Those making a return trip to the artsy West Texas town of Marfa will notice quite a big change at popular fine-dining destination Stellina. In August, the restaurant, which opened in 2016 in Maiya’s former space, converted its menu concept from “rustic Mediterranean” to offerings influenced by the cooking of Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico’s interior.
103 N. Highland Ave., Marfa.
Open Tue-Sat, 5-9:30 p.m.
“Nothing is permanent at Stellina, as far as the menu goes,” notes Chef Krista Steinhauer, a pioneer of Marfa’s food landscape. (She cofounded falafel-slinging truck Food Shark; Stellina is her third venture). “We always talked about changing directions at some point to keep things interesting and fresh for us and the community.”
Where diners once reveled in orecchiette pasta with broccoli sauce and grilled lamb shank with mint gremolata, they will find tamales stuffed with truffle-like huitachoche (corn fungus), quinoa-stuffed poblano peppers, and enmoladas coloraditos—roasted chicken enchiladas enriched with a rich reddish mole.
Mole accompanies many of Stellina’s offerings, including a golden version that comes alongside the huitachoche tamales. And despite it being one of Mexico’s most challenging dishes to prepare, mole is a signature sauce, and Steinhauer says she loves making them. “The kitchen in general is more sauce-oriented, which is fun for the cooks.” Steinhauer partnered with co-owner Brandon Messer on the menu changes.
The radical shift in direction hasn’t deterred customers, who still fill the coveted seats at the rectangular bar and the more private alcoves near the double-door entrance. Whether the beer served is Modelo or Peroni, Stellina’s ambiance endures, making it a mainstay in Marfa. “It’s wonderful feeding your friends and neighbors, along with and sitting beside interesting strangers and travelers,” Steinhauer says. “The familiarity makes it feel more like a dinner party than a restaurant.