Modern Mixture's menu invites you to "Come Enjoy the Yum!" In order to accomplish that, we first had to find the place. The location on the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue is certainly tucked away, and in the past it has proven a challenge to catch customers' attention. But owner Leo Cabrera's International Orange awning goes a long way to help pinpoint the tiny spot.
Another smart move was to place the tables in the hallway between the sidewalk and the counter, and to brightly light the fluorescent lime-green walls. Now when people look inside, it's obvious that it's a restaurant. Good move, Leo. By the way, I categorized Modern Mixture under "Mexican" because I don't have a category for "Mexican, Cuban, Mediterranean, American Fusion & Chopped Salads." So know that Cabrera dishes up a lot more than burritos and stuff like that.
He is no stranger to the Rehoboth restaurant world. Most will recognize him as the smiling face of Mariachi restaurant, working with Yolanda Pineda to keep her big facility running smoothly. He's also a fitness instructor at the gym near Wal-Mart. His knack for making you feel welcome and his ability to address any and all problems has carried over 100% to Modern Mixture.
On our first visit, I had to have the Modern Mixture House Chop Salad [pictured, right]. I was fascinated by the promise of nopalitos (cactus paddles) -- cool, slightly citrusy, and perfectly paired with the simple lime juice dressing. When I ordered it, Leo warned me that it was light (he had obviously seen me eat at Yolanda's). But I rose to the occasion and was surprised to find that the crunchy melange of romaine, onion, pico, and other fresh goodies was indeed quite filling and satisfying. I suspect that the side of fried mac & cheese [pictured, left] didn't hurt either. There are some high-quality frozen mac & cheese products out there that a few local restaurants serve with great success. When I asked Leo if he also took advantage of that convenience, he frowned and made it very clear to me that he makes them himself, from scratch. Do not miss these. The richly moist and cheesy insides are lovingly encased in a seasoned, panko-like crust.
On another visit, we tried the Middle Eastern Chop Salad [pictured, right]. Hummus, tabbouleh (parsley and tomatoes made with bulghur wheat and lemon), radishes, feta and cucumber are mixed with fresh greens and topped with a delightfully minty lime vinaigrette. The salad is accompanied by 3 plump falafel (a mixture of garbanzo beans, parsley, garlic and other spices, breaded and fried). These particular ones [a side order is pictured, left] are surprisingly creamy and not too garlicky. In fact, these homemade little orbs are the first that I have genuinely liked.
Get the guacamole [pictured, right]! It has a wonderful little kick to it. Leo revealed that the kick comes from a tiny dash of pureed jalapeños, and it tastes like it. And please don't wimp out because of the peppers -- it's just a hint, and it imparts a soft warmth to the cool avocado. Speaking of sides, the Flautas [pictured, left] could be a meal in themselves. Leo's nicely spiced chicken is rolled into 2 flour tortillas, fried to a golden crisp, then showered with cool lettuce, that great guac, sour cream and crumbled queso fresco. Visit the fixins' bar by the back counter to get several versions of hot and/or mild salsas.
The queso fresco served at Modern Mixture deserves some explanation. This is not the mild white cheese we so often encounter in chili con queso. This variety rivals feta and chevre as the perfect summer cheese. Made either with cow's milk, or in combination with goat's milk, it is slightly salty, with a pronounced feta-like edge. It certainly stands on its own, and is a refreshing change from so many of the tasteless melting cheeses out there. Leo crumbles it on just about everything.
In Mexico, a Torta is a hot sandwich. Think Panini without the Italian accent. Modern Mixture serves up four varieties. The Torta Cubana (same thing as a Cuban Press) [pictured, right], with roasted pork, cured ham, provolone, mustard and dill pickles is very good -- especially on what the menu calls a "French inspired Mexican roll." Think ciabatta, but with more heft. It grills-up attractively, and the cheese melts just enough to keep everything in place as you politely chow down. The Torta Libanesa [pictured, left] is a vegetarian version filled with what is basically the Middle Eastern Chop salad plus provolone. The tzatziki sauce is Leo's own, and has a slightly sweet edge. I'm a tzatziki maniac, and I will admit it took me a while to get used to it, but if you don't think of it as tzatziki and as just a tasty dipping sauce, it will grow on you. I ordered it a second and a third time.
The Super Gyro stands alone on the menu. It's the traditional lamb with onions and is served on a pita with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki. I plan to get it the next time we go. If you beat me to it, tell us below what you think.
On our most recent visit I ordered the Burrito Moderno [pictured, right]. This is Modern Mixture's tribute to everything carnivorous! Cabrera's homemade Barbacoa (spiced and steamed beef -- quite good), chorizo (Mexican sausage), bacon, cheese and ... wait for it ... fried Vienna Sausage ... are wrapped tightly in a flour tortilla with mustard, pico and jalapeños. If you are in the mood for MEAT, this is the entree for you. If you go for it, I suggest you pass on the appetizers. It's over-the-top savory and filling. You won't need to eat again for a while.
The Simply Burrito [pictured, left] comes with your choice of Carne Asada (marinated and grilled skirt or flank steak), that deeply spiced Barbacoa or grilled Chicken Breast. No matter what you choose, it will be wrapped up with slices of avocado, chopped romaine and pico de gallo. Be sure to slather it with some of the salsas from the fixins' bar. Spice lovers get the green version with the tomatillos. Trust me on this.
UPDATE! On a subsequent visit, Leo talked us into the fish tacos [pictured left]. The freshly fried chunks of fish are accompanied by what might possibly be the best slaw I have ever eaten. It is made in-house with crunchy purple cabbage and ... wait for it ... mango. The combination of tastes with the fish are amazing, and the CRUNCH factor is off the charts. I will say without equivocation that it is superior to a fish taco served at another recently opened restaurant where you will pay about three times as much for it. I discuss desserts below, but also treat yourself to Modern Mixture's Fried Ice Cream [pictured right, below]. The photo says it all.
We now return you to our program already in progress:
Modern Mixture's desserts are all homemade. Though all are tasty, there are two stars of the show: The Cheesecake Flan [pictured, right] and the Avocado Key Lime Pie. The first delivers exactly what you would expect. The texture is creamy cheesecake, but the taste is the softly sweet and eggy caramel of Flan. The mouth-feel is amazing. And yes, we were also momentarily put off by the thought of avocado and key lime. Boy were we wrong. It is perfectly delicious. Cabrera is particularly proud of his desserts and they would be a bargain at twice the price anywhere else in town.
Our visits to Modern Mixture ranged from mid-morning to mid-afternoon to early evening. Leo was there every time. I'm not sure when he sleeps. But he's all over the place in there, making sure everything is right.
Eating there is easy: You sidle up to the counter (he will happily wait on large parties), choose your goodies, and Leo or one of his loyal minions will bring it out to you. They keep an eye on the tables, refilling drinks as necessary. When it's all over, you simply pay at the counter. And that's another surprise: Nothing on the entree menu is over $9! You can also get smoothies and various coffees in the morning, including breakfast entrees like a ham and cheese croissant and, of course, the required breakfast burrito.
Modern Mixture is at 62A Rehoboth Avenue, on the south side, just a couple of doors down from S. First St. Look for the bright orange awning. There's even a cute kids' menu (the menu's cute, not necessarily the kids...) that features PB&J and of all things, apple slices. You've got to hand it to this guy. Modern Mixture is open from early morning until around 9 in-season. Be sure to call (302) 227-0600 off-season. Y'never know. Check out the menu at Modern Mixture's bright green website. There is no alcohol as yet. (B., L., D.) Price range: Inexpensive -.
(Yes, Modern Mixture earned a rather impressive "9" for food, and no, it's not fine-dining. But they get a "9" for being exactly what they set out to be and giving you your money's worth of quality product. Check out Ratings and Standards to learn more.)