An ambitious new Mexican restaurant makes its Energy Corridor debut this week. But will begin a smooth two-week opening with dinner service this Wednesday December 1st.
Located in the former Carmelo’s / BB Italia space at 14795 Memorial Dr., Maize will be led by chef-owner Fabian Saldana, a native of Mexico who spent three years at gourmet restaurant Mark’s American Kitchen and five years as executive chef. de Xochi, James Beard Award winning Hugo Ortega’s Oaxaca restaurant downtown.
Mark’s owner Mark Cox and Carmelo owner Carmelo Mauro consult on the project to help guide Saldana to a successful opening. Cox tells CultureMap the board has kept him engaged in the food scene since Mark’s closed in 2016, but this project is a little more personal.
“As a mentor, I went through this process where he wanted to have the opportunity to develop on his own,” Cox says. He later adds, “I helped with the details about the space and what is needed and how to get there. I have been by his side throughout this trip. We have been working on it since the beginning of May.
As the name suggests, Maize will focus on serving corn in a variety of ways. It begins with using a traditional nixtamalization process to create the masa used in a number of menu items.
A section of small plates built around corn (Masa Antojitos) includes carnitas flautas, a huarache topped with chorizo, and a tamal with homemade queso fresco. In addition, diners will find corn in the restaurant’s other dishes. For example, Maize will offer tuna tostada, tres leches corn and corn liquor drinks.
Other traditional techniques appear throughout the menu. As an example, Saldana cites the corn barbacoa, which includes beef steamed in agave leaves, and the catch of the day, which will accompany a Gulf fish with a corn-based segueza sauce. Another section of the menu will offer dishes made from different insects such as chapulines (grasshoppers), hormigas (ants) and gusano (worms). Likewise, the extensive cocktail menu uses a variety of Mexican spirits.
“The whole family cooks with the grandmother or the mother in Mexico,” Saldana said in a statement. “I watched my grandmother and my mother cook on a wood-fired oven, and I learned from the best there, just like I did here. We Mexicans have a beautiful country, a beautiful culture and a beautiful heritage. Sharing all of this with the Houstonians in new and exciting ways is such a blessing to me. “
While Saldana’s experiences suggest Maize will move towards a higher experience, Cox describes it as a neighborhood restaurant with affordable prices, generous happy hour, and a dog-friendly patio. In terms of price, a single main course, a quality 10-ounce rib eye, costs over $ 30. Likewise, all house cocktails are between $ 12 and $ 15.
With a substantial 8,000 square foot interior and a 1,400 square foot patio, Maize will accommodate 250 people indoors and 70 outdoors. Four private dining rooms and one semi-private room are also available.
The corn will work as a dinner only for two weeks. Weekday lunch service begins in December with weekend brunch to follow in the coming weeks.
“It’s a restaurant that had a long standing reputation with a lot of notoriety,” Cox said, referring to Carmelo’s 37 years in space. “The opportunity exists to do it again. “