Embracing the Queso Blanco at Palacio Maya

The interior decor of Palacio Maya (5125 Monroe), with its terracotta floor, hacienda roof tiles that vault the restaurant’s booths, sunflower stucco walls and playlist of lively Norteño trumpet music suggests a departure from the Northwest Ohio wind-strewn night we left outside and into a plaza mayor south of the border, somewhere warm.

Though a dining companion suggested that Palacio Maya doesn’t shine as a margarita destination, the sip I enjoyed tasted competent enough that I was prompted to order one. But perhaps her assessment of the House Margarita’s ($8.99) quality was a comment on the drink’s strength. For those content with a beer, the Dos Equis Amber on draft ($4.26 for a 16oz glass) sang when spritzed with juice from the lime wedge that accompanied it.

Beyond chips

The standard-issue corn chips boasted freshness and an adequate crunch. The mild salsa roja can be augmented with spicy habanero salsa, (you’ll have to request it) inflected with smoky poblano peppers, showcased a house recipe adapted for the dining public who enjoy heat with flavor. Paprika, garlic powder and salt cohered to elevate the simmered ground beef that topped the Nachos ($7.59) base of corn chips and melted queso blanco (with an upcharge for choice of protein) into a shareable opener, showing potential as a meal of its own if ordered with additional toppings (e.g. beans, onions, tomatoes, etc). The Queso Fundido ($9.59) sizzled with melted queso blanco “casseroled” with mexican sausage, cured in cinnamon and a medley of other spices reminiscent of al pastor pork carved from a spit.

Veracity in variety

For main courses, El Paisano ($20.59) featured a thin T-bone steak topped with shrimp, sauteed sliced mushrooms, onions, green peppers and tomato, all slathered in a creamy white, roux-thickened cheese sauce. This plate also arrived hot, along with foil-wrapped tortillas to encase the mixture of steak slices, vegetables, shrimp cheese and rice. For more of a surf-centric dining meal, the Burrito Acapulco ($13.59) is comprised of shrimp, crabmeat, onion and tomato rolled in flour tortillas ladled with melted queso blanco.

Kelly green El Yucateco Chile Habanero and burnt red Tapatio sauces both livened the rice and sear-crusted pork Carnitas ($14.59) with a welcome additional kick.

Ending with style

For dessert, we opted for the Fried Ice Cream ($5.50), shelled in a cereal coconut-tinged batter, drizzled in honey. We added the Churros ($4.99), which represented the only plate I expected to arrive hot that arrived cold, or rather room-temp.

The quiet victory of Palacio Maya’s efforts during our meal was the prompt and friendly server, who kept our glasses full and meticulously cleared any unneeded tableware after each course. For those keen to offset the low temperatures outside with hot queso blanco dished in a variety of manners, chalk up Palacio Maya among your winter destinations. The margaritas are definitely enough to stick around for.

Palacio Maya
5125 Monroe St, Toledo, OH
(419) 841-9250
palaciomayatoledo.com

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