Trip back home to Rainier Beach shows Maya's is still marvelous
Special to The Seattle Times
Maya's Mexican Restaurant
9447 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; 206-725-5510, www.mayasrestaurant.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Full bar / credit cards: V, MC / no obstacles to access.
They say you can't go home again. But a recent visit to my old stomping ground of Rainier Beach — and Maya's Mexican Restaurant — proved the opposite also can be true.
The South End had a shortage of places to eat when I grew up in the 1970s. Mr. Steak headed to the slaughterhouse long ago. Hunan lost the Szechuan war to a Safeway. Vince's pizza is still 'round, but I opted to reacquaint myself with Maya's, a family-style Mexican restaurant that opened as a hole-in-the-wall in 1979 and has grown into a sweet spot with a following that extends outside its neighborhood.
Restaurant owner Exequiel Soltero expanded Maya's several years ago to Kent and Tacoma, but recoiled and now concentrates on the Rainier Beach flagship and a catering operation.
Maya's hospitality begins at the door as the host seats you with bienvenidos and de nada. The friendly service persisted throughout the evening.
The restaurant's décor is as spirited as the service, with etched wood benches and chairs painted in bright colors, all of which put me in the mood for ... a margarita!
I grew up in Seattle but also lived 10 years in Texas. So my critique of what passes as Mexican food and margaritas in this here hippie town is typically harsh.
Maya's might not cut it in El Paso, but in New York City, er, Seattle, it does just fine.
Maya's menu is enormous, just like its portions, and specializes in seafood dishes. You can play it safe by ordering Large Combination No. 4 (enchilada, taco, bean tostada, rice and beans) or take a risk by trying borrego (marinated lamb shank wrapped in a banana leaf).
Appetizers are entirely superfluous with the overloaded entrees but are perfect to sop up drinks from Maya's comprehensive specialty cocktail menu.
Lemon drops and apple martinis? In Rainier Beach?
Harrumph. I change my mind. You really can't go home again.
Bocaditos sampler: This appetizer plate features, in descending order of relevance, chicken flautas, shredded beef taquitos, jalapeño poppers, cheese quesadilla, nachos and chicken wings.
Arroz con camarones: A dozen or so small prawns are mixed with a medley of vegetables — onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, peas, black olives — and served over tomatoey Spanish rice. It was good, but the next time I'm going to try Maya's Mariscada, the restaurant's signature seafood plate.
Carne asada: This charbroiled skirt steak is intensely flavorful and terrifically tender. I challenge anyone, from here to Texas, to find a better carne asada than this one.
Tres leches: Desserts are made off-site. This milk-soaked cake was three times better than I expected.
Two margaritas: The top-shelf margaritas are not cheap, but each is fresh-squeezed and served in a regular glass and a shot glass. That's two margaritas in one. I love this place!
Itemized bill, meal for two
Bocaditos sampler $8.99
Arroz con camarones $11.99
Carne asada $11.50
Tres leche $3.50
Two margaritas $16.50
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or email@example.com
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