“When we cut that ribbon, that was the dream that came true. An explosion of emotions there,” said Jose Luis Rodriguez of the opening of Mixtitos Kitchen.
DALLAS – I asked Jose Luis Rodriguez if it was too much, too over the top, to call his current situation a real “American dream.” But he says that’s just what his life is now, with a heavy dose of Mexican flavor, Japanese cuisine, and a French-inspired bechamel sauce thrown in for good measure, too.
However, several months ago, his first dream was not exactly finished. He visited one of those “ghost kitchens” where you rent a kitchen space and only fill online and takeout orders.
“It’s the faith that keeps me going,” he told me then.
But his belief, and his dream, was that one day he would have a full-fledged restaurant of his own.
He came to America from Mexico 22 years ago and settled in Dallas.
“Just get a better life. Get an education,” he said.
And all those years as a waiter, as a server, worked for other people. His real dream was to become a chef and owner of his own restaurant.
Well, just last month, the doors opened at Mixtitos Kitchen on the corner of Grand and Samuell in East Dallas. It is where you can find Jose Luis behind the bar, directing a staff of chefs and sous chefs in the kitchen, and constantly making the rounds in the dining room welcoming customers.
“You don’t have to cook anymore. Let us do this for you,” he joked with one of his first customers. “Great to have you friends here. Absolutely any time.”
And it is where you can find that his dream begins to come true.
“I always push myself and put this as one of my mantras, hard work pays off. And I did.”
He and his family, his wife, his daughter and a sister-in-law all work at Mixtitos. They took an old restaurant space, remodeled it, reimagined it, and turned it into their own. And they commissioned a mural for their center stage. A curved road through a small town shows a Mexican man staring across the square at a Japanese woman: that would be Karina, the wife of Jose Louis.
“I strongly believe in his talent,” said Karina Totsuka, whose mother was Mexican and her father Japanese. “And I know that I know how capable he is. So that’s why his dream became mine. Because I believe in him.”
Mixtitos Kitchen combines Mexican and Japanese dishes with French cooking techniques.
“This beautiful sandwich, its name is Croque monsieur,” said Jose Luis about one of his most popular dishes. “Everything in one bite. It reflects right there,” he said of a grilled sandwich “bathed in bechamel sauce filled with discada meat and Swiss cheese.”
Just as they have mixed a Mexican and Japanese and American family, he likes to say, cooking their American dream.
“And the American dream can be possible if you put yourself in that situation and that position, I think you can achieve everything you need, everything you want, and it’s possible here in America.”
Members of the Dallas City Council helped him with the official ribbon cutting just last month.
“Oh my god. When we cut that ribbon, that was the dream come true. Right there. It was like an explosion of emotions right there. And it feels so good. It feels so good.”
And he admits, he hopes Mixtitos Kitchen can help deliver something else, too.
“My hope when I see this beautiful corner of Dallas,” he said of the intersection of Grand and Samuell, “we thought to bring light to this neighborhood. A little light on this side of the corner of Dallas.”
“The love and the appreciation and the support from the community, from people like you all, it’s been amazing,” said his sister-in-law Yoshiko Totsuka. “It fills my heart and makes me wake up every day ready to serve them with a smile and the best dishes here at Mixtitos.”
So, with his sister-in-law Yoshiko and other members of his family helping to get Mixtitos Kitchen up and running, there is belief in a success story brewing at the corner of Samuell and Grand.
“I’m a big believer,” Jose Luis said. “So God works in mysterious ways. And he directs you to different people. And now we are here with great expectations and great things that we can create and that is amazing. These feelings are outstanding.”
And he hopes the food, you’ll find excellent too, as an American dream takes shape…one croque monsieur at a time.
“This is a dream job. We are together. We are getting stronger,” said Karina Totsuka. “Más unidos. Más fuertes!”
“I don’t have words to explain how wonderful it feels. It feels so good,” said Jose Luis.