Mexico City/Santa Fe fusion draws crowds
The smells of lime and cilantro fill the air. The outside patio buzzes with chatter and clinking glasses. A bartender presents a Dos Equis and a mojito to a couple with eyes for just each other. A group of bronzed women in sundresses and stilettos laugh around a table of frozen margaritas. And no one seems to mind that the hostess has just said the wait for a table will be at least an hour.
It is a typical Friday night at Mi Dia From Scratch, the brainchild of executive chef and managing partner Gabriel DeLeon and the late restaurant investor, Steve Hartnett.
The restaurant with the Mexico City/Santa Fe cuisine seems to have been packed from its start in the fall of 2011.
DeLeon said he sometimes has to pinch himself.
"I can't believe people are waiting for hours to eat our food," he said.
During a recent visit it took a while to review the extensive menu, so it was much appreciated that the server was in no rush, despite the crowd.
The fresh chips were served with half-red, half-green salsa. A choice of additions were offered for the tableside guacamole — bacon, salt, jalapeos, onion, serrano chiles, tomato.
The Duck Carnitas ($14) were roasted Maple Leaf Farm duck with pickled onion, roast poblano peppers and cilantro in a flour tortilla.
The Xmas Burrito ($15) was enormous —plenty to share or take home.
The burrito was filled with steak (chicken also available) plus green chiles, rice, beans and lettuce, and topped with a New Mexican red and green chile sauce.
Desserts, all prepared daily, had typical Mexican offerings such as churros, sopapillas and flan. It also includes homemade ice cream and sorbets as well as decadent Mexican s'mores. The latter consist of peanut butter fudge and marshmallow between graham crackers served with strawberry jelly with cajeta, almonds and Mexican chocolate ice cream.
A tempting end of the meal was Mi Dia's El Revolucionario Patron XO Caf served with tequila and homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
Dinner for two with dessert was $54. And everything from the ice cream to the tortillas, was made from scratch.
DeLeon is no novice when it comes to Mexican cuisine. He and his siblings grew up working at their parents' restaurant, La Margarita, in Irving.
"My father — [a chef at Neiman Marcus' Zodiac Room] — started the restaurant in 1990 as a way to get me and my brother and sister through college," he said.
When their dad died in 1995, DeLeon and his brother took the reins.
Mi Dia came about when Hartnett approached DeLeon with the concept of a Mexican/Santa Fe style restaurant.
"I had 20-plus years of experience creating street-style tacos and Tex-Mex dishes. Steve sent me to Santa Fe to do research on the cuisine of that area "
DeLeon said he was invited to visit the kitchen of one of the city's popular restaurants, Maria's.
"There, the owner showed me some of their specialties such as red and green hot sauce made from the native Hatch chiles," he said.
At Mi Dia, DeLeon has incorporated what he learned in Santa Fe with the Mexico City style he was already known for. Today he creates recipes and oversees a staff of about 25.
His personal favorite dish? The sea bass street taco.
Mi Dia Tamales, $8, house-made tamales stuffed with pork and New Mexico red and green chile sauces then topped with crema and three chile salsas.
Chipotle Bacon Quesadillas Tex Mex, $15, stuffed with grilled chicken and chipotle bacon, caramelized onions and cheese
Dinner – Mexican cuisine
Pato a la Parrilla, $21, chile guajillo-rubbed grilled duck breast and duck confit flauta, served with sauted chayote and mole coloradito
Chipotle ribs, $18, braised baby back pork ribs with chipotle rub, served with poblano rice and charro beans
Dinner – Santa Fe style cuisine
New Mexico Tampiquea, $20, stacked skirt steak, cheese and onion enchiladas made with blue corn tortillas and topped with New Mexico red and green chile sauces, crema and guacamole.
Tex Mex combos
Applewood smoked bacon and chipotle fajitas, $18, steak or chicken with caramelized onions and Chihuahua cheese
Sea Bass, $20, grilled sea bass with chile guajillo rub, pickled cabbage, avocado, chile morita remoulade and micro cilantro on flour tortillas.
Mi Dia From Scratch
1295 S. Main St. Grapevine
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday
11a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday