At Nixta, opening November 11, James Beard Award-nominated chef Ben Poremba and partner Tello Carreon are focusing on elevated Mexican food.

By Elyse Inamine
Updated May 24, 2017
© Ben Poremba

“The answer is quite simple,” Ben Poremba said, when asked why he’s set his eyes on the food of Mexico for his soon-to-open restaurant, Nixta. “I wanted to promote one of my chefs and give him the chance to focus on his own style of cooking.”

That chef is Tello Carreon, who started off as a prep cook at one of Poremba’s other restaurants, Olio, and will now be the executive chef at Nixta, in St. Louis, Missouri. After years of tossing around ideas while they worked side-by-side later on at Elaia, Nixta opens to the public on November 11.

“We had a grand dream that we could convert a hotel lobby in Las Vegas into this crazy marketplace with beat-up old Volkswagens and sell tacos,” Poremba says.

Instead, they started small—by putting carnitas on the menu at Poremba’s Elaia, and stocking up on Diana Kennedy’s Mexican cookbooks. However, that’s not to say the food at Nixta is completely traditional.

“We’re thinking about street food in a fine-dining way,” Poremba says.

That means tuna tostada tossed with white soy sauce and topped with crackly leeks, confit pork belly and grilled pineapple corn for a take on tacos al pastor, as well as unusual tortillas made with discarded cauliflower stems in place of masa. (Carreon had to call his mom back in Guanajuato, Mexico, for advice on how to make his tortillas hold together. She suggested more rice and corn flour.)

“We are going to cook things that are comforting and familiar but elevated,” Poremba said.

As for drinks, the duo is sectioning off space for Bar Limón, which focuses on rum, tequila, mescal, pisco, and cachaca from Latin and South America, and which is curated by Brasserie by Niche alum Layla Linehan.