The essence of Bite of the Week is to highlight good food, and for the most part that’s what we’ve done. But once in a while, you stumble upon Good Food—something so delicious that you want to shout it from the rooftops, purchase it for friends, and take it to the streets of Manhattan to establish once and for all that there’s culinary greatness here in Minnesota and there’s nothing anyone can say otherwise.
The Puerco Pibil meal at Nixta Tortilleria is Good Food. The newly opened Northeast Minneapolis restaurant does business on a weekly basis, with a rotating cast of Mexican favorites crafted by chef Gustavo Romero (whose residency at Travail was among the most exciting things that that exciting culinary group has been involved in.)
In the case of the pibil, $55 gets you a veritable feast, ordered online early in the week and picked up at the restaurant. The pork, yes, is amazing—we got about a pound and a half of it, enough for six plates of food when the other elements of the meal are factored in. It’s tender but physically coherent, remarkably rich, and flavored with gentle depth and intensity. And then there are the black beans (cooked perfectly, still retaining their shape) and the rice, also cooked to an ideal state and flavored gently but distinctively with an herbal kick. We’ve done enough takeout meals to be exhausted by restaurants providing “just enough” sides such as beans and rice, meaning that you frequently run out mid-meal. The Nixta amounts are profoundly generous. Then: a crisp, refreshing slaw. And lovely, tangy, pink pickled onions. And two hot sauces, one of which was truly fiercely hot, and both of which had the kind of layered complexity that hot sauce heads dream of.
And did we mention the yellow and white corn tortillas? They may well be nothing like what you’ve had before (even at legit taquerias)—they’re chewy, robust, soulful, and at least half the pleasure of this immensely pleasurable meal.
It’s not puerco pibil week every week at Nixta, but this meal vouches for their process—slow, soulful, and serious, with results that testify to the love and knowledge that goes into this food. Acquaint yourself before they’re swamped and desperately trying to scale up. You’ll be glad that you did.
The Dish: Complete Puerco Pibil meal, $55
The Place: Nixta Tortilleria, 1222 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis
The Reason: In a time when takeout meals are king, this collection of meat plus sides plus craft tortillas reigns as emperor.
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