If you’ve been coerced by friends or family into a trip to “be a tourist in your own city,” Pike Place is an obvious stop. Odds are that you'll all end up at a seafood restaurant, but if you don’t want your lunch to have come from the ocean, Maíz should be your first choice.
This tortilleria serves homemade nixtamal tortillas that are so good we plan to consume them regularly until robots replace us all. They have a bunch of stupendous Mexican dishes with their freshly-ground corn masa at the forefront, from cheesy tamales and quesadillas to tacos. They even make delicious tortilla chips, and they’re so crunchy that you could probably use them to communicate with The International Space Station.
However, if you suffer from menu indecision, you might have a hard time choosing what to order. And while there are a ton of items involving the tortillas themselves, go for sopes first. They're puffy and moist, stand up to the various braised meat toppings, and get lightened up by tangy crema and pickled red onion. We know this might be hard to hear, but don't get distracted by melted cheese at Maíz. To really let those fresh tortillas shine, stick with tacos over quesadillas, and skip the tamale if it's your first visit.
The market is a jackpot of shellfish, salmon, and halibut. If you want those things, you're in the right place. But Maíz makes Pike Place an area where the Mexican food is finally just as exciting as a bread bowl full of clam chowder.
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Maíz's finest contributions to society are their sopes, a.k.a. fluffy corn sponges that soak up braising liquid from the flavorful stewed meats that hang out on top. Crema, creamy refried beans, cotija, and tart pickled red onion round it all out. A must-order.
If you want to experience the purity of the nixtamal tortillas here, tacos are the best way to do that—they're only filled with meat, some cilantro, pickled onion, and crunchy radish slices. Note that the selection of meat and vegetarian fillings here change every day, but some of our favorites are chorizo con papas, chicken tinga, and beef picadillo.
Same deal as the tacos, only with the addition of molten cheese. Certainly order them if cheese calls to you, but we find that it gets in the way of what this place is really about: the tortillas. Get some tacos instead.
These thick shards of fried tortilla will not snap in half mid-dip, so grab a to-go container if you have a date with some guacamole. And judging by how immensely crunchy these things are, they also double as noise-cancelling headphones.
The chilaquiles are a great way to have the tortilla chips be your centerpiece to a meal. They're soaked in just enough of the tangy orange salsa to preserve the crunch, and it all comes topped with your choice of meat. You'll just want to eat this pretty soon after you order it to avoid sogginess.