As far as pairings go, tacos and tequila win every time. But even perfect matches can be perfected—and that’s along the lines of what you’ll find at Hoja Taqueria inside the Generator Miami in Mid-Beach. The Mexican restaurant from the Bar Lab team (as in next door’s Broken Shaker, and most recently Margot Natural Wine Bar in Downtown) takes over the former Jim & Neesie spot, where it’s maintained the venue’s moody lighting and homey atmosphere.
Hoja draws all of its inspiration from Oaxaca, down to the different types of corn that grow in the Mexican state. From the tacos to the quesadillas to the crunchy chips, every type of tortilla-based dish is made in-house using masa from corn sourced directly from family-owned farms in said region. Hoja and its suppliers have such a tight-knit relationship that the types of corn you’ll see on the menu could even change daily, depending on what’s fresh and available. Expect tortillas that are rich in texture and flavor with a discernible difference from what you might find at your neighborhood restaurant—not that we’re knocking your local taco joint. These are toothsome and, well, different.
The menu is pretty straightforward with classic dishes starring a tortilla and a protein. Beginning with the starters and small plates, some favorites from the evening included the Queso Fundido with Chorizo (bring on the cheese!), the Ahi Tuna Ceviche with shirodashi, avocado purée and salsa roja (so light and fresh) and the Sweet Potato Tostada—which deserves its own moment. This vegetarian dish won over the whole table with its simplicity and intense flavor. It was also a nice break from all the meat-heavy action in store ahead. From there, it was on to a full Taco course—shrimp, chicken and mushroom—which were larger than expected. Keep this in mind if you’re sharing and decide you need an entire order of tacos to yourself. You probably don’t.
Mains were simple but sophisticated as we made our own surf-and-turf combination with an order of the porcini rubbed Carne Asada and the Whole Grilled Branzino, both served with warm tortillas for DIY construction. Lest you’ve forgotten Mexico’s reputation for producing stellar desserts, the Tres Leches with hints of—what else?—corn is there to remind you. Don’t leave without trying it.
Though we’ve saved the best of Hoja for last: the cocktails. The restaurant’s beverage program is a thoroughly researched reverence for Oaxacan flavors. Broken Shaker L.A.’s manager Christine Wiseman put together a selection of funky, spirit-forward drinks that will have you sipping mashed chamomile corn milk in the Corn Porn one minute and boozy fruit purée in the Banana Mole Piña Colada the next. The Michelada—sans tomato juice—packs in the umami and makes this typically heavy beer combo so light and easy to drink.
The flavors of Oaxaca (versus just regular Mexican food) may not be immediately obvious after dining at Hoja but you’ll for sure leave with a newfound appreciation for artisanal corn, agave-based cocktails and the magic of a perfectly executed Michelada.