Mi Dia from Scratch

What if I told you that there is more to life than just Tex-Mex? I feel shunned already; this is Texas, after all.

But when Mi Dia From Scratch Plano opened recently, it brought us oh-so-much more than the typical Tex-Mex fare. Serving cuisine inspired by Mexico City, Santa Fe and, of course, our beloved state, Chef Gabriel DeLeon of Mi Dia has given Mexican food a soul. When asked what makes his food different from what you find on every other corner in Texas, he said, “I have recipes that I learned from my father. There’s a flan on the menu that came from my grandmother. The tortilla soup [also] came from my grandmother. There are sauces that came from Patricia Quintana, one of my teachers. It’s not out of a recipe book. It’s something that’s been passed down from family and mentors.”

Getting hungry? Read on.

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Mi Dia’s Quesadillas de Huitlacoche // photos by Jennifer Shertzer

Born and reared in Irving, Chef and Managing Partner Gabriel DeLeon grew up immersed in the restaurant business. His father owned La Margarita there, leading Gabriel to learn his way around the kitchen at a young age. Gabriel studied in Mexico City under renowned Chef Patricia Quintana and later spent time in New Mexico, adding some Santa Fe flair to his culinary chops. When his father passed, Gabriel operated La Margarita for more than 20 years and it remains a family-run affair.

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Mi Dia’s Head Chef and Managing Partner, Gabriel DeLeon

Chef DeLeon’s career accelerated dramatically one day when successful restaurateur Steve Hartnett called him about an idea he had for a from-scratch Mexican restaurant in Grapevine. He wanted to create a concept that would serve a blend of regional Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex and New Mexican dishes. When Steve asked him to be the chef of this new concept, Gabriel couldn’t say no to the exciting new opportunity, and Mi Dia was born.

The original Grapevine location opened in 2011 and became an instant hit. Steve Hartnett tragically died a short month after the opening, but he would be proud of the success Gabriel and his team have achieved. They now hope to carry on Steve’s legacy here in Plano, and they are already well on their way.

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Mi Dia’s unique cocktails are made with freshly squeezed juices
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The impressive Hell Freezes Over cocktail is made with dry ice, causing the drink to bubble and smoke

The space is bright, open and decidedly modern. At the center of the restaurant stands an impressive Tower of Tequila with more than a hundred bottles of the finest 100% agave tequila on display. Margaritas are the stars of the show here. Be sure to try the Jalisco Twister: a frozen margarita swirled with sangria. The menu says this drink will “tickle your fancy and make you dance La Bamba.”

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As the restaurant’s name suggests, everything here is indeed made from scratch, including the tortillas. Chef DeLeon says of the food, “[The] cuisine here covers the whole spectrum. We have Tex-Mex, because you have to have that in Texas, Santa Fe and regional Mexican cuisine as well.”

Though there are many noteworthy appetizers on the menu at Mi Dia, the Quesadillas de Huitlacoche are perhaps my favorite. Chef starts with a truffle-esque Mexican delicacy called huitlacoche, a corn fungus. (Stay with me, they’re wonderful.)  He then folds them into homemade blue corn tortillas with roasted poblanos, yellow corn and queso asadero. They are folded into halves, creating a small taco tower, and heated until the cheese is warm and gooey. After adding a drizzle of crema, the quesadillas are served with green and red Hatch chile sauces. The top one is served open-faced. Grab, fold, delight, weep tears of joy and repeat until your plate is clean.

Traditional chips and salsa come with a colorful twist at Mi Dia. The salsa is served in a visually pleasing yin/yang swirl of half green tomatillo/half red chipotle New Mexican sauces. You can also get your queso and guacamole fix. Chef Gabriel even shared his popular Table-side Guac recipe with us here.

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Mi Dia serves traditional Santa Fe red and green chile salsas

For the main course, you have an abundance of choices. According to DeLeon, their most popular menu items are street tacos and New Mexican cuisine, like the New Mexico Tampiqueña, the Chef’s personal favorite. Made of skirt steak, blue corn tortillas, stacked enchiladas, chile sauces, crema and guacamole, this dish is sure to excite the palate. Other menu highlights include the Duck Carnitas Tacos, Chipotle Bacon Fajitas, Banana Leaf Wrapped Scottish Salmon and Cochinita Pibil.

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Mi Dia’s famous tableside guacamole

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Beyond the food, the atmosphere and the stellar staff that fuel the restaurant daily, it always comes back to the legacy of his family and mentors for Chef Gabriel. Speaking again of Steve Hartnett, DeLeon said, “He challenged me and to this day he still challenges me. I think he challenges all of us. It takes food, it takes drinks, but it also takes a big leader. I’ve learned so much from him as far as being a leader, and a man as well.”

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