Roy Maya of Maya’s Mexican Grill has a penchant for quality food and he won’t settle for anything less — for himself or his customers.
Across from Heavenly Village at Stateline, Nev., Maya’s Mexican Grill offers a bright décor and a smattering of two-top and four-top tables in front of an ordering counter and salsa bar. Behind the counter is a small kitchen with a stovetop, prep areas, two tortilla presses and various other equipment.
“My mother used to say, ‘Before you order anything, ask to try the salsa. If the salsa’s good, then the food will be good.’ ”
— Roy Maya
In the corner of the kitchen, Roy’s sister Leticia Maya is standing in front of the small wooden tortilla press. She grabs a handful of dough, rolls it into a ball, stamps it into a perfect circle and puts it on the grill. She makes about 100 tortillas by hand per hour; when business gets busy, she uses a metal tortilla press that can flatten tortilla dough at a faster pace.
Robert Maya grew up in Mexico; his mother Isabel is of Mayan descent. Roy fondly remembers watching his mother make fresh tortillas to serve with every meal.
“I’m so lucky to have been able to experience that and grow up eating healthy, fresh food,” he says.
When Roy moved to South Lake Tahoe and opened his own restaurant in Meyers in 2009, it was only natural for him to want to make his own tortillas just like his mother did.
“This is how they made them back in the Mexico at the ranch,” he says.
He believes that making tortillas by hand adds a flavor to the delicately formed combination of flour and water.
However, Roy says that it’s not easy to find someone to make big batches of quality tortillas: “The consistency of the dough has to be right, otherwise the tortillas get hard. You want the tortillas to be soft in your mouth. It’s physical work, pressing 1,000 to 1,500 tortillas a day.”
Business was good at his restaurant in Meyers, but he always wanted to be closer to the action in South Lake Tahoe, so in 2013 the Maya family bought a food truck and parked it next to Tahoe Tom’s gas station near Stateline.
Roy says that managing a food truck is harder than a managing a restaurant, but fortunately, after nine months, the small space on 4041 Lake Tahoe Blvd. became available. He opened Maya’s Mexican Grill in early 2014.
Roy owns a construction company, as well, but admits that quality food is one of the most important things in his life, which is what made him want to open a restaurant.
“I have to have a good meal every time I go out to eat. The tortillas, for example, here they are all made to order. And the steaks, chicken, shrimp, fish, it’s all made fresh. We have pride from the food that we make,” he says, adding that his favorite dish is made with Angus beef, which they drive to Sacramento every week to get. “It’s top of the line, it’s a superior beef for our char broiler. That’s how important the flavor is for us. I could not in good conscience offer customers food that we are not happy with.”
Customers can also expect the salsa at Maya’s Mexican Grill to be delicious.
“My mother used to say, ‘Before you order anything, ask to try the salsa. If the salsa’s good, then the food will be good.’ I try the salsa in a new restaurant every time now and 80 percent of the time she’s right. If the salsa’s bad, I honestly don’t even stay. But if the salsa’s good, then it’s a clear indication that everything is going to be good.”
Roy also emphasizes the value of health and nutrition.
“We have to watch what we eat. Food is one of the most important things in life and we have to make sure that the food we put into our bodies is good. Our horchata is made from scratch, we don’t use any preservatives. Meat isn’t good for you, but it’s part of my culture so we offer the best quality. Our prices may be a little higher, but it’s because we take pride in our flavors,” he says.
Maya’s Mexican Grill is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays thought Sundays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. | (530) 578-0051, Facebook Maya’s Mexican Grill