House of Mexica is a new vegan restaurant on Warren Way and Moana Lane in Reno. They specialize in Mexican, American, and Mexican-American dishes. Diners should leave their expectations at the door.
Upon entering the restaurant, the aesthetic is dark and modern. The restaurant is dimly lit with some natural sunlight flowing in. The color scheme is black, grey, white, and mauve. There are a few tall tables and ten or so standard tables. All the chairs and tables look new. A large stone bar with stools sits between the dining area and the partially-open kitchen.
House of Mexica Has a Distinct Value System
Before I left the restaurant after dining there on a Saturday afternoon, the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that I might be interested in learning about the ancient tribe from which the restaurant derives its name. I gladly accepted the invitation to return to the restaurant after closing to learn more about the Mexica (pronounced Meh-Shee-Ka) people.
Upon my return, the owner and I spoke at length about him and his family and the philosophies by which they run their restaurant. He explained that he and his mother primarily run the restaurant.
His mother is from Tenochtitlan. Tenochtitlan was a Mexica city-state located in what is now the heart of Mexico City. Exactly how far back the Mexica people first lived is contested. The owner explained that the common anthropological narrative was written by the Spanish, those that conquered the Mexica. The historical narrative as seen by the Mexica is quite different. It’s not difficult to imagine why subjugators and the subjugated can view events and history in different ways.
Elaborating further on his family’s roots, the owner referred me to the restaurant’s Instagram account. There, I read the following bio, “Meh-Shee-Ka [sun emoji] [moon emoji] A Tribe of plant based Mexica united to create Heaven on Earth through the powers of food, life, love, & light. #HouseOfMexica.”
The owner explained that the restaurant’s logo is the Mexica symbol for humanity and the elemental forces (earth, wind, fire, water) that work to create it. Purple was chosen for the logo because that color symbolizes spiritual understanding. The Mexica were known for their elevated forms of art, cosmology, knowledge and spirituality. It is the goal of House of Mexica to promote similar values within our community.
The owner went on to say that he personally eats a raw vegan diet, but he and his mother serve dishes that vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike will enjoy. He recommended the Return of the Mac’, a vegan play on the Big Mac, to diners who often prefer meat with their meals. The owner explained that it’s Return of the Mac’, because the restaurant is bringing it back to diners with no animal products. He likened the dish to a remix that improved upon the original.
The key to the food at House of Mexica, according to the owner, is the love and life that creates it. House of Mexica serves plant-based foods because these foods are believed to possess higher vibrations that are beneficial to those that consume them. The owner said that they don’t wish to be a restaurant, but rather a pyramid of sorts that will act as an energy center that disseminates higher consciousness.
Plant-based Dishes for Every Palate
I must admit that when I heard there was a new vegan restaurant in town that specialized in Mexican, American, and Mexican-American dishes, I wasn’t sure what that would look like in practice.
In my experience, some vegan restaurants strive to create complex meat and dairy substitutes. Other restaurants rely on fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes to create plant-based dishes that do not strive to imitate meat or dairy products in any way.
The food at House of Mexica, at least the food that I ate, seemed to fall more so into the first category of vegan restaurants that create convincing meat and dairy-like dishes with plant-based ingredients.
I ordered the three al pastor tacos for $8.00 and the ‘4 the Buffalo Fries’ at $8.99.
The restaurant was quite busy the entire time I was there. The owner served each table with speed, patience, and a very welcoming demeanor.
The first of my dishes to arrive was the 4 the Buffalo Fries. The fries themselves seemed to be pretty standard. I suspect that the fries were cut and fried in-house as they were served without that signature crispy fry quality. Despite the somewhat soft delivery, the flavor of the fries was robust. After being fried, it looked as though they were tossed in a house-made buffalo sauce and then drizzled in house-made ranch. Just a reminder, everything on the menu is vegan including the sauces. The buffalo sauce had ample heat and the ranch had a zesty creaminess about it. Despite my love for especially crispy dishes, I enjoyed the fries. The idea of creating vegan comfort / junk / bar food is one that I expect many Reno diners to enjoy.
Next up were the three al pastor tacos. The tacos were composed of pineapple, cilantro, grilled red onions and a heavily spiced soy-based protein served in piping hot doubled up corn tortillas. Served alongside the dish was a lime wedge and fresh tomatillo salsa. The salsa was bright and citric with mild heat.
The fully dressed tacos with lime and salsa were disarmingly delicious. Al pastor tacos made with pork are one of my all-time favorite foods. Suffice to say, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy a vegan rendition. My apprehension was shattered to bits after the first bite. However the owner and his mother prepare the soy-based protein, the final result is extremely flavorful and well-textured. The soy, pineapple, cilantro, onions, and fresh tomatillo salsa work together to create one of the best tacos that I’ve had in town, vegan or otherwise.
Regardless of your personal belief system, eating delicious food prepared by people who give a damn is a worthwhile pursuit. The carefully prepared house-made food may not turn meat-eaters into vegans, but I’m confident that the restaurant will open some minds to the incredible flavors and textures possible with plant-based foods.
House of Mexica is located at 3600 Warren Way #107 in Reno. They are open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call in your take-out order at 775-384-1690. Check out the restaurant’s Instagram account for specials and possible secret menu items.
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