Matriarch in isolation, but La Mixteca’s Oaxacan cuisine still superb

This tamale bowl, with a green pork tamale and all the fixings, is from La Mixteca Tamale House in Gwinnett County. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Caption
This tamale bowl, with a green pork tamale and all the fixings, is from La Mixteca Tamale House in Gwinnett County. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Since the summer of 2018, the children of Rosa Hernandez Lopez have showcased the recipes of their mother’s native Oaxaca at an immaculate fast-casual restaurant connected to a BP gas station at the corner of Old Peachtree Road and Satellite Boulevard in Suwanee. At La Mixteca Tamale House, there is even a sweet, strawberry-pink, raisin-studded tamale, called the Rosa, that pays tribute to the 70-year-old matriarch, whose recipes have made the humble diner a destination for authentic Oaxacan cooking.

La Mixteca Tamale House is connected to a BP gas station at the corner of Old Peachtree Road and Satellite Boulevard in Suwanee. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Caption
La Mixteca Tamale House is connected to a BP gas station at the corner of Old Peachtree Road and Satellite Boulevard in Suwanee. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Normally, you will find Hernandez in the kitchen. But, since the COVID-19 outbreak hit in March, she has had to stay home in Lawrenceville. “We haven’t allowed her to go back to work,” said daughter Stacey Hernandez, who runs the restaurant with her mother and two sisters, Patricia and Antonina. “The good thing is, she taught us well.”

On March 24, La Mixteca announced that it was suspending operations temporarily. It was a Taco Tuesday, so the restaurant offered 99-cent tacos and free coffee and aguas frescas. It reopened April 3, with a takeout-only format, a smaller staff and a shorter work week (five days a week instead of seven). Though the state allowed restaurants to resume dining-room service Monday, the Hernandez family is taking a wait-and-see approach.

This order of tacos from La Mixteca Tamale House includes asada, carnitas and chorizo. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Caption
This order of tacos from La Mixteca Tamale House includes asada, carnitas and chorizo. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

“We think it’s not the right time to bring back our staff,” Stacey Hernandez said. “We don’t want them to get sick. … And the same with our customers: We don’t want them to feel like they are not safe.”

Rosa Hernandez Lopez moved to the U.S. from Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Mexico, in the early ’90s. After living in Idaho and Wyoming, the family owned a couple of Mexican restaurants in Tennessee, but felt that Atlanta would be more receptive to Oaxacan fare.

Indeed, it has been. I gave the restaurant a highly favorable review in November, 2018. In May of last year, it made Atlanta magazine's Best 75 list.

A tamale plate at La Mixteca in Suwanee includes wonderful Mexican rice and refried beans. Shown here are the red chicken and green chicken tamales. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Caption
A tamale plate at La Mixteca in Suwanee includes wonderful Mexican rice and refried beans. Shown here are the red chicken and green chicken tamales. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

La Mixteca currently serves the bulk of its regular menu, including tacos, tlayudas, quesadillas, nachos and tortas. One big change: Tamales must be ordered 24 hours in advance. That’s because they are labor-intensive: They have to be stuffed and shaped by hand, wrapped in corn husks and steamed. Once out of the steamer, they tend to dry out. “We don’t want them to sit there and not sell,” Stacey explained. This includes the tamale plates, bowls, sandwiches and packages of six or a dozen.

When the restaurant opens again for dine-in service, it will be with expanded hours, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. A hot bar will be offered at breakfast and lunch.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

LA MIXTECA TAMALE HOUSE

Menu: full menu of Mexican and Oaxacan specialties, including breakfast all day; no house-made aguas frescas or hot drinks at this timeWhat's new: taco and tamale packages with Mexican rice and refried beans. A half-dozen taco packages come with choice of one meat (chicken, steak, chorizo, al pastor) for $14.99; a dozen tacos with choice of two meats are $30. Tamale packages are $24.99 for a half-dozen, $49.99 for a dozen. All tamale orders require 24 hours notice.

Alcohol: beer available with takeout orders

What I ordered: A two-tamale plate, with green chicken and red chicken tamales ($9.99); a tamale bowl, with one green pork tamale, all the way ($9.99). Three tacos on corn tortillas: asada, chorizo and carnitas ($2.50 each). The food was still warm after a 30-minute drive home. Tamales were quite large, and every bit as delicious as I remembered; tacos were even better than before. I was particularly crazy about the asada taco. The refried beans and garlicky Mexican rice with the tamale plate were exceptional. I had forgotten that the tamale bowl includes toppings of tiny french fries and a fried egg. Still absolutely delightful. Leftover tamales reheat well in a steamer basket.

Service options: takeout, with curbside option; restaurant prefers you order and pay over the phone, though walk-ups are accepted; delivery available via DoorDash.

Safety protocols: staff required to wear masks and gloves (one person preps, one person cooks, one person makes tamales); frequent sanitizing; professional deep-cleaning once a week; social distancing maintained inside with red-tape markers; no more than six people inside at a time

Address, phone: 1185 Old Peachtree Road NW, Suwanee. 678-878-3483

Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Website: facebook.com/lamixtecatamalehouse.

RELATED:

ExploreRead More Atlanta Orders In stories

Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.