Mayahuel was the reigning goddess over the Mayan and Aztecan people. One of her heavenly gifts was the sprinkling of her own celestial seed over the land which gave the world agave. This is the inspiration for an appropriately named bar and eatery in Normal Heights, Cantina Mayhuel.
My first thought, when this place opened nearly three years ago, was that this was some kind of head shop. The, now clearly, agave plant on the front door was mistaken for a cannabis leaf as I drove by. I finally caught wind of this tequila bar and have been trying to make it here ever since. They recently opened on Mondays, giving me a larger window where upon I could check it out. We were excited to see a good crowd in the interior and patio of the cozy place. We opted for the covered and heated patio and took our seats.
Mondays are great here. They have a trio of street tacos for $5.00, your choice of chicken, shrimp, beef or mahi mahi. We opted for the beef and shrimp, an order of guacamole and two Fortaleza margaritas, which were also only $5.00. These are delicious margaritas made with organic lime juice, agave syrup and spalsh of Gran Gala liqueur. And with a premium tequila, these are definitely a deal. The guacamole arrived with salsa fresca and chopped serrano peppers. The salsa and guac were obviously fresh, but they both lacked a bit of flavor. Perhaps some cilantro in the avocado would have perked it up a bit. The chilies were a plus to add to the tacos as well as the antojitos.
The tacos were savory and just the right size adorned with cabbage and a creamy, zesty sauce. The kitchen is an open grill right behind the bar and is probably a sight to see on a busy evening if you are in the main room. The patio has six tables and a spanish fountain. I saw several people huddled in the abundant mexican blankets, comfy like they’re bundled up for siesta. There is a cool bar out here that maybe gets used on a busy friday night, but tonight just seemed to be the smokers lounge. The service was quick and the food was tasty. We ordered a second round of the salty margs and settled to people watch a bit.
I looked around the bar on my way out and noticed some very cool art on the walls, some dried chilies hanging from the ceiling and I could not take my eyes off of the rustic, wood laden bar and back bar. These are some serious barstools, something like a one bedroom condo. I met owner and artist, Larry, and chatted for a bit. He told us that they have art openings every couple of months featuring mexican artists. The next one was going to be this coming weekend, featuring Zacatecan painter, David Silva. The current art was from Oaxaca. I looked longingly at the shelves of rare tequila. He has quite a collection, including one of my favorites, Clase Azul reposado, and a line of mezcals by Del Maguey, all protected by a statue of Mayahuel sprouting from one of her own agave plants.
One thing Larry talked about was their traditional mole recipe that takes three days to make and has thirty nine ingredients plus a double dose of love. Tuesday is the night for mole, for which I will have to make a reappearance and Saturday’s Yucatan seafood stew looks like a winner, too. Hanging across the room are paper cut outs of Dia De Los Muertos images. I honestly can feel the old world charm of a cantina in some dusty mexican town. It’s quite awesome what he has done to this place, and he built it all himself.
As for Mondays, perhaps a bit dissapointing, is that the rest of the menu is off limits. But honestly we didn’t feel we needed it. And that is the secret to their success. A simple menu of high quality food and wonderful tequilas place this spot on my heart map.
We left with a fond farewell and a tequila buzz. We made a promise to return with our closest amigos to enjoy some serious south-of-the-border charm without having to leave the comfort of our local 'hood.
- City: San Diego
- Phone: 619-283-6292
- Name: Cantina Mayahuel
- Address: 2934 Adams Avenue