Maize has a long-storied history in the C-U area. When they first opened their modest location on Green Street, the buzz was palpable. I remember hearing so many great things about their food, yet it took me a while to finally get there and try their great food. Since then, they have added a food truck and will add a location in the Illini Student Union in the old Qdoba Grill location. They also have a wonderful location in the old train station on Chestnut Street. My wife and I joined some friends who are huge Maize fans for some dinner at Maize at The Station. I love going with regulars to their favorite spots, so I can get schooled on what to order.
Their familiarity paid off handsomely early in the evening. Our wonderful server Juan informed us we had three minutes to get half off appetizers (Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m.). Look, I take ten minutes in the produce section to pick out the perfect avocado, so no way I’m making a decision on an appetizer under 180 seconds. I deferred to our friends who ordered queso fundido ($13, but $6.50 for us!)
This is baked white cheese in a skillet (I’m already sold), with a choice of meat or vegetables served with in-house corn tortillas. They chose carne asada, and they chose wisely! The appetizer is truly unique and wonderful. I enjoyed trying the melted goodness and steak on it’s own, and piling it on the tasty tortillas. There was plenty for all four of us to enjoy.
We also enjoyed their chips and salsa (first basket complementary). The chips were hot, fresh, and seasoned well. It came with two salsas: one hot and one mild. As with many of Maize’s food, the salsas were not only great tasting but wonderfully unique. The depth of flavor put most salsas to shame. Should you choose to try more options, you can order an unlimited chips and salsa flight ($4) that includes salsa verde, avocado salsa, chile morita, salsa tomatillo, and molcajete — which seems like a good value.
My wife ordered a chicken taco ($4.50) Mexica style (grilled cheese, onion cilantro for $0.50) and a side of black beans ($4.50). The first thing that stood out was how generous in size this taco was, but the best part was that the filling was generous as well. We’ve all ordered tacos where there was so little filling, the tortilla was the dominant flavor, not good. All the ingredients complemented each other and made for a wonderful taco. The black beans were outstanding: cooked tender, but still had texture with a ton of flavor packed in.
My friend had the Maize enchilada entrée ($14 for cheese, adding protein is an extra charge). This was three handmade corn tortillas filled with cheese, served with rice and beans and covered with your choice of salsa verde, roja, mole, or poblana. All entrees were served with rice and beans, but my savvy friend went off book and told Juan to hold the beans and give him double rice! Got to love a restaurant that gives the customer what they want. The enchiladas were wonderful and came with generous amounts of cheese and sauce, and the rice had great flavor.
I had the taco dinner ($14, Mexica style +$0.45 per taco). I chose el pastor and chorizo tacos. You can also substitute shrimp, chicharron, ribeye, pescado, or zucchini blossoms for an additional charge. As with everything we enjoyed, the tacos were generously stuffed with amazing flavor. The chorizo had a great flavor with the perfect amount of heat. The al pastor was tender and expertly cooked. The in-house made tortillas made such a huge difference versus ones from a wholesaler.
Another great thing about Maize’s tacos is that there are so many options, and diners can build tacos specifically to their tastes.
It’s no coincidence Maize keeps growing from their humble beginnings. They are wonderfully unique. They have menu items you cannot find anywhere else, and the dishes are prepared so well it sets them apart from other Mexican restaurants in the C-U area. Their servers are knowledgeable, friendly, and know how to make you feel welcome and valued as their guest. If you want to up your Mexican food experience, I urge you to give them a try — and get there Monday through Friday between 4 and 6 p.m. to score some half priced appetizers.
Read the full menu here.
Maize at The Station
100 N Chestnut St
M-F 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch)