On our first date, my wife lured me back to her Brooklyn apartment under false pretenses. She said watching Secretary, a movie I’d never heard of, would be the perfect ending to a night of rollerskating and pinball. We’ve been together since. I hope the same goes for Café Maya Mexican Kitchen & Cantina, especially for the Oak Cliff restaurant’s punchy cochnita taco.
First featured by Teresa Gubbins on Pegasus News and recommended to me by Steve Cruz of Might Fine Arts Gallery, Café Maya sits in the former Ojeda’s space and is owned by Sergio Pinto, the grandson of the original Ojeda’s founders. In its dining room, replete with dark wood, black-and-white photographs and folk art—think Calaveras, jaguars, a map of Yucatan—is served a mix of traditional, old-country Mexican fare, Tex-Mex and playful hybrids. Cobb Maya salad, anyone? But I was there for the tacos.
Barely had I slid into my banquette, when I was asked if I liked spicy foods. My affirmative answer excited the waitress who soon brought me a bowl of a fierce habanero salsa, described by Pinto as perfect for the trio I ordered.
The skirt steak was slightly chewier than I would’ve preferred, but its surface offered teasing spots of char balanced by bright guacamole and pico de gallo, rivers of cheese as well as the standard cilantro and onion garnish.
The cream and cooling lettuce atop the shrimp were a life jacket for my salsa-inundated palate. It was a light and pleasant selection that didn’t stand a chance against the cochinita taco, astonishing with an initial wallop provided by the nest of pickled onions, followed almost immediately by sweet, tangy shredded pork roasted for eight hours after a day spent in an achiote-bitter orange juice mixture. Eating it silenced the world around me, securing my opinion I had found gem on the string of taquerías and restaurants lining Jefferson Boulevard.
Café Maya Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
1001 Jefferson Blvd.