Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Jan 27, 2007 07:58 AM

Molcajete Mixto: Give it a Shot

Boyfriend and I had a lovely dinner last night at Molcajete Mixto at 8th and Christian. If you're in the mood for Mexican that's fairly upscale (but not as loud as El Vez or as packed as Lolita) and completely unpretentious, I'd highly suggest giving this place a shot.

We easily got a parking spot out front (and there are apparently free municipal lots nearby, according to the restaurant's webpage, When we went in the place was pretty empty, but was starting to fill up by the time we left at 8:30 p.m. They do accept reservations, but I don't think it's really necessary.

Brief overview:

1. The service was phenomenal. Water glasses were never below half full; silverware was replaced before each course. My boyfriend remarked on the stealthy nature of the service--as soon as we finished one course, the next was ready. Servers were very open to questions; we were thanked profusely for coming in, etc. They really made you feel at home.

2. MM is BYOB. We brought tequila, and were given a choice of several homemade mixes (peach, mango, lime). We chose lime--for $6, the mix was a bargain and as good as Lolita's homemade lime brew.

3. The chips were perfectly salted and cooked, and the homemade salsas were a treat--the pico was slightly sweet, and the verde had a nice kick. Since we were warned that portions were large, we just opted to order entrees. However, the owner brought us complimentary two bowls of the black bean soup "just so we could try it." It was quite good--the touch of cream amped up the smooth, subtle flavor of the beans. I'm not even a huge fan of black beans, and I inhaled the entire bowl.

4. I ordered the molcajete mixto ($19)--grilled skirt steak, cactus strips, chicken breast served in a Molcajete with an ancho, tomatillo chile sauce. It came with tortillas and was far too large of a portion for me--I might have eaten 1/3 of it, and I was hungry. Well seasoned, not too much spice (though plenty for flavor). The cactus was a nice touch, and the steak was tender. Even the accompanying refried beans were better than your average beans--nice, creamy flavor.

5. My boyfriend had a special that night, swordfish with grilled pineapple and peppers with a polenta. The swordfish wasn't exceptionally cooked (a bit mushy), but the seasonings were good and the polenta was divine. I think you have to stick to the menu--the specials, though reasonably priced at $15, I have a feeling aren't as good..

We finished up with the La Colombe coffee. Total check was less than $50, and we left with plenty of leftovers and a very full belly.

If you're in the neighborhood, or just want something a little different, I'd give it a shot.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I went to MM last night with two pals. we were the only people there!!!!!!!(arrived at 8) . I sure hope that it was only due to the cold that people were staying away.

    I loved the place and will be back: the lime margarita mix was faaaantastic. Salsas du jour - a salsa verde (hot!) and a papaya salsa were excellent with the warm chips. We split starters of guacamole (needed a touch more salt) and queso fundido (the chorizo was lacking a real punch but it was good). The two guests had the enchiladas suizas which they raved about and really looked amazing. And I had the Molcajete Mixto which had some lovely flavors, I especially like the chunks of queso fresco and the meat was divine. Not to mention, the molcajete was in the shape of a chanchito - a three legged pig - and I was totally amused (NB - go to the Black Cat next to the White Dog someday and you can get little wooden good luck chanchitos for all your pig loving friends. very cool). The refired beans were unlike any I've ever had - and that is a good thing - they were simply excellent. Service was stellar (not too hard to imagine when you're the only table there). Atmosphere was great. Go there!

    3 Replies
    1. re: rumdrinks

      Some of the staff is formerly of Le Bec-Fin, so they know service. I also love this place and can't figure out why it's never crowded. It may be the godawful exterior of the building, it looks really low-rent on the outside compared to the interior. They make incredible desserts, too.

      1. re: Buckethead

        meh, I am not too concerned about the exterior - in fact, the orangey salmony stucco is rather pleasing to me and will be even more so in the spring/summer months when I am dying to feel like I am vacationing somewhere fun and sipping on margaritas.

        1. re: rumdrinks

          My main concern is that if I've never seen it crowded, and you've never seen it crowded, and cussbucket has never seen it crowded, the place may go under. That would be a terrible shame, because it's really a great place. I went to Xochitl last night for the first (and probably last) time, and the food couldn't hold a candle to Molcajete Mixto. But Xochitl was more crowded on a Tuesday night than MM was last time I was there, on a Friday night. If people are not going in because the building looks uninviting, they need to fix that. Really I think the problem is not the paint job, but their sign. It looks like it belongs on a tacqueria, not a fine-ish dining establishment.

    2. Buckethead, interesting to hear that about Xochitl. I had heard mixed reviews.... I will be going back to MM instead... hopefully if enough people talk about this place, it will stay open.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cussbucket

        I wouldn't say Xochitl was bad, but we only had one dish that we really liked, out of five items total. Everything we had at MM was excellent, and the dessert is still the best dessert I can remember having in the last year or so. Xochitl is a tiny bit overpriced, too. The cheapest glass of wine on the menu was an $8 glass of Trapiche Malbec, which goes for $7 a bottle.

      2. Based off your suggestions and reviews, I went to MM on Saturday night. Place was about 1/3 full. Brought our own tequila and started with the Mango margarita pitcher. My wife and I both enjoyed it. Not too sweet or sugary like some mixes. They brought out some chips and salsa and I ordered the Guac to try. It's good but needed a little spice, so I mixed the chopped salsa (not the green) in with it. Me gusta! My wife ordered the Tilapia and I had the Paella which was a huge portion full of seafood, rice and chicken. It was delicious. At 6'4, 220 lbs, I can eat, so I was happy to learn I would have leftovers (very uncommon in my world.) We had another pitcher of the lime margaritas (which finished off our bottle.) The service was great. They couldn't have been more attentive to us. Before tip, our bill for 2 pitchers, guac, and our dinners was $55 (plus lunch was taken care of the next day.) Parking was easy. Thanks for the advice, I will definately be back.

        1 Reply
        1. re: juice

          we also went on saturday night and had a great meal. atmosphere is lacking, but compared to most of my favorite mexican restaurants in the city (plaza garibaldi, taqueria veracruzana, etc.) the atmosphere was better. we had a pitcher of lime margaritas that was very nice, not amazing, but good and at $6 i have no complaints. the chips and salsa verde and pico de gallo were excellent. i especially enjoyed the salsa verde because it wasn't spicy. i find that the salsa many of the places in the city that give you for free is much too spicy for my tastes. we were given complimentary cups of the bean soup that was incredible. it was simple pureed soup with cream and was outstanding, especially for a bean soup that is not normally that exciting. not sure what kind of herbs/spices were in the soup but it was great. for entrees i had the chile rellonos stuff with pork and raisins, served in a tomato sauce with beans and rice to the side. it was a nice twist on a classic dish. i think it was around $15. the beans and rice were not exciting. my husband had a pork dish which was 2 pork chops served in a tomato sauce (similar to my sauce) with pineapple and plantains. the plantains were delicious and a nice contrast to the sweetness of the pineapple. we were too full for dessert. dinner came to around $48 for two including tip. service was very thoughtful.

        2. We went with another couple on Saturday night. The place was at least 1/2 full, maybe even 3/4 full. The food was delicious; I had the baked clams w/ chorizo app, the nopales salad, the lamb braised with beer, and the blueberry crepe dessert (my only disappointment, probably because I had read elsewhere that this was a fantastic dessert). Everyone else seemed to enjoy the food and the flavors.

          Service was good, although the kitchen seemed a little slow maybe because of the "large" crowd. But it made for an enjoyable leisurely meal which was perfect for a Sat night with good company.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JugglerDave

            Wow, I'm surprised to here that you didn't like the crepe dessert. I loved it because it was a rich blend of sweet and savory--almost salty--that really appealed to me. I'm wondering what you didn't like about it.

            1. re: Pgoat

              I found the filling a little too sweet. I didn't notice the savoryness of the blueberry sauce which was also very sweet to me. And I was actually expecting it to be warm, like a crepe suzette or Gundel palacsinta (Hungarian chocolate-walnut style crepe).

              1. re: JugglerDave

                That's so weird. When I had it it was both salty and warm...

                1. re: JugglerDave

                  I was back there last night and I can confirm that JugglerDave and I had different crepes, because mine last night was exactly as he describes. Way too sweet, and not warm. It was not at all like the (far superior) dessert I had there the first time I was there. It must vary day to day or something, because I had it there last week as well (after JugglerDave's visit) and it was excellent, just like the first time. Next time I guess I'll try the flan..

            2. My wife and I had a great "Cuatro de Mayo" dinner at MM on Friday night. There were a few larger parties there, and it seemed relatively crowded for most of the night. (We spent the better part of two hours there finishing our second margarita pitcher).

              The salsa verde was great, the tortilla chips warm, and the pico de gallo was fresh and above average.

              We started with the nachos (good but standard) and huitlacoche quesadilla, which was good, but made better with some of the salsa verde. The quesadilla was also fried crisp.

              My wife had the enchiladas suizas, which, having polished them off for lunch today, I can say are absolutely delicious. Tender chicken, homemade flour tortillas, yum.

              I had the eponymous dish, the molcajete mixto, described above. I thought the grilled skirt steak was the standout of the dish. The corn tortillas, queso fresco (is that what the soft white cheese is?), and spicy tomatillo sauce were all really good. The sauce has a bite to it, which I like, but my wife liked her more mild enchiladas.

              We passed on dessert but were brought some fresh fruit on ice with the check. Total bill with 2 appetizers, 2 mains and 2 margarita pitchers was just under $60