This has been a big year for chef Rico Torres, co-owner of Mixtli Progressive Mexican Culinaria, the San Antonio restaurant widely lauded for its creative spin on interior Mexican cuisine.
First, he got national media exposure through an appearance on the inaugural episode of Taste the Nation
, a Hulu series hosted by Top Chef
’s Padma Lakshmi which launched in June.
Then, weeks later, he and business partner Diego Galicia unveiled plans to move their eatery from its current home in a converted boxcar in Olmos Park into more expansive Southtown digs this fall.
The new spot will feature not just a larger dining room but an open kitchen and a full bar complete with a separate menu. Also on tap is an agave-spirits cart that will circulate the restaurant, allowing guests to select the spirit of their choice and a salt to complete the experience.
Service at the Olmos Park location will continue through September, and guests will be able to make reservations through its website. The new Mixtli, located at 812 South Alamo St., will open its doors sometime after.
Mixtli will continue to rotate menus every 45 days, focusing on a different Mexican region with each iteration.
caught up with Torres last week to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated his business, where he sees his career heading and what ingredients and techniques he’s picked up through his extensive study of Mexico’s rich and varied regional cuisines.
Tell us about how you got to this stage in your career.
I let my creativity and obsessions take the wheel. Plus, I’m just not made to work for someone else, so my only options were to make it on my own. I look for gratitude and lessons in every experience, and that has been an invaluable tool in growing. I’ve also surrounded myself with people that are more talented, and sometimes more driven, than me.
What’s been your favorite region of Mexico to showcase in your Mixtli menus?
Less of a region and more of a time and place. I’m always fascinated by the story of the conquest of Mexico. It was a pivotal point in history that fundamentally changed the world. The stories from this time are incredible.
What would you say is the dominant feeling regarding expanding to a new space amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s going to be great!
What regions are you most excited about sharing with Mixtli guests after the new spot opens?
I think we’re past just focusing on regions and are more excited to share the experiences of what we’ve learned and continue to discover. UTSA Library’s Special Collections has been a wonderful resource to continue researching Mexico’s gastronomy. We’re excited to continue sharing that history and the stories through our food.
What are you most looking forward to once the pandemic passes?
I’m not sure the pandemic will ever truly pass or that the normalcy we remember will come back. We are different people now. I do miss hugs and concerts, and I look forward to seeing my sons hanging out with their friends and having healthy social lives again.
Speaking of, what’s your favorite dish to make for your kiddo?
Kingston loves charcuterie boards. It might be the easiest way I can get him to try new things. However, now he insists on duck prosciutto, honey and gorgonzola, cinnamon cashews — and please don’t try to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano with anything else. He’ll know.
What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with and why?
In my pantry we always have maple syrup for our coffee and smoky chiles for our barbecue.
Do you have a favorite cooking technique? If so, what is it, and why?
Slow and low. Good things come to those who wait.
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