Owners of Ixchel Mexican Cuisine Soon to Open at Former Old Fields Barbecue Location in East Setauket Share Plans For Their Restaurant

The owners of Ixchel Mexican Cuisine hope that their new restaurant – set to open in early October at the former Old Field Barbecue spot – will fill the niche of authentic sit-down, full service Mexican food in East Setauket.

Juan and Daphnee Munar are opening up their first restaurant with Ixchel in East Setauket – a dream they have had for over 20 years – but they are no newbies to the business of food service on Long Island with family having run popular Mexican, Colombian and Italian cuisine spots on Long Island for more than 20 years.

Their extended family owns Senor Taco, with five locations across Suffolk County, Villa Olivetti in St. James, Pollo Rico Latin Bistro in Centereach and La Panchita in Smithtown and Deer Park. That is quite a legacy to live up to for these new restaurateurs but the couple does not come to the table without personal experience either.

“Juan was the general manager at La Panchita for over ten years,” Daphnee Munar told LongIslandRestaurants.com one morning as we sat in her restaurant at 130 Old Town Road as it was coming alive around her.

The perfect spot for Ixchel

The Munars searched high and low, or you could say north and south, to find the best spot.

“We looked on both the South Shore and the North Shore,” Munar said.

Both of them own separate businesses currently; Daphne has run her daycare business called Galileo Preschool in Coram for eight years. They always harbored a dream of opening their own restaurant and according to Munar, this opportunity came knocking on their door. Out of respect for their family’s other restaurants and a sort of family rule not to open a food spot within five miles of each other, this was the perfect location. 

“All of the restaurants our family owns are in the middle of the Island,” she said. “When we found this place for sale, it fit our criteria.”

The Munars purchased the space from the owners of the former Old Field Barbecue in June. Co-owner David Tunney had tried to extend his Old Fields restaurant brand there starting with a barbeque joint and then converted it to Old Field Tavern, which ultimately closed down at the end of last year. The location and space were everything that the Munars were looking for.

“We were very happy and excited that we were able to get into a deal with the owners of Old Field,” said Munar.

The vibe

Now the Munars are undergoing a complete renovation of the interior making it lighter, more contemporary yet with a touch of tradition. The idea overall from the food to the decor is to create a space that invites you in and delivers authenticity in a familiar way, leaving you wanting more, according to Munar.

“We want people to be done with dinner and think about coming back,” she said.

The indoor dining area will have seating for 100 people and they have already started building an outdoor patio that will seat 60 more folks. The patio will be complete with firepits and space for live music. They’re working on a space upstairs that can host 45 people for private parties and events, which Munar hopes they can get the permits for in time for the holidays. They also refurbished the bar area, which has additional seating.

The vibe of the place will be drawn from Mexican influences with muted colors.

“We are bringing a lot of that Mexican culture here,” she said.

Munar described it as natural and rustic with a modern charm. They kept the tables and refinished and repainted them and will be bringing in new chairs and completely redoing the lighting, which they ordered from Mexico and South America.

“When people cross that door they will feel like they’re in a different place,” she said.

Munar says that whether you come to Ixchel as a family, with friends or on a date, she wants everyone to be comfortable in the environment and have fun.

Authentic Mexican cuisine

The food will be based on cuisine from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The menu is done and it is definitely not Tex-Mex.

“In here you’ll find authentic Mexican cuisine,” said Munar.

That’s not to say you won’t find familiar items as well – like the decor, the food will be approachable and familiar. They will have street tacos filled with different proteins and birria tacos, a tender pork taco in a consommé sauce. The menu also includes Aguachile, a traditional Mexican seafood dish with shrimp and scallops in lime juice, chiltepin peppers, sliced cucumber, red onions and avocado. There will be a Tuna Tostada (“one of my favorites,” Munar said), which is a tostada embedded with avocado and ahi tuna on top.

“If you enjoy sushi you’ll love this,” Munar said.

Then there are the special touches like their guacamole served “para la mesa” translated to mean “for the table.” Fresh guacamole is made on order right at the table for up to six people. A cart will come to you and they will customize your guac order making it as spicy or mild as you want or add in fresh ingredients. Nothing is pre-made. Even the tortilla chips to dip into the guac are fresh, which are called totopos.

And the tortillas for your meals are freshly homemade too. 

“We have a woman called a ‘Tortillera’ who comes in to make fresh tortillas,” Munar said. “She is part of our staff so we will have fresh tortillas daily.”

If you like spicy, you can have it spicy. If you like a tropical flavor that’s more mild, you can have that too.

“We cater to everyone,” she said.

Ixchel will offer vegan and vegetarian choices too. They will also feature specials every day. The plan is to be open for lunch and dinner and have a brunch every other weekend. Takeout will be available as well as ordering through DoorDash and Uber Eats. There will be Taco Tuesday specials and Margarita Thursdays with their house margs at special pricing.

Speaking of cocktails

Fresh is also the name of the game behind the bar. The juices will be freshly squeezed and their house tequila is Don Julio. While they will have a variety of other spirits, 90% of the drink menu will feature tequila and mezcal.

Not a new concept – it’s been a thing in Mexico for many, many years – the mezcal trend started getting big only a few years ago in the United States. Mezcal has a smokier flavor than tequila even though both are derived from the same root.

“Mezcal is made of the same agave plant as tequila but aged and cooked differently,” explained Munar. “In about 2018 it started making noise when influencers and artists got involved in the tequila life and brought it out into the world. If you enjoy a good bourbon then you’ll enjoy a mezcal.”

Ixchel’s mezcal is served with sal de gusano or worm salt.

“That’s the Mexican way,” Munar said.

Ixchel – The moon goddess

The name of the restaurant comes from the name of the Mexican moon goddess and they had a specific reason for picking this name. The Munars are not Mexican (they are both originally from Columbia but came to the United States over 20 years ago and raised all their children in the Middle Country School District) but they have a deep love of Mexican culture.

“We respect and love their culture, the food and people,” she said.

It is their favorite spot to vacation with their four children who range in age from 5 – 21-years-old.

Ixchel has a lot of meaning to the culture and personally to the Munars as they embark on this new endeavor.

“Ixchel represents fishermen and the harvest and prosperity for the land,” she explained.

And the Munars are putting their hearts and souls into Ixchel, the restaurant.

“I feel that when you do what you love you will succeed,” she said. “This is something we love.”

Ixchel Mexican Cuisine will open sometime in early October at 130 Old Town Road in East Setauket.

While the interior is under construction we were able to snap a few small details that were finished to give a preview of what to expect. See pictures below.

Ixchel Interior

Photo: Entranceway into the restaurant.

Ixchel Lighting on Ceiling with Sunburst Effect

Photo: New lighting is getting installed. The lights were specifically picked for the sunbeam effect they give on the ceilings.

Ixchel Table Refubished

Photo: The original tables from Old Field Barbecue are being refinished for Ixchel Mexican Cuisine.

Ixchel Lighting

Photo: More lighting above the entranceway gives the same sunburst effect.

Ixchel Exterior Patio

Photo: A tree next to the new fence around Ixchel Mexican Cuisine’s outside patio.

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