Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I have the excuse to stuff my face with endless amount of chips and guac, but it is socially acceptable to wear my sombrero around town, bash in a couple pinatas, and shake maracas to mariachi music like I am the next Shakira. The most important reason being the first, as I could eat mexican food every meal of every day, sucking down a frozen margarita as I do so. Now there’s the usual hot spots I frequent to get my tex-mex fix like Bandito’s, Enchiladas, and Mi Cocina, but this was a special occasion that called for an extra special indulgence of real authentic Mexican cuisine.
After much deliberation, I carefully chose Meso Maya to celebrate and show off my Mexican pride. There are two locations for Meso Maya, one in the Preston Forest area and one in downtown. We chose the downtown spot for its outdoor patio with stringing lights, exposed brick, old-timey feel, and social atmosphere. I was surprised to find plenty curb parking upon our arrival as it was 1 pm, a prime Sunday lunch hour. Decently packed with families, groups of brunching girlfriends, and individuals looking to get their tequila on, we managed to snag a table in the center of patio action with no wait. The surrounding Mayan and Mexican decor sends guests on a vacation to scenes of Playa Del Carmen with its open space, modern architecture, and warm lighting. The Mayan gods seemed to smile down on us as the beautiful sunny weather gave for a relaxing day with my two best friends.
The moment we received our chips and salsa, the table was overcome with silence and the scarfing commenced. With the perfect amount of salt and crunch, these tortilla chips allow for easy scooping with their strip shape. The salsa is fresh with flavor and the right amount of kick. I would seriously return to this place based on the chips and salsa alone.
To start, we ordered the queso poblano with brisket and a bowl of guacamole. This was a defining moment as I judge my mexican restaurants harshly on their ability to make a mean bowl of queso and guac. Filled with wood-roasted Poblano peppers, corn, nopalitos, and a generous helping of tender brisket, the queso poblano was not that fake, liquid cheese you’ll find at mediocre restaurants. The guacamole was chunky with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and Serrano pepper. Trading off between scoops of queso, guac, and sometimes even both, I easily could have finished the bowls on my own. Though I am a loyal member of Team Guac, I found myself licking the poblano queso bowl clean as the brisket put the dish above and beyond.
The menu features an assortment of common mexican dishes (of course done over with a little Meso Maya flair) such as enchiladas, tacos, ensaladas, and tortas, but the house specialities are the way to go. Originally I had my mind set on the Budin Azteca de carne, which is similar to a mexican lasagna. It is a multilayered tortilla dish with roasted tomatilla sauce and a blend of Mexican cheeses. The carne selection includes beef tenderloin, gold potatoes, watercress, black beans, queso fresco, and guajilla sauce. Yet, as our table casually stalked the plates of the party next to ours, the Carne Asada dish quickly won my heart over. This main dish features a wood-roasted and marinated steak, sweet corn tamale, queso fresco, crema, roasted salsa. My mouth is watering just picturing it.
Whenever one dines at a Mexican restaurant, it is an unspoken rule in the dining handbook to consume at least 3 bowls of chips before the main dish comes out, making it near impossible to finish your meal. Meso Maya ensures this with their warm tortilla chips made out of rainbows and unicorn magic. However, when that bright plate of thick, sizzling carne asada steak appeared in front of me, it was as if my stomach grew tripled in size to make room. Just looking at the meat, one can tell it is cooked to perfection with the right amount of char and tenderness. Each bite was better than the last with bursting flavor and juices encompassing my tastebuds. The soft sweet corn tamale with the creamy blend of crema and queso fresco, balanced well with the black beans and steak. Even as I shoveled forkfuls of all 3 in my mouth, I could still taste each of their defining flavor profiles.
Kenzie ordered the Conchinita Pibil known as the Mayan Pit Pork. It is a marinated pork shoulder, marinated in a paste of achiote (ground annatto seeds), bitter orange and lime juices, herbs and spices, and wrapped in banana leaves to cook low and slow for several hours. The aftermath of all that care and effort is tender, deep-flavored shredded pork interlaced with bright-pink pickled onion and bursts of citrus. Accompanied with white rice, black, beans and their homemade corn tortillas, I found it hard to not sneak bites from her plate.
Hannah went with the Enchiladas Del Mar, a plate comprised of jonah crab meat, adobe shrimp, and thick cuts of avocado, wrapped in warm corn tortillas, covered with a creamy tomatillo enchilada sauce, piled high with arugula, and dusted with a mixture of chihuahua and asadero cheese. The sweet crab meat and spiced shrimp married well with the tortillas and sauce, as neither lost their flavor amongst all the ingredients.
A Mexican native, Chef Nico Sanchez brings the fresh, earthy, bold ingredients of his native land to the people of Dallas with passion and precision. The detail and creativity behind the food is clearly seen through the moles, adobos, salsa, and hand-ground tortillas all made in-house from scratch. From the moment you step in, the staff is inviting and accommodating. They seat you quickly, answer every menu question with great knowledge of the food, and our attentive to all your needs.
Meso Maya is an unforgettable food experience, where you know from the first crunch of tortilla chip to the last drop of salsa, you have just downed some of the best and most authentic Mexican cuisine you will ever have. It may be a littler pricier than that americanized, tex-mex you’re used to, but the traditional touch makes it oh-so worth it. I just wish we had left enough room for one of their heavenly desserts as the skillet-baked blueberry cake with vanilla bean ice cream was calling my name.