I remember when Meso Maya opened near downtown nearly eight years ago: There was hype.
Walking in on a Sunday morning for brunch in 2020, that appears to still be the case. You’re asked if you have a reservation at the host stand, and look around with that tinge of guilt when you say “no.”
But get in early enough, and you’re seated.
The margaritas alone are worth coming here. A trusted friend of mine believes the house frozen margarita is the “best value for taste in Dallas” ($8).
Plenty of people talk about the avocado margarita, with fresh muddled avocado, pineapple and lime juices, triple sec and Espolon tequila blanco ($12). It’s fine — and one of those that you suddenly begin to really like on the second round.
Both of those are better than the brunch deal of a $3 sangria. I know better than to expect something good out of $3 — but there are bloody mary cocktails in town using Zing Zang, and it’s perfectly acceptable for the price tag. Unfortunately, there seems to be no mix to save a sangria, and this one tasted like a wine spritzer, heavy on the spritz with some syrup. Perhaps the “real” sangria roja for $6 a glass ($25 for a pitcher) is better. Here’s hoping.
Back to the margarita list, the serrano-berry margarita is fine, with muddled strawberry, serrano pepper, triple sec, Ambhar tequila blanco and lime juice ($10). But the serrano is just chopped and thrown in, it seems, along with a full-pepper garnish. If you break that pepper down and muddle it in the drink best you can with the straw, it’s far better. More effort than warranted for a cocktail, but still good.
There are more words than usual about the drinks above because that (well, and the conversation) were the best parts of our meal, and definitely the most flavorful.
We went to Meso Maya this particular weekend because I fell into the seductive grasp of advertising. The restaurant had a sponsored post for its brunch on Instagram, and I wanted to go specifically to get this:
While my tablemates perused their menu looking to sustain themselves for some daytime cocktails, I knew I was getting the croque señor, a sandwich with sliced ham, Chihuahua cheese and avocado, made with Mexican pan dulce, topped with two sunny-side-up eggs and a roasted tomato broth ($12).
I guess that’s what I got, but instead of that pretty sandwich from Instagram, it was this:
The ingredients were present, I guess. But the egg wasn’t salted, and the thick ham and cheese were overwhelmed by dry bread. The broth below held no real flavor and quickly thickened with a dense skin on top, soon separating into little globs on the plate. Aside from being aesthetically unpleasing, it wasn’t offensively bad, it just had no notable flavor, nothing that makes you want to keep eating it.
The lack of flavor was a problem elsewhere on the table, where they ordered chorizo migas ($13) and huevos borrachos — brisket or chorizo topped with scrambled eggs, corn hash, poblano peppers, onions and potatoes ($12). How something with all that comes out quite flavorless is nearly impressive. Some basic seasoning of these plates would greatly improve things, surely.
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But maybe the food here isn't meant for people who like a lot of flavor. Something right is happening here, as evident by the crowd. That trusted friend who likes the house margarita insists mole or seafood enchiladas are a go-to (he sticks to those and only those when ordering).
But as of now, if we’re looking to get flavor out of dishes that are the cost of margaritas, this is not our first choice.
Meso Maya, 1611 McKinney Ave. (A corner of town unclaimed by Uptown, downtown or Victory Park, but it’s around there). Brunch served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.