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Head to Mexta for Inventive Cocktails and Lively Mexican Cuisine

New downtown restaurant celebrates the richness of Mexican cuisine, blending contemporary elegance with traditional elements

Mexta Interior (photo by Nitya Jain)

Austin’s ever-rising reputation as a “foodie city” makes it an appealing destination for big-deal chefs from other regions and countries. That’s why we weren’t surprised to learn that the newest restaurant tenant in Downtown Austin’s Littlefield Building — taking over the space formerly occupied by Simi Estiatorio — is Mexta, a joint project by Jonatan Gómez Luna Torres and Mikel Alonso, both accomplished and award-winning chefs from Mexico. Mexta only just opened in late March, but it already seems poised to become a favorite for local hotel guests, groups of coworkers looking to blow off some steam after a busy day, and cocktail-fueled date nights.

Mexta’s Dining Room (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

Inviting ambiance

Stepping off of the sidewalk and into Mexta’s dining room is a visually-compelling experience. Rustic touches like reclaimed wood, vintage-inspired windows, and thatched ceiling panels live alongside modern accents like a polished marble bar and vivid neon lights. The effect is pleasant and appropriately vibey, if a bit Miami-esque. 

Thoughtful and attentive service

Where Mexta excels the most is in its warm and helpful service. When we headed over to the spacious bar to peruse the cocktail menu, the bartender-on-duty immediately greeted us and guided us through the lengthy list (more on that in a minute) by asking for our preferences and making detailed and on-point recommendations. The management and servers were equally willing to discuss the restaurant’s concept and talk guests through individual dishes. That type of thoughtful, focused, and unrushed attention might not always be possible on a slammed weekend night, but the Mexta team wants guests to get the most out of their experience, and that dedication shines through.

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Palomazo (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

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Mole Old Fashion (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

Smooth sips

Speaking of Mexta’s cocktail offerings, we found ourselves deeply impressed by the levels of complexity and creativity. Mexican restaurants in Austin often opt to “play it safe” with their beverage menus, and as ardent fans of classic margaritas and Palomas, we have no objections here! But it can be refreshing to browse a cocktail list and see twists on these Mexican and Tex-Mex staples that bring something unexpected to the table. A prime example can be found the Palomazo, one of four Paloma variations offered at Mexta. In addition to traditional blanco tequila and grapefruit juice, the Palomazo incorporates a shrub made with beetroot. The sweetness of the beetroot balances the bright acidity of the grapefruit juice, resulting in a smooth and multilayered slip with plenty of vibrant flavor. Another star of the Mexta cocktail menu is the Molé Old Fashioned, which the restaurant recommends as an after-dinner drink. Texas bourbon blends with the housemade molé negro that Mexta uses for several of its dishes, and the savory depth of the molé interacts with the smoky-sweet bourbon in a unique and memorable way.

What to order at Mexta

Mexta’s dinner menu can seem a bit confusing at first glance. The restaurant markets itself as an Mexican restaurant that hews closely to techniques and ingredients used in Mexico proper…which is why it’s slightly jarring to see French-style steak tartare, a Caesar salad (yes, Caesar salads were invented in Mexico, but they’re not generally associated with interior Mexican cuisine), and Parmesan-dusted fries listed alongside ceviche, tacos, and esquites. But in spite of the semi-muddled menu, the flavor profiles of the dishes exhibit serious clarity. A highlight of our dinner was the Tetela, a traditional Oaxacan snack made of a masa cake topped with fried pork belly, grilled avocado, and molé. The contrast of tastes and textures made each bite invigorating, and this dish would be equally excellent as an appetizer or as a light bite to enjoy with drinks. 

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Pesca del día estilo Zarandeado – Black Beans And Epazote, Plantain Tostones, Fresh Salad, Roasted plantain pure and salsa macha (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

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Prime Tomahauk Ribeye with Mole Negro, Goat cheese foundue and Chimichurri, served with Fries with habanero mayonaise and Rosted Cabagge pipian (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

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Selection of Salsas de la Casa and The Real One Guacamole served with housemade tostadas (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

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Chocolate Metate Brownie with Salted Toffee Butter, Caramelized Popcorn and Chocolate Powder (photo by Tanvi Sehgal)

The raw bar offerings at Mexta feature fresh seafood with clean flavors and the ability to absorb lively marinades. The Hamachi Tiradito merges Mexican and Asian ingredients by dressing the hamachi with soy sauce, tamarind, and ginger, then garnishing the plate with chipotle mayo. Deep umami, zippy acidity, and a touch of smoke and spice all boost the delicate flavor of the hamachi rather than overtaking it, and the end product is a dish that’s as harmonious as it is exciting.

Carnivorous guests can partake of Mexta’s large-format plates, which highlight Texas-raised beef and are designed to be shared. Ribeye, Texas T-bone, and New York strip area all appear on the menu, and guests have the option to add a trio of salsas (including the molé negro) for extra oomph. And the Mexta menu shouldn’t be an afterthought, as the restaurant’s chefs put together a well-conceived assortment that includes staples like arroz con leche and playful dishes like the Chocomaiz, a rich corn-and-chocolate brownie with housemade ice cream, salted butter toffee, and caramel popcorn. 

Mexta Entrance (photo by Nitya Jain)

More to come at Mexta

In future months, Mexta hopes to add lounge service and a DJ booth to help them bring nightlife into the mix. For now, downtown residents, workers, and visitors should make their way over for bold Mexican fare, cocktails that are more engaging than they need to be, and warm and welcoming hospitality. Make your reservations at mextarestaurant.com.