SOMETIMES, if you’re very lucky, you walk into a building and you instantly fall in love. Sometimes you’re there to find an apartment (this is a very very good omen, then); occasionally you’re there to buy shoes (also a good omen), and sometimes you’ve found yourself standing in the vestibule awaiting a meal and this, ah, this is where it gets tricky. There are two ways that initial surge of emotion can turn out: either the restaurant leaves you wanting and you walk out, head down and heart crushed, never to return. Or the meal lives up to its building; the two are forever after intertwined in your psyche and on your palate, and you return again and again and spend mucho mucho money on recreating that one first beautiful crystalline moment where heart and atmosphere and scent and music and lighting and food all came together and were perfect.
When Linda and I stepped into Mixto, I had a moment of panic. It was lovely: lush, paneled floors and gorgeous light-filled rooms. Ceiling fans, real plants, and dark tables; a bar overhung with a collection of beautiful, thick-rimmed margarita glasses. We even had an accommodating waiter who moved us from our awkward corner table to one right under the skylight. (There’s even a skylight!) It was all too perfect. The illusion was just begging to be shattered.
But shattered, I am very relieved and ecstatic to report, it was not. Mixto proved to be one of those places that can take the romance of that first moment and turn it into a full-fledged love affair. Linda and I were positively escorted through our meal, from bread basket to drink choices to entrees to our final satisfied sighs over our coffee mugs. There are places in this city that I absolutely adore and that I cherish very closely in my heart; but this was the first time in a very long time where I walked stone-cold into a room and felt equal parts comforted and desired.
A Cuban-Colombian fusion restaurant, Mixto does a very good job of valuing its guests. From our excellent waiter (not overly attentive, but attentive just enough to keep us going even when we were flagging under the glory of it all) to the profusion of choices, Mixto constantly shows that it cares.
Under the skylight, we debated drink choices. Linda and I both ended up with passionfruit flavored beverages, hers a smoothie and mine a margarita. The smoothie was light, almost the texture and color of waffle batter, and was incredibly delicate in flavor. The margarita, on the other hand, comes in a glass that could hold my head and was potent enough to knock me tilted from just the first sip.
And then, the pièce de resistance: our meal. Because Mixto offers such an extensive and intense selection, Linda and I decided to split two dishes. We ordered the French Toast (served with fresh berries and mango) and the Colombian Frittata (stuffed with sweet plantains and Colombian chorizo). The two proved to be a winning combination, complementing each other whil yet bringing their own distinct flavors to the palate. Linda was a huge fan of the thick syrup coating the french toast and accompanying berries, and I’ve got to confess to a partiality to the cream filling. On my mental list of best french toasts in Philadelphia, Mixto has now earned itself a place of honor.
Our appetites were sated, but we weren’t ready yet to leave. To prolong the experience, Linda and I ordered coffee and stayed a while longer, chatting about life, the uncertainties of the future, and the beauties of now. Mixto has a two-hour table limit when the restaurant is filled to capacity and as we sat there, we watched the room fill with laughter and conversation. It’s not hard to imagine that there days when people line up and wait, patiently, for their chance to step into this beautiful room and sit down to one of these gorgeous meals.
SOMETIMES, if you’re very lucky, you open up a book and find yourself transported. The first lines live within you, and you carry the memory of that first reading around in your heart like a precious treasure. I can remember the first time I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera; I remember the scratch of the paper against my fingertips and the weight of the book in my hand; remember that first line like a heartbeat:
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
It is that beautiful aesthetic that is reflected so perfectly in the experience at Mixto. The beauty, the aching simplicity, the perfect familiarity that pulls you in even as it startles you. As I look towards the coming months, I know I’ll be returning to Mixto. There is a universe of options left to explore, not just for brunch but for dinner and lunch as well. And, just as I find new meaning in each reading of Love in the Time of Cholera, I know I’ll find new things to enjoy each time I return to Mixto.