Southern Rhode Island is perhaps best known for its seafood scene, but a recently opened Wakefield eatery adds to the authentic Mexican dining choices south of Providence. Maiz, a family-owned and -operated restaurant, opened in mid-May by the Mendozas, which includes husband and wife Julio and Iliana with daughter Julianne. Though now dishing their favorite recipes on the mainland, you may recognize the family from the former Calaveras on Block Island.
In their new digs, you can find Iliana and Julianne greeting and serving guests at the front counter and Julio working his magic in the kitchen, where everything is made from scratch, from the salsas and guacamole to the corn tortillas and fried chips. The meats are slow-cooked in house, and the beans are soaked, cooked, and masterfully seasoned each day. A rotating selection of agua frescas (water infused with fresh fruit) and a cooler of Mexican sodas are at the ready to complement any meal.
Though there are a few seats inside, the spacious outdoor dining area is ideal for savoring the warm days of fall. Visiting with friends on a late-summer day, we started with a classic choice: chips with guacamole and salsa. The nachos were warm, crispy and seasoned with just the right amount of salt. If I had to pick a favorite between the guacamole and the salsa, I would be at a loss. The former is prepared to order and you can tell – the balance of flavors hit just right with the creamy avocado, chopped tomato and onion, cilantro, and the acidic bite of the lime juice. The salsa verde was flavorful without being too spicy. The tangy taste of tomatillos and just a hint of heat from the jalapeños was addictive.
Next came a sampling of their many tacos. Each was delicious, but the best of the best had to be the Birria Taco; the slow cooked beef was a burst of rich flavor. Garnished simply with onions and cilantro, it didn’t need anything else. The Shrimp Taco was excellent, too, with the addition of grilled pineapple offering satisfying sweetness.
Julianne brought us out the special Tostada de Tinga, which was made using her grandmother’s recipe. The chicken was tender and cooked with the ideal proportion of tomato and chipotle sauce. Julianne suggested we try it with the salsa verde, and the combination did not disappoint.
Not to be skipped is the burrito section of the menu. The carnitas version was excellent, but the unexpected favorite was the Veggie Bomb. Along with the usual mix of veggies, rice, beans, jalapeños, and guacamole, the oh-so-refreshing pineapple made a comeback. The tropical fruit mingling with savory ingredients hits in just the right way. The Veggie Bomb was so delectable, my friend went back the next day to get another one.
As the fall season creeps up on us, a hangout with friends on Maiz’s patio is a must to keep the summer vibes going with warm tacos and ice-cold sodas. You will not be disappointed.
58 High Street, Wakefield
Facebook: Maiz • 541-1396
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