La Mulita Lands in SoBro

More than a year after its stylish sister, Delicia, opened next door, offering cocktails and duck sopas to the dressed-up SoBro set, La Mulita (5215 N. College Ave., 317-925-0677), the stripped-down street-food spot to the north, finally started welcoming customers on March 19. And while relatively little fanfare accompanied its opening, this colorful cantina framed in repurposed wood and well-worn corrugated metal provides a refreshing backdrop for those looking for a more-casual Latin-inspired bite. Still, late last week, Delicia’s regulars were mainly strolling through to get a look at the new place—then beelining to their old haunt for a Fire and Ice. Old habits may die hard, but La Mulita definitely has the charm to gain some traction with its own clientele.

Strings of bare bulbs sparkle above a dining room fit with unfinished picnic tables and sweeping banquettes clad in a tawny fabric reminiscent of cowhide. A trio of unobtrusive big-screen TVs lets you catch the game, but a persistent soundtrack of ’80s hits may pander a bit to hipsters reliving their youth. Think of this place as halfway between the cheeky machismo of Revolucion and the swaggering desperados of Bakersfield, and then be thankful you can still get a table. A scaled-down cocktail menu offers classic Latin quaffs and a few mezcal and tequila drinks sweetened with fruit juices. A nice selection of Day of the Dead beers from Tecate, Mexico, includes an excellent hefeweizen with a surprising banana-bread finish.

The menu of pan-Latin street-food favorites offers a variety of soups, salads, and tacos at lunch but shrinks at night to a host of sliders and small-plate highlights, including paper boats of well-seasoned but slightly dry chicken croquettes with a luscious serrano aioli and the same crisp tortilla chips you’d expect from Delicia (albeit with a slightly tepid salsa fresca that could use some more lime). Sliders and cemitas—little sandwiches for snacking—rely a bit too heavily on slightly dense sesame-seed buns, and while we loved the kick of the chimi sauce on the beef chimichurri sliders and the deep flavors of the eggplant, roasted pepper, and Chihuahua cheese cemita, we wondered why lighter tacos weren’t offered at dinner. One rich, sweet dish we welcomed were crunchy, buttery churros with a creamy chocolate sauce equally good for dipping or sipping to drive away the early spring chill.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.