Simplicity Rocks

Maico offers low-priced, delicious food and friendly service with 22nd Street as a backdrop

With a restaurant as small and low-key as Maico, it's sometimes tough to come up with enough words to fill a review. But really, here's all you need to know: The folks at Maico--a taqueria located on 22nd Street west of Park Avenue--are focused on putting out good food and offering great service.

On the surface, Maico appears to be like all those other taquerias that dot our fair city. The red-brick building sits off the road a bit, allowing for easy access and some decent parking. Signage near the lot lists menu items, including Texicano and California burritos, indicating the food here isn't strictly Sonoran. All dining is alfresco, with about a dozen tables dressed in cheerful oilcloth. Icicle lights and a mister hang from the roof, and toe-tapping music competes with the hum (more like the roar, really) of traffic on 22nd Street, but that is not a big deal.

The menu is basic: tacos, burritos, tortas and combination plates that can be prepared with machaca, ground beef, pollo, fish, beans, red and green chili, and adobado, a tangy red sauce not always found on local menus. There are chili rellenos, chimis, enchiladas and tostadas as well. Drinks range from all-American sodas to horchata, jamaica and tamarindo. Drinks come in medium ($1.49) and large ($1.79) sizes; the large should really be called humongous. Breakfast burritos with chorizo, steak, ham, cheese, potatoes and more are another big draw, but we didn't have the opportunity to try any of those.

Instead, we opted for dinner, ordering chips with guacamole ($3.59), a carne asada combo plate for John ($6.49) and a fish taco combo ($6.49) for me. We also ordered two large Pepsis, never imagining they'd be so huge--more than we could drink.

The chips arrived warm and slightly salty. They had been topped with pico de gallo, grated cheese and two scoops of a creamy, but slightly chunky guacamole. Chips are often only so-so, but these exceeded that. The guac tasted very fresh, and the pico offered an additional, welcome texture.

The combo plates also were a hit. They both consisted of three tacos, each using two small, warm corn tortillas. The carne asada was how carne asada should be: seasoned and savory with a hint of char. The fish in the tacos was crispy to a slight crunch and had been dressed with a pinkish cream sauce. Rocky Point didn't seem so far away all of a sudden.

If refried beans are the true measure of a good Mexican restaurant, than Maico passes that test. We even enjoyed the rice, although it's not really a fave for either one of us.

What stood out most prominently was the outstandingly friendly service. The boss himself brought us the food. (He had to, since for most of the time we were there, he was the only one around.) More napkins? They were there. A to-go menu? Of course. Need a carryout box? No problem. He explained that he doesn't advertise, but relies on word of mouth, which is usually a tough way to make it in the restaurant biz. But the food is good, so people will no doubt talk about Maico.

I picked up dinner to-go a week later. There were more people in the kitchen this time, and it's a good thing, because the place had a steady flow of traffic. This time, we ordered a carnitas burrito ($3.09), an adobado taco ($1.29), a half-pint of beans ($1.79) and a chile relleno combo plate ($6.49.)

It was a long rush-hour drive home, so the food suffered a little during transportation, but we were both pleased with the meal nonetheless. The burrito was jam-packed with chunky pork and beans. Some of the meat was tough, but not so much so that it got in the way of enjoying the meal. There were three rellenos--unheard of at most other places--that had been filled with white cheese and then cooked in an eggy batter. They may have been in better shape fresh from the pan, but this dish was still satisfying.

The taco adobado was a simple affair: just tender bits of meat with a nice warmth and some pico de gallo. A-OK!

I'm not saying that I'd drive across town just to eat at Maico. But if I lived nearby, I most certainly would have Maico on my Regular Spot List for several reasons. The prices can't be beat, and I got the idea that after a couple of visits, the guys and gals there would get to know who you were. But, as they say, "It's all about the food" ... and that in and of itself is more than enough of a reason to eat at Maico.