Its More Than Mexican
By Luann, Margaret Ann & Rich/ email@example.com
Theres a new Latin restaurant
in Town, and its one where arepas and pupusas take center
Lost yet? So were we, but Commacks Maize Cantina was
a refreshing change from a typical Mexican restaurant.
Lively, festive music beckons one inside the modest, 20-table
restaurant, which opened about four months ago in a corner
of the North Gate Shopping Center on Jericho Turnpike. Colorful
murals on the walls are based on real murals found in Mexico,
and the serapes that hang alongside them are authentic.
But dont be fooled by all the Mexican decorations; Maize
Cantina is not, strictly, a Mexican restaurant. Rather, the
gluten-free menu boasts foods from all over Latin America.
There are three main items: arepas flat, round and
griddled homemade stuffed corncake sandwiches popular in Venezuela;
pupusas handmade thick corn tortillas of El Salvador;
and tacos, traditionally Mexican. There are also salads and
a variety of otros (other) things to choose from.
Whats more, all individual menu items are under $10.50.
Fresh chips and a chunky, mild, tomato-heavy salsa get your
palate going. We started with El Maize de cantina,
a new take on corn on the cob, with melted chipotle butter,
cotija cheese and cilantro ($3.50). One of the most flavorful
cobs out there, the corn practically pops right off. Chilaquiles
are a traditional Mexican dish, and Maize Cantinas version
($7) comes with shredded chicken, black beans, tomatillo salsa,
manchego and cotija cheeses, and avocado atop thick, crispy
corn tortilla chips. It reminded us of a nachos platter, but
heartier and with thicker chips.
The soup special ($5.95) was a standout appetizer, a roasted
tomato base with baby peas, shrimp and truffle oil. The soup
is sweeter than most and goes down easy, accented nicely and
On the arepa front, we enjoyed La Mer, with plump grilled
shrimp, avocado, marinated tomato and crispy plantains cut
in long, thin slices ($7.50). El Pollo was a tasty choice
as well, with tender grilled chicken, flavorful chorizo (sausage),
avocado, and a jalapeño chimichurri that gives it just
the slightest kick ($6.50). The arepa itself lets the inside
flavors take center stage, crisp on the outside and hollowed
out on the inside.
We then moved into the pupusas, which are flat and round,
cornmeal-like discs filled with either beans and cheese, pork
and cheese, spinach and cheese, or served plain, and topped
with anything and everything. We preferred the spinach and
cheese filling, made with fresh spinach, not a cheesy dip-like
mixture. Our favorite was La Carne ($10.50), grilled skirt
steak with sautéed peppers and onions, tomatillo salsa
and melted jack cheese.
Finally, tacos come in threes, in handmade soft corn torillas.
We opted for El Pastor ($9.50), with tender pulled pork, glazed
pineapple, pickled onion and cilantro crema. A great combination
of sweet and sour, the mixture complemented the pork well.
We finished with a light Arroz con leche ($5), rice pudding
over caramelized pound cake with dulce de leche sauce.
The man behind the curtain at Maize Cantina is chef and owner
Michael Merida. Formerly a chef at Huntingtons Panama
Hatties, various country clubs, high-end restaurants overseas
and the Grand Floridian at Disney World, Merida has now embarked
on his first venture into restaurant ownership. He said he
picked a Latin fusion theme with families in mind.
I think, with this economy, this is the type of food
that works for families, he said.
And whats a bigger draw to families than a $5 niños
menu for children 12 and under? The kids menu features
chicken fingers, cheese quesadillas, mini slider burgers,
mac and cheese, all served with French fries or rice, and
a drink. Get there early, because when theyre busy,
1141-1 Jericho Turnpike
(North Gate Shopping Center)
Atmosphere: Casual, lively, kid-friendly
Cuisine: Latin American
Hours: Tuesday Thursday
11:30 a.m. 9:30 p.m.;
11:30 a.m. 10 p.m.;
Sunday 4 9 p.m.;