According to the Popul Vuh, the sacred book that recounts the Maya creation myth, the gods formed the first humans from yellow and white maize. In Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcóatl turned into a black ant in order to pass through the mountains, returning with a grain of corn to be planted. Thanks to the cultivation of corn, life changed forever and our ancestors’ civilization flourished.
Pancho Maiz caught my attention from the first time I heard the name. Soon after, I headed to the corner of 46 and 59 in La Mejorada where this casual, rustic, and super authentic eatery is located. Seated facing the busy traditional kitchen, I watched how the antojitos mexicanos are made and could appreciate the importance of a particular ingredient that makes this foodie experience all the more worthwhile: maíz criollo.
From Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Pancho Maiz servessopes, tlacoyos, enchiladas, enmoladas, tostadas, and other delicious traditional dishes that are authentic masterpieces. It’s no exaggeration: just try the molotes (mashed plátano macho filled with a special cheese from Tabasco, topped with a delicious mole) or the chilaquiles—the best version I’ve had so far in Mérida—with free-range chicken and egg, queso and crema de rancho, and a flavorful, tangy tomatillo sauce. The sopes are also delicious; a thick handmade tortilla with black beans and the topping of your choice: chicken, chicharrón prensado, or vegetables.
To drink, I tried the traditional pinole made with corn, cinnamon, and toasted cacao. Don’t miss an opportunity to try a sophisticated, delicious native beverage.
I quickly realized this was not just another Mexican food restaurant. There is a deep context to Pancho Maiz, and a clear manifesto: The recovery, dissemination, and transformation of maize and native products from the Yucatán Peninsula. All the processes at Pancho Maiz are carefully curated, from the selection of organic, pesticide-free corn from small Yucatecan family farms, to its preparation using the ancient traditional technique of nixtamalization. This process is time- and labor-intensive, but is key in creating the best flavor and preserving and optimizing the nutritional properties of the corn.
Pancho Maiz also sells tortillas, ranch eggs, cheese, honey, and other local products sourced from local producers.
A meal at Pancho Maiz proves the point that non-industrial, local food always tastes better. These are dishes Mexicans hold close to their hearts, and the reason we are known as los hijos del maíz.