Cheap Eats: Maya Quetzal’s little taste of successby C.J. Karamargin on Jul. 20, 2006, under Calendar
What: Maya Quetzal Guatemalan Restaurant
Address and phone: 429 N. Fourth Ave., 622-8207
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Specialty: Tasty treats from Guatemala
What was ordered: One plato vegetariano and one pollo en pepian, each $7.99, and one limonada drink and one jamaica drink, each $2.50. The total with tax came to $22.68, or just about one drink more than the Cheap Eats rule of a meal for two for $20.
Comments: In a city growing and changing as fast as Tucson, it’s nice to know there are some things that not only survive, but also thrive.
Maya Quetzal most definitely is one of them.
Tasty, well-prepared food has been a defining characteristic of this little Guatemalan restaurant since it opened 16 years ago. The fact that it’s still around after all these years (and run by the same person, Sandra Salazar) proves that nothing succeeds like success.
A visit one recent afternoon resulted in a tableful of successes. One was the “specialty rice” that constituted the main part of the plato vegetariano. It almost reminded me of the rice pudding my Greek grandmother used to make, but with corn instead of cinnamon. Essentially, Salazar takes white rice and bakes it with sour cream, cheese and kernels of corn. The result is addictive and filling.
This plato (plate) also comes with a nicely done corn tortilla stuffed with walnuts and spinach that is fried and topped with tomato sauce and a hefty portion of perfectly cooked black beans. (Refried beans can be substituted for $1 extra, but it’s hard to fathom why anyone would.)
Another success was the pollo en pepian, shredded chicken simmered in a luscious sauce of chile peppers, peanuts, tomato, green tomatillo, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. This excellent, though slightly undersalted dish did not come with tortillas as we thought it would. Too bad because it cries out for some serious sopping up. (Corn and flour tortillas are available as a side for 75 cents. Spring for them.) But it did come with the black beans, rice and salad of iceberg lettuce that was really little more than plate filler. The lettuce was the only disappointment. It might work for rabbits, but not for us.
To wash these meals down, we went for the limonada, made from freshly squeezed limes, and the jamaica, hibiscus tea. Pricey, but good.
The only thing we suggest changing at Maya Quetzal isthe music. It should really be Guatemalan. Not that we have anything against such adult contemporary pop groups as Journey, but the mood should be as authentic as the food.
Service: Fast and friendly
Bar: Cerveza and vino
Vegetarian options: Yes
Currency: Green and plastic
Children’s menu: No, but the menu includes items kids might like, such as quesadillas.
Most recent health inspection: An “excellent” rating April 28, and in seven of the previous eight inspections going back to 2002. One inspection resulted in a “good” rating.