Restaurant Review: MesoMaya in Dallas

MesoMaya’s braised achiote pork with black beans. Photography by Kevin Marple

I reviewed MesoMaya in the December issue of D Magazine. I ate there four times and ran out of friends and family willing to give it another try. And you? Have you been? Let’s talk.

The tagline on the menu at MesoMaya promises “an adventure into the fresh, bold, and earthy flavors of authentic interior Mexican cuisine.” I asked the waiter what that meant. “It is the food from where I come from,” he said, without telling me where he came from. “It is not like what you find at Mi Cocina. It is real Mexican food.”

Maybe his oversimplified explanation is all you need to know when you peruse MesoMaya’s menu, filled as it is with trendy items such as mole, guajillo, and pozole. But alarms went off in my head when a basket of warm chips and a bowl of salsa were set on the table. This ritual isn’t performed in the interior regions of Mexico; it’s a play straight out of a Tex-Mex handbook.

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  • poundofbacon

    While you do a good job of stating your case, I think you are pretty off on this one. The tagline reads ““an adventure into the fresh, bold, and earthy flavors of authentic interior Mexican cuisine”. I think MesoMaya does a great job of presenting those flavors – even though most of the dishes aren’t completely authentic. I don’t go to a restaurant that charges an average of $17 per plate for complete authenticity, I go to a restaurant like that for good food. I’ve never left MesoMaya disappointed in that regard, and I think I am in the majority considering that people keep flocking back to it. I HATE El Fenix, and finding out from your article that Mike Karns was behind this restaurant made me cringe a bit. However, I’m glad I found this information out after I had eaten there because I don’t pretend to be completely objective and it would have definitely affected my initial perception of this place. The reality is that Nico Sanchez can cook – and the food here is purty good.

  • runDMC

    I think you set up a straw man on this one, Nancy. Somehow I never got the idea that MM was trying to be truly authentic pre-historic Mayan cuisine, just MexMex in a broad, accessible form. Whenever I have seen budin, pibil, achiote, guajillo, mole (repeatedly) and adobo on a menu, it hasn’t been in a TexMex joint, so that’s not the appropriate comparison. And maybe it’s just luck, but all 5 of my experiences there have been very positive and I have never ordered the same thing twice. Sure the Budin could be better, but tell me where in Dallas I can get that. And chips? Sounds like that was a big mistake since you brought your own. And please do not ever go to La Duni. They serve chips too instead of a bread basket. btw is bread on the table ok, or is that just for bakeries?

  • Bruce

    I have been to MM twice now. The first time was lunch and the food was considerably better than the dinner with friends. During dinner service, they were slammed and we had a cocktail and got the tall table by the bar. The servers were attentive, but mostly since they were turning tables and it felt that way too. Since I am originally from Canada, my true Mexican palate is non-existent, so I will not delve into the discussion about authenticity. I did enjoy the budin. My beet salad was good and took longer to prepare as I had it during the lunch. We live relatively close to the restaurant so we will go again. But Torchy’s does make a really Democrat taco….

    Nancy, where should I go for authentic Mexican food in Dallas?

  • SJW

    We have been to Meso Mayo four times now and have enjoyed every time. I am by no means an expert on “authentic mexican cuisine” but have liked everything I’ve ordered there. We have taken friends there too who also loved it. The de serrano margarita is by far my favorite. It’s a nice change to some of the other mexican restaurants around.

  • Anthony

    Nancy, I must agree with the others here that you are way off with this review… All of my experiences at MM have been great. The cusine was original, the prices were fair, the cocktails and service both excellent. Add this to your Best of 2011 List and I am left scratching my head!

  • Amy S

    I think we’ll see a proliferation of authentic Mexican, Central and South American restaurants grow over the next several years. The Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio is specializing in teaching the cuisines of the Americas south of the United States, and teaching hundreds of young, new chefs the correct techniques. Eventually this training and experience will migrate up I-35 to Dallas.


    I think you must have gone to a different resturant. I found the food refreshingly different and the waitstaff very personable. The cocktails were a slamdunk.

  • Tammy

    Well I am certainly not an expert in mexican cuisine, but I loved their food. I have been 4 times and had a wonderful experience each time. Some of their dishes are probably the best I have ever had. I hope it does very well.

  • My experience at Meso Maya:
    The atmosphere was electric; nice people watching.
    The food was quite nice. I did not have one complaint during my visit.
    The staff treated us with care and the food came out on a very timely manner.
    I have recommended Meso Maya to several friends for a future dining experience.

  • Janet

    The man lived in Mexico for the first 18 years of his life and spent most of that time working as a baker. Yet he doesn’t know authentic Mexican cuisine, and Nancy Nichols does? Freaking fascinating. I remember reading somewhere that Chef Nico intentionally has certain safe items on his menu so he has something to offer for everyone. Like if he limited his menu to just authentic stuff, it wouldn’t be a savvy business decision. There’s balance between offering unique food and creating a sustainable restaurant.

  • Patricia

    I’ve taken clients there for lunch several times and my husband has been there w/ the kids while I’ve been out of town. The whole family has had great meals there. Thankfully there are people out there who don’t rely on your reviews and it’s not going to impact their business. Maybe there will be a day when you become best buds w/ the owners and you’ll judge them fairly.

  • Iris

    I been to Meso Maya about 4 times and I love it!
    In my experience drinks are amazing, my favorite is the Serrano and strawberry margarita…
    Food it’s delicious! Never salty, my favorite pork chop with the guajillo salsa and the elote side …
    And about the chips and salsa, I dont know of its a TexMex tradition but the salsa it is very Mexican to me.
    I will keep telling my friend about it.

  • Tracy rathbun

    I can only speak for my hubby and myself, but we love MM! Great addition to the neighborhood! We have been there 5 or 6 times and have had a great experience every time. Their lime chicken soup rocks!

  • Sean

    I had trouble in this article trying to decide if Nancy was reviewing Mike Karns or the Food at MM! Having had great dinners there on a number of occasions and been overly satisfied by service, atmosphere, and taste this article reads to me as something personal. It causes me to question the legitimacy of anything Nancy writes.

    As a native Texan, TEX-MEX has been part of my weekly dining as long as i can remember. Ive rarely, if ever, seen many of the types of dishes that MM offers at a TEX MEX restaurant. The drama Nancy writes with is truly over the top. Speaking of her “swollen red lips” and her implication of how food is salted is ridiculous. Her article doesn’t cause me to question my experience at MesoMaya but question the integrity with which Nancy writes. Honestly I’m suprised the editors at D allowed such an obviously ridiculous article make it to print. I usually trust what they say, and con confirm with experience many of their reviews. not this time.

    If you want to know what others who don’t write with such personal motives have to say read these.

    Even other sidedish writers seem fair-

  • Bee

    I have been to MM on numerous occasions and have not, one time, had a bad experience. Food has always been delicious, service has been great and atmosphere had made for enjoyable lunches and dinners. Nancy Nichols sounds like she has some personal vendetta against Mike Karns or was paid to do this article…which wouldn’t surprise me. I will continue to take friends, clients and family there. From starting the meal with chips and delicious salsa to ending the meal with ANY of their desserts, this restaurant is among one of my favorites. Definitely would recommend it to everyone and realizing that Nancy Nichols has no taste…clearly.

  • Dsquared

    I’m going to make it 16 for 16, this restaurant is fantastic! I’ve just finished the Budin and my wife the brisket enchilada. The flavors were deep, balanced and different than anything we’ve had in Dallas, leading me to believe that Nancy has made an error in judgement over the course of her four visits. Compared to a $44 tab at Cantina Laredo for dinner Tuesday, which was without alcohol and very pedestrian, MesoMayo was a better atmosphere, waaaay better food and less expensive with one drink each! That makes this experience a much better value for money and more likely for many many return visits!