Casa Linda Plaza in East Dallas has a new option for healthy, fast-casual fare. Maya’s Modern Mediterranean, which serves Israeli food, opened the first week in October. Named after owner Russell Birk’s daughter, this new concept aims to show Dallas that there’s more to Mediterranean food than Greek fare — and that it can be healthy, too.
Birk comes from a finance background. He gained experience in the restaurant world working with the Cozymel’s chain, running, improving and selling restaurants. He is currently the owner of the last Cozymel’s in Chicago.
In opening Maya’s, he saw room for something new in Dallas.
“I spent a lot of time in Israel," he says. "There’s an opportunity to do modern Israeli food in a fast-casual concept, which no one else is doing.”
Maya's specializes in a small but focused menu.
“We have a small menu," he says. "We have six main proteins, and we focus on doing those six things really well. We put thought into it.”
You can customize those six main items into a plate, bowl or pita. Pitas range from $6.99 for air-baked falafel or garlic-roasted eggplant to $8.99 for hand-rolled beef kabobs (kafta). Pitas are filled with Maya’s chopped salad, a side of air-baked “fries” and a choice of sauce.
If you order a plate, you get hummus, pita and a choice of two sides, which include items like Brussels slaw with sesame dressing and turmeric rice. Try the honey chicken kabob plate ($9.99) or the roast chicken (shawarma) plate ($9.99).
Bowls are served on Romaine or turmeric rice and your choice of dressing — sesame, balsamic vinaigrette or Harissa Ranch. The falafel, chicken strips and french “fries” are all cooked with an industrial air-fryer, keeping them far lighter than their deep-fried contemporaries.
When asked to pick a favorite menu item, Birk couldn’t choose.
“I love our beef kabobs," he says. "They’re made with a grass-fed wagyu beef; it is a primo quality meat. I also love our chicken kabobs. It’s an Israeli recipe that comes from a Persian kitchen, marinated in a honey soy blend. But every single day, I fall in love with a different item.”
He is especially proud of the hummus and baba ganoush.
“Our hummus is rich and made with a super premium tahini," Birk says. "You can taste the olive oil. It’s not Greek, so it’s not filled with lemon juice and garlic. Ours is all about the tahini. I struck a deal with the best tahini supplier in the country to get it at an affordable price … I’m just really proud of it.”
For dessert, try the sesame butter chocolate brownie ($3) or one of the dessert hummus flavors — chocolate, chocolate peanut butter and white chocolate-mint were options on our visit.
Maya’s also serves beer and wine on tap.
“We have four wines on tap, which will rotate," Birk says. "They are incredible value wines. We also offer four craft beers, two of which are from local breweries.”
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Birk is pleased with the response Maya's has been getting.
“The guest feedback is awesome. We’re seeing repeat guests already,” he says. And he’s excited to bring something different to Casa Linda, and to DFW as whole.
“I wanted to do what Zoës Kitchen does for the market, but for Israeli food," Birk says. "We’re doing a modern Israeli, Middle Eastern food, which means we’re making some different stylistic choices. There’s more to Mediterranean than just Greek.”
Maya's Modern Mediterranean, 9540 Garland Road (East Dallas)