First Look: El Molino del Sureste in Southampton
El Molino del Sureste will open on Saturday, Sept. 9, at 5005 S. Kingshighway Blvd. in the Southampton neighborhood of St. Louis. The multi-concept restaurant is the second from Alex Henry of Sureste, with brother and co-owner Jeff Henry joining him to manage front-of-house operations and the bar program.
For the Henry brothers, their first standalone restaurant gives them an opportunity to expand on the traditional Yucatan offerings Alex has served at City Foundry’s food hall since opening Sureste in October 2021. The 5,658-square-foot restaurant’s trio of concepts includes two that are strictly for the evening. One side of the restaurant is a dining room where guests can enjoy family-style meals inspired by traditional Yucatan cuisine. One such option is the puchero de tres carnes: pork, beef and turkey poached in broth with vegetables and fideos (noodles) and served with avocado, salpicon, marinated cucumbers, limes and tortillas. The component parts are served on separate plates, and diners can mix and match, dunking ingredients into the broth or making a taco and using the broth as a dip. “It’s actually one of my favorite things that my abuelita used to cook,” Alex said. “You just kind of serve yourself as you will, condiment it up and eat it with some tortillas.”
This is the kind of dish that makes perfect sense with a family-style format. “It’s the kind of thing that’s difficult to do as an individual entree and have the same effect,” Alex said. Other highlights from the family-style menu are the pescado al tikinxic and pulpo en su tinta. The former is a whole ocean fish, traditionally cooked underground, but in the restaurant it’s roasted over an open fire. “It’s marinated in achiote and citrus juices, layered with onion and tomatoes and aromatic herbs on top, as well as stuffed inside of it, then we wrap it real tight in banana leaves,” Alex said. The pulpo en su tinta is octopus, braised in its own ink, with achiote added for extra flavor and served with rice, roasted wax peppers and tortillas.
The space has come together quickly since the Henrys announced their plans for El Molino del Sureste in July. For the dining room, the Henry brothers wanted a bright, inviting feel. They opted to paint the space a warm yellow, partly a reference to the Yucatan city of Izamal. “Everything there is yellow with a white trim – it’s a city that’s really well known for really good food,” Alex said. For seating, the Henrys acquired salvaged pews from a church in Jefferson City and reupholstered them using fabric with Mayan-type patterns. “The circles are kind of reminiscent on some of these of the grindstones from the molino,” Alex said.
In the space’s other room is El Molino del Sureste’s cocktail lounge, which serves a range of drinks showcasing sugarcane and agave spirits, as well as its own menu of small plates and antojitos (street food) from the kitchen. The antojitos menu includes huevo motuleño – an egg-topped tostada served on a bed of beans with house-made ham, Colby cheese, chunks of fried plantain and dressed with pea shoots. “It’s typically traditionally a breakfast dish, but something that can make a good bar-type plate as well,” Alex said. Another option is papadzules, an almost enchilada-like dish of chopped eggs wrapped in tortillas and topped with a pepita sauce. Alex said the papadzules were a childhood favorite of his. “These were the only way I would ever eat eggs,” he said.
In terms of drinks, cocktails will include a wine spritzer with tequila and hibiscus syrup called La Dama, and El Caudillo, featuring dark rum, charanda blanco, agave wine and tamarind-chile syrup. Jeff Henry is keen to point out that the spectrum of Mexican alcohol extends far beyond the realm of agave spirits: on the Yucatan peninsula, sugarcane spirits like rum and charanda are at least as prominent. The latter is made by blending a molasses distillate of the type used to make rum, and a sugarcane distillate that would normally be used to make rhum agricole. “It’s got a little bit of that sweet maltiness from the molasses distillate, and a little bit of funk from the sugarcane distillate,” Jeff said.
El Molino del Sureste will be stocking a number of charandas and Mexican rums that are available on the local market, and Jeff hopes to add to that number as awareness of the diversity of Mexican food and beverages grows. “Especially among younger people, there’s a greater appreciation for that cultural diversity, gastronomic diversity,” Jeff said. “And again, a lot of that diversity has to do with Mexico’s indigenous roots, which is something that we really like to highlight.”
The kitchen is also making desserts including paletas (popsicles) that will appear in a variety of flavors, as well as a platter combining Mexican-style candies alongside cheeses from the St. Louis region. “There’s all these different, very natural fruit-based candies that are eaten throughout Mexico, so there are so many we can rotate onto this plate,” Alex said.
In the daytime, the space will be a molino (Spanish for “mill”) in the image of the traditional Mexican neighborhood stores that sell a range of masa-based products, including tortillas, tamales and more. The device you see by the window of the dining room is the molino itself, which grinds nixtamalized corn into masa. The kitchen uses the masa to make its own tortillas, tostadas and tortilla chips, and Alex said they’ll also be making other products like salsas and simple to-go items. El Molino del Sureste is sourcing heirloom corns, including some that are only available seasonally, from local farms like Janie’s Mill. “We want to experiment even more with different corn varieties and help educate the public that corn isn’t just corn,” said Alex Henry in a statement. “For thousands of years, there have been countless types, and we want to be a part of the change to keep that tradition and quality alive.”
The molino will also produce tortillas and more besides for a number of restaurant clients in the St. Louis region. As production transitions from Sureste to the new restaurant, Alex said that serving those wholesale clients will be the focus, but El Molino del Sureste’s retail operation will be serving the public soon – a tentative opening date has been set for Sept. 19.
El Molino del Sureste will be open from Tuesday to Sunday. The dining room and cocktail lounge will operate from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Once it opens, the molino will operate from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Reservations for both the dining room and the cocktail lounge are available now on Tock.