Maticulado: The Spanish word means meticulous, thoughtful, intentional. That’s the word Mystic Mocha’s new owner, Izzy Arechiga-Arias, uses to describe the rotating local craft beers — from foam at nearby Pariah, Harland Brewing, as well as ciders and seltzers — to coffee and University Heights breakfast spot.
The word also fits the environment he created at Mystic Mocha. It’s a cozy place wedged in the middle of the neighborhood and swathed in bright yellow paint. Outside are a handful of shaded picnic tables. We sit at one on a Wednesday when the kitchen is closed so he can take care of administrative business, or “las cosas que no quiero hacer,” says Arechiga-Arias. Translated as “the things I don’t want to do”, he mentions this to a young client before saying hello.
The 28-year-old is originally from Tijuana and moved to Chula Vista in college. Arechiga-Arias held various catering positions in high school, where he developed an appreciation and love for hospitality.
“It’s always been my favorite thing, serving someone and getting them excited about the food they’re about to receive,” he says. Then, during a six-year stint in Portland (the original plan was to stay only two years to finish college), Arechiga-Arias worked in beer merchandising for Large independent beer companies. He admired the sense of community in Portland’s hotel scene, which he admits wasn’t something he felt growing up in Chula Vista.
A domino effect of fateful events would bring him back home to San Diego. Before the pandemic changed everything, Arechiga-Arias almost opened a vegan Mexican food truck in Portland until at the last minute the food truck he quit his beer job for was sold to another buyer. . His lease was also about to expire. And, as the youngest of three siblings, he didn’t want to be the missing sibling.
“That’s where my roots are, that’s where my family is, that’s near Mexico,” Arechiga-Arias says. He adds that he’s thrilled to see local Chula Vista spots like Three Punk Ales and Bar Sin Nombre thriving since his return. “Everyone was always going to the big places like The Cheesecake Factory,” he recalls.
Back in California, Arechiga-Arias has spent her pandemic remodeling her mother’s garden and kitchen while looking for a viable business to make her own. First, he considered buying a bar on El Cajon Boulevard, but agreed when the terms stipulated that the concept should remain intact. Then his real estate agent informed him of a cafe available in University Heights: its current owners wanted to retire and were thinking of selling. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect was that its new owner would have the freedom to transform the place.
He repainted Mystic Mocha (readers might remember his previous iteration, “Purple, sparkly stuff, tiki heads,” says Arechiga-Arias), tiled the service counter and brought back some of his former employees, and used his personal files and collection of books. as decor. He had the paperwork to change the cafe’s name, but decided to keep it after meeting its original owners, who popped their heads in the store while he was painting one evening.
“The records are a great conversation starter because people come in and ask if they’re for sale,” Arechiga-Arias says. It’s not, but you can order lattes named after movie characters, like Scuba Steve, a coconut and macadamia nut latte that a regular helped create.
Its breakfast menu accommodates various dietary needs and preferences, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. He was inspired by the difficulty he had during his vegan days finding a restaurant meal that wasn’t an afterthought – a complete vegan meal, not just a bunch of DIY side dishes. For example, burritos are stuffed with vegetables, soyrizo or bacon. There are also jackfruit tamales with red or green sauce. Chilaquiles come from the way the Arechigas-Arias family makes them, with ancho chiles (dried poblanos) for a smokier flavor profile.
“What happened to the vegan stuff?” I interrupt him in the middle of the summary menu. “So, I went to Argentina…” he says, trailing off, referring to the country of Asado, centered on animal meat.
“Whether you want to have a full breakfast with mimosas or just want to come and work on your laptop…we can make it happen for you,” says Arechigas-Arias. Breakfast is served Thursday through Tuesday and Happy Hour starts at 3:30 p.m.