This time, the location was a glorious old strip mall, just off of 494 on Portland Avenue. It is fascinating how eating at new and different restaurants has us going to places that were previously off of our personal "maps". It also forces you to consider the old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover." After all, strip malls are notorious for their ability to lend anonymity to anything and character to nothing.


La Mixteca is anything but lacking character. The smells of grilling meats, peppers and onions was a great welcome in this corner of Bloomington. The cook was working away on a few orders and it gave us a bit of time to consider the quite expansive menu. It was obvious just standing there that burritos were the hot item. People were coming in regularly and were obviously quite familiar with how they like them. Charles and I stood contemplating like overwhelmed and hungry newcomers, which was exactly right. 


As part of our ground rules in these Latin eating adventures laid out in our intro article, we were going to order a couple of tamales and a few tacos. The tamales were an easy bet as they had puerco and pollo verde. One of each please. The tacos were more of a challenge. There were many new options here and plenty of the old standards. Anyone who has been following our adventures, knows that I have completely fallen for barbacoa. Charles is discovering the wonders and subtle differences of tripa and buche. We ordered those and also the tinga (chipotle chicken) and the cochinita pibil, a shredded and marinated pork. 


We then asked the cook for her favorites and she recommended the creamy chipotle chicken as a customer favorite (it was obvious that she was a fan of most everything there and much too busy to go into much detail). We noticed huaraches on the menu and ordered one with this creamy, smoky mix on it. Then Jorge came out to lend a hand. Jorge is the owner of La Mixteca and began to help us with our order. As always, when someone who is proud of their food hears a couple of guys ordering a table full of non-burritos, their interest is piqued. He greatly encouraged us to try the puerco en salsa verde, which we were all too glad to do. They have a dish at La Mixteca called the guisado (literally "stew") plate, which in essence is just the meat with a side of rice, beans and pico de gallo, served with the ubiquitous pile of corn tortillas. This is a common idea, but with many different names, such as the generic "platillo" (plate or dish). 


Huarache with creamy chipotle chickenHuarache with creamy chipotle chickenUpon ordering, we realized that we had four tacos, two tamales, a huarache and a guisado plate coming. It seemed a little ambitious. As we watched him and his cook preparing the food, we couldn't help but talk about what we were seeing and comparing with other methods. For example, we saw Jorge swipe each small corn tortilla with butter or oil and grill it for just a second. Often, they are just steamed or kept warm on a steam table. We were both excited for this change. We also watched the tripa being grilled to order and wondered at all of the unique, homemade meats we saw before us. 


At the end of the counter, there is an enticing selection of salsas that are also listed on the menu above. The habenera, ranchera, diabla, arbol and tomatillo salsas are all made by hand at La Mixteca and Jorge is quick to talk about the skill of roasting peppers and blending salsas. He dished us up a sample of each and upon finding our openness to the hot habenera salsa, he then gave us a little education about cochinita pibil. 


At this point, we had grabbed a table and were beginning to sample the tacos, tamales and salsas. He noticed that our taco con cochinita pibil had onions and cilantro on it and gave a brief shake of his head. According to Jorge, the real way to eat these Mexican treats are with some pickled red onions and habenera salsa. He could not have been more correct. This slightly greasy, saucy pork dish with the pickled onions and the smoky hot bite of the salsa was just perfect. We polished off one so quickly that he brought us another. 


As for the other tacos, the tripa and buche (pork stomach) were both excellent, but different from the past few we had tried. The past two taquerias we had been to had prepared their tripe with a slight breading and grilled it to be crispy and with a little char. Jorge's version is simple and grilled, but remains chewy and is very buttery, which is also quite delicious, but very different. It had that very clean wonderful taste of well done tripe and buche, with a chewiness much like calamari, especially when it is cut into little rings like this was.


The tamales were good, served in their corn husk, they were sweet, moist and the masa was of a fine quality. If anything, they were rather mild, but tasty. The chicken tamal was a first for us as it was pollo verde (chicken in a green sauce) that was subtle but good.


Barbacoa tacosBarbacoa tacosThe barbacoa was very like bbq beef should be, but with the added earthiness and smokiness of the guajillo pepper. I loved how present the pepper was. The barbacoa here is almost more like a stew, saucy and a bit greasy. I'm okay with that...actually I rather prefer it. Nothing is worse than dry meat. Finally, there was the tinga. It was perhaps more mild that others we've had, but it was tender and well seasoned and would make a great burrito filling, an apparent theme here as we continued to watch people make their way quickly though the line, every time uttering the word, "burrito". Need an alternative to your typical burrito joint? Try La Mixteca and let us know what you think.


On to the huarache, a dish that in all aspects except for shape, is the same as a sope. It is served on a thick masa cake that is oblong and quite large. Good, fresh made huaraches are memorable for that cake, a mixture of crispy and chewy. Unfortunately, this one was not fresh, but seemed to be premade and just a bit too chewy without that crispiness that I love. The creamy chicken chipotle that topped the huarache is worth mentioning. According to Jorge, it is one of the most popular stews he offers. It is a rich and tasty mix, that comes across as smoky, creamy and (I'll say it again) rich. It was quite delicious, but not my style as I like my meat to stand on its own and I felt like the cream hid some of the seasoning and flavor. I think perhaps if I would have been eating this on its own, as part of a Guisado plate, I would have appreciated it quite a bit more.


Guisado plate with puerco en salsa verde with refried black beansGuisado plate with puerco en salsa verde with refried black beansFinally, we come to the Guisado plate with our (and Jorge's) choice of pueco con salsa verde. This was an excellent dish, to be savored. The pork was really tender, peppery and tasty. The tomatillo based salsa verde was nice and spicy and surprisingly sour with an obvious presence of lime. It was so well balanced, that I kept wanting to taste it and see if it was really as good as I had imagined. Plus, the refried black beans were really excellent as a side. As Jorge witnessed our obvious pleasure, he couldn't resist bringing out a sampling of the puerco in salsa roja. The red sauce is made with arbol chilis and is also quite tasty. Very different that the verde, I would imagine that the roja would be another excellent burrito filling, but more than holds its own in the form of stew.


Jorge would have kept bringing us more food, but even we have our limits. In talking about his roots in Mexico, from Oaxaca, but having spent much time in Mexico City, he loves to talk about the food from those regions. Many of the above dishes are inspired by his time in Mexico City, especially a sandwich called the Pambazo. He made us promise, the next time we come, to try one of these traditional sandwiches which he claims can be found in every corner of Mexico City. The Oaxacan favorite is probably the Chamorro puerco (pork shank) or Tlayuda, a huge 16" tortilla piled high with refried beans, avocado, meat, Oaxacan cheese and salsa. Called a "Mexican pizza" by some, this dish looks like a great one to share. We weren't ready to add a 16" tlayuda to our already full table. 


In the end, I really appreciated meeting Jorge and will be back, but for what? First off, I cannot wait to have another taco con cochinita pibil served with pickled onions and habenera salsa. It was my favorite by far. I will also try a pambazo and think I would have a hard time not ordering the puerco con salsa verde or rojo. Of course, I cannot forget about the salsa selection, the most pleasant surprise. You can eat all you want while you are there, but be sure to buy some to bring home. Since Jorge also offers burrito cards (buy 6 get one free) I might just have to start eating burritos. I can't believe I just said that.


Here are the details:


La Mixteca

7822 Portland Avenue S

Bloomington, MN



Prices:Tacos con tripaTacos con tripa

Average probably around $7

Tacos $2

Tamales $2

Guisados $8

Burritos $7

Enchiladas $7

Pambazo $7

Chamorro puerco $13.5

Tlayuda $18

Beef ribs $12.5


Surprise: The excellent selection of salsas, habanera included! Also, Jorge's brother is the owner of the nearby Tejaban Mexican Grill in Richfield.


Hours: Daily 10 am-10pm


Language: Menu is easy to navigate, Jorge, workders seem fluent in English and Espanol.


Payment: Cash or Credit. Cash recommended.



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at He has lately been consuming large quantities of hot peppers, so it may be advisable to stay at least three feet away...unless you are cold.