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MESO MAYA: Traditional Mexican & Aztec Cuisine in the Heart of Dallas

Dallas is a strange place when it comes to finding a great traditionally Mexican restaurant downtown, but Meso Maya satisfies that craving and more. It has now expanded to two locations; one next door to the Perot museum, and one other in North Dallas off of Preston. The building itself used to be a tortilla factory and restaurant starting in 1924, hosting one of the oldest Mexican restaurant patios in Dallas. Chef Nico Sanchez created a menu inspired by true Mexican cuisine with several dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Aztecs. Boasting an impressive drink menu full of unique margaritas, a plethora of mezcal, and even a house tequila, Meso Maya will leave you feeling full and a little tipsy. This article will cover the cuisine, from fresh ceviche to the richest flan you'll ever have.

I always have high expectations for ceviche; ever since I had the best ceviche of all time in a family restaurant in Miami, no others have been able to compare. It's not their fault; every restaurant has their own recipe for ceviche, and I personally prefer Cuban-style. The ceviche here is served with mazatlan white shrimp, striped sea bass ceviche, fresh lime juice, jicama, tomatoes, serrano, cilantro, and fresh avocado. The fish is marinated the night before to get the best flavor, and assembled right prior to being served. I was a good ratio of ingredients, but the shrimp was a little too chewy. Overall, I suggest ordering it if you enjoy seafood with lime and want a light appetizer.

The other option for an appetizer that I really enjoyed is the duo of mini guacamole and queso. It's hard to mess these dishes up, but also hard to make them exceptional, which Meso Maya did. Served with warm chips, the queso is thicker than usual, topped with cilantro and tomatoes. The guacamole is made fresh, without too many tomatoes, as per usual in other places.

If you've ever had anything remotely close to Mexican or Tex-Mex, you've had an enchilada or ten, but these honestly blew my mind. I had the Del Mar and the Poblano enchiladas. I prefered the Del Mar, the creamy tomatillo sauce complemented the lump crab meat and adobo shrimp beautifully. Add fresh avocado, chihuahua and asadero cheese to that inside a white corn tortilla, also made on site, and you've got a great entrée.

The side dishes include the charred brussel sprouts, the elote con crema, and the sweet plantains, and they were simply marvelous. I highly suggest trying these sides as additions to any of the main dishes or tacos. This might be offensive to some die hard taco lovers, but I am one of those people that puts a bit of elote con crema on my tacos, and loves it. Even without the elote, the tacos here were fantastic, as was the elote by itself. I'm used to getting it at a small cart near Fuel City tacos, so this was definitely a lot fresher and lighter on the sour cream than what I'm used to, which is a good thing. The charred brussel sprouts were simply fantastic; the hints of crushed red piquin and smokiness paired perfectly with the crispy yet soft texture. The sweet plantains came out smoking hot and topped with melted goat cheese, a unique pairing in which neither flavor overwhelmed the other.

Dallas hosts some of the best tacos in the US, and these are some of the best quality tacos in this city based on the meat alone. The tortillas are made daily in house, tracing back to the roots of the building in the early 1900's. The Carne includes wood-grilled marinated skirt steak, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado tomatillo sauce, pickled red onions, queso fresco, and cilantro. Carnitas features pork carnitas, pickled red onions, chile de arbol salsa, queso fresco, and cilantro. Both options hit the spot if you're in the mood for some great tacos with quality meat but the Carne have some of the most delicious steak I've ever had in a taco. Served with white rice and black beans.

Now on to one of my favourite dishes of the night, the Budin Azteca Cameron. If you've never had this, the easiest way to describe it would be as a Mexican lasagna of sorts; tortillas layered with generous helpings of various cheeses, including melted chihuahua cheese, monterrey jack, and queso asadero. The Camaron includes sautéed mazatlan shrimp, serrano, cilantro, black beans, arugula, queso fresco, with a creamy tomatillo sauce. The combination of the creamy tomatillo sauce and the budin is an incredible dish in itself, with the ideal balance of creamy to tangy with hints of lime. The shrimp are fresh and expertly sautéed; this dish was definitely my favorite overall, and I would go back to Meso Maya for this dish alone.

The atmosphere on the patio isn't something you would expect to find in the middle of downtown; it's a quiet escape from the big city to a land of delicious food and even more delicious drinks. Following posts will include my review of the deserts and extensive collection of drinks at Meso Maya. If you haven't experienced their massive menu of margaritas, top-shelf tequilas, and mezcal, you're missing out. Stay tuned, and in the meantime visit their website to view their menus and make a reservation at one of the two locations.

To view more of my experiences, follow me on Instagram @czarina_ekaterina

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