Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pasta Mia & Mixtec: (almost) Cheap Eats in Adams Morgan

At 5pm, one person is already in line for Pasta Mia. 90 minutes til opening time.
Mixtec is right next door.
Last Saturday, we were refugees from Pasta Mia. We'd arrived there at around 6:10 to find that a sizeable line had already formed, waiting for the 6:30 opening. This is a nightly occurence -- at any given time starting at around 5pm Tuesday thru Saturday, there will inevitably be a line outside Pasta Mia, which takes no reservations. When we did not make the first cut, we decamped to the small Mexican restaurant next door: Mixtec.

I had been to Mixtec several times before -- it being a neighborhoody place, and I being of said neighborhood. I've never had a bad meal there, and have especially enjoyed their satisfying heuvos rancheros and their very generously endowed, full impact, margaritas. But still, it has never been a place I have particularly recommended to others.

On this night, though, there was a list of specials. I don't remember there being specials before, so maybe it is a Saturday evening thing. In any case, there was this Oaxacan lamb on the menu. Wow. The lamb came served on a banana leaf, a no frills cut of meat, just slow cooked and juicy, homestyle and thick slabbed. (banish any thought of foo-foo french cut racks, if you please). In addition to the lamb, the dish came piled with rice and beans, salsa, and a beautifully rosetted red onion, plus a side of salad. Given how substantial the platter was, not to mention the high rents in Adams Morgan, I consider $16 to be a pretty good price, though it may not fall within everybody's definition of cheap eats. The pitcher of margaritas -- also $16 -- compares well with $27 at Lauriol Plaza, for a far less potent brew.

Perhaps the meal was most remarkable for what it did NOT include. Our friend Christopher -- who ordered the pork loin off the specials menu -- could not stop talking about the fact that chips did not automatically arrive at the table (we applauded) and that none of our meals included cheese (more applause). This is a far cry from the stereotypical Mexican food normally presented to us norteamericanos. "If only we had more of these type of Mexican restaurants," he kept exclaiming, even into the next day. For me, I left feeling like I could eat there every night -- this was more of a delicious home cooked meal than a richly sauced dining experience, one that has left me hankering for more.

As for Pasta Mia, the first two times I ate there were well worth the hour-long wait, I thought. Excellent and cheap pasta and ditto for the wine. But the second two visits were somewhat disappointing. Since then, the prices have risen, and with its price edge gone, it has become less compelling. Still it is a cute little space, and I think it is worth a try, so long as you are of the "will wait for food" persuasion. Otherwise, I think Mixtec is worth considering as a first choice for cheap eats in Adams Morgan. Others seem to agree: Of Urbanspoon voters, 92% like Mixtec; Pasta Mia only has an 80% approval rating.

6:00 pm. The line has grown. 30 more minutes to opening time

Dishes To Die For: Oaxacan lamb (Mixtec); pasta with meat sauce (Pasta Mia)

Mixtec on Urbanspoon

Pasta Mia on Urbanspoon



Mollie said...

I love Mexican food and have never tried this place! Thanks for the recommendation. But one question...why would you applaud for no chips???

Antoinette Ego said...

The truth is, once those chips arrive, I can't stop eating them even if I don't want them. I can appreciate that some people want the free chips, and would be bummed if they don't show up. But for me, I would rather save my appetite for something I actually ordered. But yes, you make a good point: not everybody will feel the same way.