Maya (Next Door)

Maya Next Door

The burrito is dead.

It’s okay; it has had its moment. It’s time we all came to terms with its passing. Gone are the classic San Francisco cylinders, filed with everything delicious. Oh, they still exist, but only as a shadow of what they used to be. Sure, places like Taqueria San Francisco and El Metate have shown spark and promise, but consistency has been an issue and that primal satisfaction of tearing into a burrito is just not there. While it was once hard to get a bad burrito, it is now harder to find one that is good. The magic is gone.

All is not lost, as there seems to be a new burrito style in town, but it sure ain’t the same.

Maya Restaurant in SOMA offers sit-down style eating or burrito joint quickness via Maya (Next Door). Basically, the “next door” aspect is just a few cocktail tables and the convenience of ordering at the bar. After many months of Forest telling me it was “the best overpriced Caucasian burrito in San Francisco”, well, I just had to try it. After looking over the digital menu–housed in a HDTV–I chose a carne asada burrito, and Forest ordered a grilled chicken. They were out of pinto beans for some unfathomable reason, but they did have Gouda cheese; avocado was extra. I was not expecting much as I handed over my $8.11.

Eh, it's food.

It was good, but a burrito it was not. I’m not sure if this is Caucasian or not, but I could swear I was tasting eggs in there somehow. I couldn’t find any, so I concluded it was the Gouda giving the thing its odd flavor. The meat was good, but of course there wasn’t enough of it. Forest took a few bites and immediately informed me that they must have been having an off day—it usually tasted more “buttery, like a grilled cheese”. It was exactly the description I was looking for. It was buttery, and reminiscent of a good grilled cheese (with eggs). It’s hard to imagine that on a “good day” it tasted even more so.

I had the choice of mild, medium or hot sauce, and the hot that I choose was flavorful, but clearly not hot. It is worth noting that essentials like a side of hot sauce were not included in the bag, and nowhere to be found on the counter. The chips were housemade, but there were literally like five of ‘em greasing up the bottom of the brown paper bag. The size was on the smaller side, but still in fair territory.

Maya is clearly a lunch option for what passes as working class in San Francisco. It’s the lack of substance overall that turned me off to this burrito; not bad, but certainly not worth seeking out. From the vague, uninspired décor, to the absence of hot sauce (or napkins, or salt…) I never felt the welcoming glow that is imperative for a restaurant to impart. Granted, burritos ordered from the bar are meant to be eaten on the sunny plaza outside, but if that burrito might as well have been made from white bread and fancy cheese, then the lineage of the San Francisco burrito exists only in name.

Long live the burrito.

(P.S. El Farolito on Mission at 24th is still kicking out real burritos—at least for now.)