With no announcement or fanfare, Maya Cuisine quietly opened its doors on August 17. The colorful new sign on the humble brick building located on the stretch of Central Avenue between 18th and 19th streets caught our eye, and we stopped in to investigate this newcomer to the neighborhood. Central Avenue has no shortage of Mexican restaurant options, including multiple City Pages award-winner El Taco Riendo, so we were curious how this latest addition was going to differentiate itself. Here's what we found.
|Maya Cuisine is now open on Central Avenue|
The first, most obvious difference (and the biggest reason to give these guys a try) is that they make all their own corn tortillas by hand--a rare treat indeed in the Twin Cities. All it takes is one look at the plump, randomly browned, pillowy discs to know that these aren't your supermarket tortillas. And yes, they taste even better than they look.
The space itself isn't exactly first-date-worthy, but it is cheerful and clean, with festive touches and a welcoming energy. Owner Isela Perez Pacheco does everything from take orders to assemble dishes to sit down and offer a friendly lunchtime chat over some delicious horchata.
With 12 taco filling options, the chipotle chicken was certainly not the most adventurous choice, but we weren't quite feeling up to the beef tongue for lunch. The chicken was shredded into a soft mass of unstringy, flavorful protein and topped with a beautiful array of pico de gallo, vibrant hot sauce, crumbled queso, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Guests are welcome to add more of any topping from the salsa buffet bar. Pacheco says she hates having to ask someone behind a counter for more of the toppings she likes to use liberally, so she designed her restaurant to include a station full of all the goodies one might want that they can add as they see fit, including various salsas, diced jalapeno, poblanos, shredded queso, sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges, etc.
The tamales might not be much to look at, but that's not what they're made for. The various fillings are stuffed into cornmeal dough shells and steamed in corn husks, leaving the interiors moist, tender, and oh so scrumptious. Pacheco's favorite thing on her own menu is the Rajas Con Queso Tamale--roasted poblano peppers with cheese--and we can confirm that they are indeed a hot ticket, with their smoky heat and crumbly richness that melds seamlessly with the soft, warm cornmeal dough.
Maya Cuisine (which does not yet have a website up, though a Facebook page is in the works), strikes us as a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Its counter service and general ambiance put it more in line with El Taco Riendo and the Dallas-based chain franchise Rusty Taco (which just opened down the street) than with some of the nearby sit-down Mexican eateries, but there is enough setting it apart to make it destination-worthy in itself. The only reason to choose Rusty Taco over Maya Cuisine is if you're dying for an adult beverage with your tacos. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to this locally owned, authentic flavor station.
1840 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis