WOODSTOCK – To understand why Claudia Kriesemint won’t splash store-bought sweet and sour into a margarita or prepare, at one time, enough barbacoa to last more than a day, it’s important to realize the owner of Mixteca Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar never got into the business to incessantly track the bottom line.
Kriesemint has prioritized bringing the home-cooking she grew up eating to the public without sacrificing the quality. When she serves a plate, it’s from a recipe passed down from her mom, Alicia – who was raised in Mexico City and today helps Kriesemint at Mixteca – and often all the way from her grandmother.
Until her father, Evaristo, died a couple years ago, he worked in the kitchen. The restaurant is a family affair, and Kriesemint simply won’t serve something she’s not proud of.
“My dad said it’s never about money, it’s about quality,” she said. “I just want people to try something good.”
Located in a humble space at 1390 S. Eastwood Drive, Mixteca is home to lunch and dinner options made from scratch, and in small quantities.
Kriesemint has a limited amount of fridge space, and likes it that way. The restaurant’s chefs prepare four fresh salsas, offer homemade chips, pickle their own jalapeños and make their own refried beans.
The chefs also roast and marinate the meat every day. Nothing is kept overnight and reused. Kriesemint said you can taste the difference.
“That’s why you go to a restaurant, right? To get something you wouldn’t make at home – that’s fresh,” she said.
Kriesemint’s premium margaritas also have become a hit. At first, she hadn’t planned to offer margaritas at all. Instead, she decided to cut out the sweet and sour and replace it with her own purees, made from fresh, in-season fruit.
The restaurant now serves margarita flavors like watermelon and pomegranate. The blood orange option, Kriesemint said, is particularly popular.
As the restaurant continues to grow both in customer base and menu, Kriesemint said she’s established a trust with the people she serves that allows her to experiment a little more in the kitchen.
Vicky Teufel, an employee with Mixteca the last four years, said the restaurant has a loyal group of customers, many of whom come at least weekly.
“It’s been growing at a nice pace,” Teufel said.
The growth hasn’t yet forced a move, but it’s something Kriesemint at least has thought about. She and her husband, Mike, who helps run Mixteca, are conflicted on the subject. At the end of the day, Kriesemint is comfortable with the restaurant’s size and hesitant that a move would make it tougher to provide the same level of quality.
The restaurant is doing well, especially considering it began only after business dried up at the organic grocery store that preceded it. In fact, Kriesemint didn’t so much decide to open a restaurant as get pushed into it.
Business was slow at the organic foods grocery store Kriesemint was running, in the same location as Mixteca, when someone walked in and asked to buy some of the food Kriesemint’s mom was making in the back.
She complied. He liked the food enough to keep coming back asking for more, word got out about the authentic Mexican food at the local organic grocery store, and soon Kriesemint set out a couple tables.
Not long after, Kriesemint closed the store, renovated and reopened as Mixteca.
She’s still big on organic products, and is moving her menu more and more in that direction, continuing, as her dad preached, to think in terms of quality.
“What you eat is who you are,” she said.
In Kriesemint’s case, the same could be applied not only to what she eats, but to what she serves.