Meso Maya, Dallas, Tex.

2013-02-06 at 19-34-57Dallas, Tex.

I look at a few different things when searching for a restaurant on the road. Proximity and price are first and foremost, but I want to see what people in town say. Eater Dallas, OpenTable and Dallas Morning News all speak highly of Meso Maya, calling it among the hottest restaurants in the Dallas area.

Meso Maya is located adjacent to the previous evening’s haunt, Stampede 66, on McKinney Street. Located on the rear side of another Mexican restaurant, our cab driver told us we were the first fares he ever delivered there. A rather small dining room had a number of large tables, including our nine-seater.

The menu is modern Mexican. Enchiladas and tacos highlight the menu with traditional proteins — seafood, chicken, pork, beef — married with creams and citrus marinades. Perched at the top of the menu is the house specialty, the Budin Azteca, or Aztec pie. Tortillas are layered with traditional Mexican cheeses — Chihuahua and queso fresco, namely — and served with a protein and a tomatillo salsa. We would skip apps, staying to the drink list (Tecate!), and ordered entrees.

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The seafood enchilada ordered by two or three of my companions ordered was packed with crab and shrimp and rolled in blue corn tortillas. Toni and Cathy raved at how evenly spiced everything was. Roasted tomatillo salsa topped their entree, provided just enough heat to establish a presence. Enchiladas and tacos are served with black beans and rice.

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I opted for the Budin Azteca, choosing shrimp on the recommendation of the waiter. He did not disappoint with his recommendation. Eight shrimp (probably U16 or U20) were marinated, grilled and surrounded two pieces of the layered tortilla pie. Serrano peppers and cilantro provided the bulk of the flavor and heat, while queso fresco offered a cool, creamy texture. Had I not been with coworkers or, you know, in public, I might have licked the plate. I didn’t. What little dignity I possess lives on.

What struck me about Meso Maya was the pricing of the entrees. You could clearly go overboard on multiple courses, but the entrees were portioned in sizes that filled you without being overwhelming.

While Meso Maya’s sister restaurant on Preston Forest may have established its reputation as a higher-end Mexican restaurant, the packed dining room and hard-to-get reservation signal that the Downtown location stands well on its own.

Meso Maya is located at 1611 McKinney Ave. in Dallas. A second restaurant is located at 11909 Preston Rd., Ste. 1426, in Dallas. Reservations are accepted and encouraged, and can be made online or by phone. Dinner for five, with drinks, was $103 before tip.

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