Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Falafel plate, $8.99
Location: Maya's Modern Mediterranean in Casa Linda Plaza
Maya's is a fast-casual restaurant serving Middle Eastern food that opened in October in East Dallas' Casa Linda Plaza, in the former Alligator Cafe space.
The restaurant comes from Russell Birk, who worked for the Cozymel's chain as well as Woodlands Grill at Preston-Forest.
Birk is invariably at the restaurant himself, taking orders and working the register. The restaurant has very much of an independently-owned vibe, with all the quirks and occasional delays that implies. But he and his staff are helpful and sincere, and that goes a long way.
The menu features six protein-type items — beef, chicken, chicken strips, honey chicken, falafel, and grilled eggplant — which you can order three ways:
- as a pita sandwich with salad and fries
- in a bowl over rice or salad
- as an entree-style plate with choice of two sides
They also have hummus, eggplant dip, a spicy harissa chicken soup, plus beer and wine.
One cool thing they do with their falafel and fries is that they are "air-baked" instead of fried. Air fryers let you get a crunchy crust without the unhealthy side effects of deep frying. They're popular with home appliance collectors and special-interest foodies, like healthy people and vegans.
Maya's French fries looked exactly like McDonald's: same size, same pale golden color. Some were crisp, while some were soft and moist. For me, this was a big plus. I don't need all my fries to be crisp, and you could really taste the potato. Would order again.
We got a falafel plate with fries and a crunchy-moist Brussels "slaw" with sesame dressing. Their only other sides are a side salad and rice.
The falafel plate was generous, with five falafel patties, the two sides, half a pita, tahini sauce, and your choice of another sauce such as jalapeno ranch.
The falafel patties were excellent, with a slight crunch to the exterior and a moist center consisting of roughly pureed chickpeas, parsley, and seasoning. Sometimes deep-frying turns falafel into crispy critters; air-frying seemed to bring out the best.
These were also oval in shape, resulting in a more uniform doneness and approachability, vs golf-ball shapes that are more of a challenge to eat.
The other dish we ordered was eggplant bowl over turmeric rice. Everything about it was competently executed, and yet it felt something was missing.
Three thick unpeeled slices of eggplant were cooked until just soft, with bold grill marks that added visual appeal. Some might find the peel a bit rustic, but I liked what it signaled: that fresh eggplant had been prepared on site.
The rice was flavorful from the turmeric and small bits of caramelized onion mixed in. It also had a nice tomato-cucumber-bell pepper salad, lightly dressed and very fresh.
The dish just needed something else. Something green. Spinach? Something besides rice and eggplant.
That said, this dish was only $6.99, and as a mix-and-match for two people, the eggplant and falafel were a pretty good pair.
The total bill was $21.58; that included a tip but no drinks. While they do use actual plates and flatware, all beverages are in plastic cups. Recyclable plastic cups, so that's good. But most customers mindlessly added the plastic lid and a straw, even if they were eating on site. People, wake up.