Review: The Maya Grill
The Maya Grill is one of the hidden gems of Walt Disney World dining. You can find this restaurant at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, one of the moderate priced hotels on property near Disney’s Animal Kingdom that is a great secret in and of itself. Discovering the Maya Grill, as many locals in the know have, will make you feel as grand an explorer as the Spaniards who discovered the Mayans themselves.
You have to do a little searching to find the restaurant, as it is tucked back in the farthest corner of the main building. My guest and I went for dinner roughly 10 days before the Christmas holidays, a time when the crowds at Walt Disney World begin to pick up, yet the Maya Grill was only moderately full when we arrived for our 7:30pm reservation. We were seated right away, instantly relaxing to the live Mexican-inspired music and the warm-colored décor. Settling down at our table, we felt like we had found a tranquil courtyard space outside a Mayan temple.
When you open the menu, the left hand side is dedicated to a fun array of specialty margaritas and a choice of tequilas. Although my guest and I choose not to partake, I was sorely tempted to sample the Maya Grill Margarita Flight with its 5 uniquely flavored margarita shots. (I’ve made a mental note to return for it one day.) The Maya Grill also offers a wine selection, with 11 wines by the glass from California, Washington, Italy, Chili, and Argentina. Full bottles are available, with varietals including Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet, and more.
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We were getting hungry so we turned to the dining page. I tend to gravitate to the new and flavorful while my guest, who has food allergies to contend with, prefers tried and true tastes. It was easy enough to agree on the Tostadas de Tinga as an appetizer to share. While we waited for our order, we enjoyed a basket of delicious, warm whole-grain rolls with the house version of chimichurri spooned on our plates for dipping. Chimichurri is a South American condiment traditionally made from finely chopped parsley and oregano, minced garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. The Maya Grill adds lime and finely chopped green pepper to the mix which gives their chimichurri a mildly spicy taste. I tell you, it was hard not to fill up on the bread with this tasty, fresh dipping sauce tempting you to take another bite!
Soon enough our tostadas arrived—a full plate of three crispy tortillas topped with pulled chicken in a chipotle and roasted tomato sauce, fresh salsa verde, black beans, queso fresco (a crumbled cheese), avocado, and sour cream. This turned out to be my favorite dish of the night. The chicken was smoky-sweet from the chipotle-laced sauce, its mild barbeque-like preparation countered perfectly by the spicy salsa verde. These two flavors were rounded out by the slightly smashed black beans, the creamy cool avocado, and the dairy elements. I’m not one for barbecue flavors or pulled meat, but I really loved this dish and recommend it highly. In fact, I suggest ordering this or any other of the creative appetizers and skipping the Maya Grill’s soup and salad selections, which really can be found anywhere.
You’ll notice when sit down at the Maya Grill that there are no salt and pepper shakers. This is a sign of an accomplished chef in the kitchen who knows how to season and bring out natural flavors so nothing else is needed when the meal is served. When you taste your entrée, it becomes immediately clear that salt and pepper would do nothing but clutter the table. My guest ordered the Arrachera, a sirloin steak served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and the chef’s vegetable selection. She raved over the perfectly cooked meat which was simply seasoned with a light salt and black pepper rub. It was just as thick a cut and as tender as a filet. The mashed potatoes were creamy and the sautéed corn and caramelized onions made a nice side she felt. Her final words as she finished the last bite on her plate were that this was a “safe” entrée on the menu for those who don’t like Mexican flavors, but it does not disappoint in any way. She felt it would be perfect for the man in the group with a hearty appetite.
I tucked into to the Shrimp Tacos, a play on traditional fish tacos. Four soft flour tortillas were filled with crispy fried shrimp and shredded purple cabbage, and topped with chipotle lime aioli and salsa verde. A side of black beans and seasoned rice came with them. It was a fun, spicy, and filling dish with the shrimp making an indulgent change from fish. I found out from our server that the Maya Grill makes all the tortillas in-house and you can certainly taste the difference. The spice from the salsa verde does build up after a bit, so be sure to keep your beverage handy.
It’s always nice to end with dessert, so even though we were getting full, we ordered a sweet to share. Our server presented the dessert tray which had a choice of 5 dessert shots and two plated items. Although pretty, I was not impressed with the dessert shots because they showed no imagination. Key Lime, Chocolate Mousse, and Strawberry Cheesecake, while family-friendly favorites, have little to do with Latin food. Not being flan lovers, we choose the Toasted Almond Pear Tart served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. I wish we hadn’t bothered. The tart shell was hard and dry, with a shortbread-like texture that was nowhere near buttery or delicious. I questioned whether it was over-baked. The almond flavors came through more than the pear, and although the ice cream was high quality and the raspberry sauce was excellent, they couldn’t save the dish in my opinion. If I had to do it again, I would have ordered a flavored coffee and purchased a dessert outside the restaurant at the hotel’s counter service marketplace, Café Rix.
Food – Flavorful and perfectly seasoned with good-size portions. However, items are priced roughly $2 to $5 more than you’d expect.
Atmosphere – Warm earth tones with architectural elements and artwork that recall Mayan ruins. This is a comfortable, family-friendly restaurant, with noise levels kept in check by high ceilings. The night we were there all the diners appeared relaxed and not rushed.
Service – We had a wonderful, friendly server who was eager to make our evening a pleasant one. He took exceptional care of the allergy request of my dinner partner, answered all our questions about the restaurant, and didn’t mind at all that we lingered over the menu before placing our order.
Tips – Choose what is unique and skip what isn’t. Do like we did and skip the salad course in favor of enjoying an appetizer. Dessert isn’t a “must-do” here; the cake and pastry options looked more tasty at nearby Café Rix.
The DisDining Mama Says: This is a family restaurant that is upscale enough for mom and dad, yet welcoming and comfortable for kids. The children’s menu features chicken and sirloin tacos in addition to grilled cheese and chicken fingers.