Food

Wood-Fired Mexican Restaurant Maïz64 Opens on 14th Street With a Taco Tasting Counter

Oaxacan chef Alam Méndez Florián helms the stylish, mod-Mex dining room and mezcal bar.

Veggie Tostada at Maiz 64. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

Many restaurants with numerical names nod to their addresses. Not so at Maïz64, a bi-level modern Mexican restaurant and mezcal lounge that opens today in Logan Circle. Here, “64” signifies the varieties of corn available in Mexico.

“To us in Mexico, corn is the ingredient that makes us—we’re made by masa,” says chef Alam Méndez Florián, a native of Oaxaca who’s also a chef/partner at Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City and formerly helmed Urbano 116 in Alexandria. “We want to represent that and bring Mexican traditions and flavors to DC using the best ingredients we can find in the area.”

Chef Alam Méndez Florián. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

Not all 64 varieties are available to the team of Mexican natives, which includes partner Ricardo Fux, Mexico City-based mixologist Arturo Rojas, and pastry chef Elisa Reyna. But masa will be central to the earth-toned, bi-level restaurant and mezcal bar (formerly B Too). The kitchen sources indigenous and regional varieties of corn through importers like Masienda—heirloom pink bolita beletove and yellow bolita corn from Oaxaca, blue chalqueño corn from Tlaxcala, local Mid-Atlantic corn, and many more will make an appearance. The kitchen grinds masa for fresh tortillas that accompany tacos and wood-roasted meats and fish, or tostadas stacked with toppings like tuna, avocado, ginger, and salsa macha.

Roasted duck with mole. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

You’ll have to wait a few weeks for Maïz64’s crème de la corn experience: El Comal, a seven-course menu of antojitos (street snacks) where a variety of masa-based items—tortillas, tetelas, tostadas, and more—are made to-order on a large, wood-fueled griddle that sits in the center of the dining space. The interactive experience will highlight seasonal dishes like kampachi tostadas with apple puree and tomatillo relish, tacos stuffed with marinated octopus or grilled ribeye steak, and huitlacoche quesadillas.

A comal tasting menu of antojitos (street snacks) launches soon. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

In the meantime, Méndez Florián is focusing on an a la carte dinner menu that marries traditional Mexican flavors and techniques with local ingredients. “Every time I start a new project I focus on Oaxacan flavors,” he says. Look for dishes such as a charred broccoli taco with black mole and cashews, esquites (street corn salad) made with heirloom Mexican corn cooked epazote broth, or roasted duck breast with manchamanteles mole (a ruddy brew with chilies, fruits, and nuts), green apple puree, and plantain chips. The menu is fairly broad in terms of flavors and experience; diners can splurge on lobster with mussel tamales atop a lobster-epazote bisque, or snack or guacamole and suckling pig tacos at the bar.

Cocktails take on Mexican flavors, and there’s an impressive list of mezcals. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

A glass case of Mexican wines greets diners, though don’t ignore the extensive collection of mezcals behind the bar. Arturo Rojas, a bar consultant and author of Cocteles Mexicanos, curated cocktails with Mexican flavors and traditions like a blanco tequila margarita infused with bougainvillea flowers or a riff on horchata with tequila, coconut cream, citrus, cinnamon, and blended amaranto (amaranth) grains. Once the restaurant is up and running in a few weeks, drinkers can head to a subterranean lounge below the dining room for mezcal tastings and more cocktails.

Maïz64 1324 14th St., NW. Open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch to follow. 

Wood-grilled octopus al pastor. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.