Maizal Quesadilla Cafe
Maizal Quesadilla Café, is the newest addition to Liberty Village, bringing the neighbourhood a refreshing dose of Mexican flavour just in time for summer. The address on Jefferson, south of King, had me expecting a no-frills storefront – instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a tasteful eatery heralded by a beautiful shade-covered patio.
Inside, the café is awash with colour – a vibrant, jewel-toned space decorated with ornate moldings, terracotta accents, embroidered folk art and a shiny pressed tin ceiling. Overall, the space is charming and inviting.
For owners Gabriela Ituarte and Ivan Wadgymar this is more than just a restaurant. Blackboard menus and murals illustrate traditional Nixtamal techniques for grinding corn and pay tribute to Mexican ancestors. Emboldened by time spent at Chocosol, Gabriela and Ivan attribute their experiences there with instilling a passion and emphasis on "community, social enterprise, and traditional methods."
The menu is small--about a dozen dishes--and the focus is on Mexican quesadillaria styled street food made using traditional techniques. Everything is made from scratch – the corn tortillas begin as Kawartha CSA corn that is cooked, hand-ground, and pressed into tortillas. The often overlooked flavour of corn shines and I am surprised when even the Guacamole ($6) is outdone by what are really tasty chips.
Our first quesadilla, The Beef Tinga ($6 or 2 for $10) arrives filled with tender beef and gooey Qaxacan cheese. These are not your run-of-the-mill, barroom quesadillas.
The corn tortilla is unlike any I've had before – I am mainly accustomed to the cardboard-like, stale variety and for this reason, I typically lean towards flour tortillas. Ivan tells me later that I'm not alone; even in Mexico, corn tortillas are no longer in favour, shunned because flour tortillas are easier to make and have a longer shelf life. Here, they are made fresh daily and are soft, warm and almost naan-like.
The Spinach Fresco ($6 or 2 for $10) hardly disappoints. The spinach and soft cheese filling are a great flavour combination and make for a balanced meatless meal. My only regret is not getting two.
The Tlacoyo ($7), a bean-filled tortilla, is topped with salsa verde and salsa picante. Like everything on the menu, it comes with a pico de gallo salad and velvety purple, whipped beans.
The café is awaiting its liquor license before launching into full hours, but for now, you can pop in for a bite between 11 am and 7 pm on weekdays and from 10am to 2pm on weekends. Once the permit arrives, we can all look forward to tequila, sangria or Micheladas – a Mexican Caesar made with beer, salsa, lime and salt.
This is the food that I want to eat all summer long. With inexpensive price points and a casual atmosphere, I'm already looking forward to no-fuss afternoons on the patio with good friends and a cold Cerveza.
Photos by Morris Lum