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The duck carnitas at Mi Dia from Scratch weren’t the least bit fatty. Photo by Patrick Holden Jr.

Mi Dia from Scratch, 1295 S Main St, Grapevine. 817-421-4747. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

I didn’t think weeknight reservations would be necessary at Mi Dia from Scratch’s Grapevine location. The mini-chain (there’s also a location in Plano) is a casual restaurant in a standard suburban strip mall that also includes a Bob’s Steak and Chop House, Fireside Pies, and Winewood Grill. So I was stunned to find a full parking lot and a 45-minute wait for a table – at 7 p.m., a time I thought would guarantee easy seating, after the early birds have peeled out. Usually, 45-minute waits are associated with hot new restaurants on West Magnolia Avenue or West 7th. None of the three neighboring bistros had more than a 15-minute line (we checked), and it wasn’t like Mi Dia was offering free enchiladas or even a Thirsty Thursday happy hour special. All the hubbub was my first clue that this place is a good restaurant.

The second clue was the treatment I received at the very full bar: The three bartenders were in the weeds and deftly handling drink orders for the two rows of people stacked in front of them as well as the entire packed restaurant. Two of the busy-but-pleasant barkeeps acknowledged me and apologized for the wait. The full-price house margarita was tasty and helped pass the time for me and my dining companions.

Fortunately, the 45-minute guesstimate was 15 minutes off, and we were seated and plied with a plethora of choices from the appetizer menu within half an hour.

The tableside guacamole was a beautiful thing to behold: A cart full of the fixins rolled up tableside for you to select the add-ins, which included the traditional options (lime, onion, garlic, cilantro) and also … bacon. Bacon on top of guacamole is a revelation. It was like eating a deconstructed BLTA without the lettuce or bread. And the molcajete holding the fresh guac was huge – the appetizer could easily have served six people.

The main menu was divided into sections of traditional Mexican cuisine, street tacos, Tex-Mex, and a nod to New Mexican cuisine. From the traditional side of the menu, it didn’t get better (or prettier) than the Cochinita Pibil, a dish from the Yucatan peninsula with citrus-marinated pork shank slow-braised so the meat was fork-tender. The gloriously presented pork was served in a banana leaf bag, accompanied by corn tortillas, black beans, and roasted street corn off the cob. The spicy dish incorporated a gentle, sweet flavor from cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg. The charred corn was caramelized until the kernels were almost fruity.

The entrée of duck carnitas, plated on corn tortillas with rosettes of pickled onion and pepper slivers, struck the perfect balance between authenticity and modernity. The dark meat wasn’t the least bit fatty, and the tart, crunchy pickled onions worked well to balance the taste of the rich bird. The dish came with black beans and delicious poblano chile rice, which was a nice change from traditional Mexican red rice.

The Ox Eyes enchiladas were meant to be a nod to New Mexico, the land of enchantment and Hatch chilies. The stacked blue corn tortillas, ground beef, cheese, onion, and a fried egg seemed like a winner, but the dark red chile sauce on top was thick like mole but not as flavorful and twice as spicy. The gooey sunny-side-up egg mitigated some of the raw spice, but just to stomach the heat of the entrée, I ended up scraping off a lot of the topping.

Although we’d had plenty of food, the flan from the dessert menu beckoned. A perfectly executed baseball-sized portion of creamy custard came out floating on rich cajeta sauce, and it was more than enough to share.

There’s a lot to like about Mi Dia, including the depth of the menu and the giant mostly covered patio. Just be prepared to arrive early or wait with patience and a margarita.

Mi Dia from Scratch
Tableside guacamole    $15
Duck carnitas    $16
Cochinita Pibil    $16
Ox Eyes stacked enchiladas    $15
Xmas burrito    $16
Flan    $7

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