Food News

Chef Nico Sanchez Interview, Part 2: On Getting Back to Basics with Authentic Mexican Food

Yesterday Chef Nico Sanchez of Meso Maya told City of Ate a bit about his background. In part two of our interview, we learn his thoughts on the Dallas food scene, particularly Tex-Mex, and the simple art of actually Mexican Mexican food.

What are your three favorite restaurants in Dallas? 1. Tacos El Guero on Bryan St. 2. Penne Pomodoro 3. Vickery Park for the patio

What do you think the Dallas restaurant scene has too much of? Tex-Mex.

How can we fix that? We have a lot of different types of food in Dallas and I think this type of Mexican food -- authentic food from all the different states in Mexico -- can be the next step for Dallas. Actually, I think we can create a niche, something we can become known for with this type of food.

Were you nervous about offering a type of Mexican food other than Tex-Mex? Actually, I think everyone is getting tired of yellow cheese and chili con carne. I think that if people try the food on my menu, they'll see what they've been missing and they'll like it. But sure, it was hard to create something new and ask them to accept it. And I'm not going to argue with a customer about the kind of food they've been eating their whole life, I'm just going to show them some new things.

For example, sometimes people ask for flour tortillas, and we have some, but I really want them to try my fresh homemade corn tortillas. They are very different than store-bought. Again, I have to respect the knowledge of the guest, but I do go out to a table every now and then and ask them just to try one of my corn tortillas.

How is authentic Mexican food different from what we're used to? It's simpler. Mexican food is very simple. You don't have to work with it very much. Creating good sauces is important, and then it's just simple ingredients. 200 years ago they were eating tortillas, mole and beans because it worked. And it's still what works now.

Specifically how is your menu different? Everything is very natural -- almost everything on the menu is gluten free. There are things on there that take people away from what they're used to having, like the Budin Azteca. But, then we also have "safe items" like enchiladas and street tacos.

Trade secret. What makes a good guacamole? Well, the best avocados are from state of Michoacán in Mexico. Then, you smash the avocados, add in cilantro, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lime. A trick for guacamole is to deflame the onions with lime juice. Just chop them up then squeeze lime juice over them and let them sit for ten minutes. The lime juice will cut the acid then it won't overwhelm your guacamole.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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