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Thursday, February 19, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Budget Bites

Budget Bites

------------------------------------------- Mexican ($) # # Maya's 9447 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; 206-725-5510 ------------------------------------------- At this airy Rainier Beach Mexicanery, a sweet-faced kid with eyes as big as all get-out drops his crayons and dives, face first, into deep-fried ice cream. Disco tunes boom from the bar, halting only for a rousing version of "Happy Birthday." Teenagers chat with their folks while sipping strawberry Penofiel and noshing on nachos. A solemn-looking fellow sits alone, nursing a margarita. All prove the point that there's something for everyone at Maya's, where owner Exequiel Soltero has been purveying cheap eats to happy South Enders for eons. This is one huge menu, with a dozen appetizers, soups and seafood galore, plus all the usual Mexican-American must-haves. Want a burger and fries? They've got that, too, along with huevos rancheros, vegetarian chimichangas and cheery servers who bring salsa and chip refills before you have to say "Yo!" Lunch and dinner daily.

Camarones Mojo De Ajo (small): Whoa, Nelly! This butter-lover's starter should have been a main course. A dozen tails-on prawns and plenty of fresh mushrooms loll in a garlicky, achiote-hued sauce. Next time, I'm ordering this with a side of rice and calling it good.

Combination No. 10: Your basic Mexi-Faves-R-Us combo: beef burrito (seasoned ground beef in a flour tortilla), cheese enchilada (ooey-gooey in a corn tortilla) and chiles rellenos (disguised as a green chili omelet). Rice and refritos, of course.

Combination No. 2: Oops, they forgot the taco on this enchilada/taco/tamale combo. Not that we could have eaten it, what with that rich shrimp starter. So we kept our mouths shut and lit into the meaty chicken enchilada, then polished off the moist, doughy tamale whose masa wrapper encloses both beef and picadillo filling.

Itemized bill; two guests

Camarones Mojo De Ajo (small): $7.75 Combination No. 10: $8.50 Combination No. 2: $7.50 Modelo Especial beer: $3.00 Coke: .95

Tax: $2.52 TOTAL: $30.22

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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