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I Stand All A-Maize-d 

Maize Tacos makes us remember why we fell in love with tacos in the first place.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

There comes a time in every food enthusiast's life when they need to reevaluate how much burrito they can handle. In my younger days, for example, I could power a five-dollar texano burrito from whichever drive-through Mexican joint that happened to be in my vicinity without getting wrecked. Lately, this hasn't been the case, however. I've seriously been considering phasing gigantic burritos out of my diet completely—a sad thought to contemplate, truth be told.

It was while wrestling with this culinary crisis that I decided to visit Maize Tacos (multiple locations, maizetacos.com) for a bit of street taco therapy. In addition to their excellent menu of tacos, their fresh take on traditional Mexican food has spared me from a burrito-less existence.

Maize Tacos started to gain notoriety via its food truck that became known for its tacos al pastor, which are the all-stars of the street taco universe. As the name implies, Maize takes its corn tortillas seriously. They are almost fluffy in their consistency, but that lovely texture doesn't come at the cost of structural integrity. The street tacos at Maize are delightfully overstuffed, requiring a bit of forethought from the diner before diving in. Tantalizing as the interiors are, it's the tortillas that will keep me coming back. If they aren't perfect tortillas, they'll do the trick until perfection is achieved.

The foundation of Maize's taco menu has to be the al pastor ($3.50). It's been a restaurant favorite since Maize began, and it's clear that they have refined this award-winning recipe over the years. It starts with a heap of tender pork that has been coaxed to the point of roasted perfection on a traditional vertical grill. From there, it gets a sprinkle of cilantro, onion and fresh pineapple. There's a reason that tacos al pastor reign supreme in the taco world—there's a harmonious balance between sweet and savory with a bit of herbaceous sharpness from the onion and cilantro—but Maize is on a completely new level here. It's rare that a bite of food makes me weak in the knees, but that's the power of these tacos al pastor.

Still reeling from the al pastor experience, I took a moment to compose myself and try out the carnitas ($3.50) taco. I figured all of Maize's efforts went into making that al pastor as near-perfection as possible, but I was once again floored by my bite of carnitas. It's topped with this golf-ball sized dollop of fresh guacamole that strikes a fantastic balance with the savory pork carnitas. Again, I was unprepared for the flavor combo that danced across my tastebuds.

At this point, I was a bit taken aback at how good this food was. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep reverence for tacos of all shapes, sizes and quality levels. But the tacos at Maize taste far better than they have any right to. Even the tinga de pollo ($3.50), a taco with chipotle-braised, shredded chicken, exceeded my expectations. Chicken tacos are often less impressive than those made with pork or steak, but Maize continues to demonstrate an uncanny mastery of flavors here.

Though Maize could serve only tacos and be just fine, their additional offerings of nachos and burritos are more than welcome. I tried their surf-and-turf super nachos ($15), piled high with black beans, rice, a chipotle cream, steak and shrimp. The foundational elements of these nachos—like the homemade tortilla chips and the fluffy seasoned rice—are spot on enough for the bells and whistles to really make an impression. This is as fine a plate of nachos as you can get, though I did think the addition of shredded lettuce wasn't necessary; all those leafy greens tend to get in the way of the good stuff.

On the burrito front, Maize has a few different options to offer. I liked the surf-and-turf nachos, and the surf-and-turf burrito ($14) just takes that whole experience and wraps it up in a toasted flour tortilla. The same can be said of the pastor burrito ($10.95) and the carnitas burrito ($10.95)—they pack the same flavors as their taco cousins, but deliver said flavors in much larger quantities. Trying out the different burrito options made me realize that I don't have to completely cut giant burritos out of my diet. The quality of ingredients and balance of flavors are perfect for those of us whose palates have evolved over the years.

For those eager to experience what I am talking about, Maize has a downtown location on Regent Street (135 S. Regent Street, Ste. G) and a newer location in Draper (272 E. 12300 South, Ste. 100), making it easy to get your taco on wherever you are. If you, like the late food writer Jonathan Gold, believe that "taco" should be a verb, then it's time to check out the overfilled tacos and satisfying burritos at Maize Tacos.

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