In a city that can’t gobble tacos down fast enough, Gabriela Ituarte and Ivan Wadgymar have chosen to do things a little differently. With Maizal Quesadilla Café, the focus is not on the ubiquitous taco, but on the comparatively overlooked quesadilla. The pair aims to showcase Mexico’s cheap ’n’ cheerful street food in a welcoming atmosphere at their Liberty Village café.
The duo became fast friends when working at ChocoSol where, in addition to their chocolate-related duties, they’d spin out tortillas for various farmers’ markets. Despite the taco frenzy that Toronto’s experiencing, Wadgymar tells us he thinks the Mexican scene is otherwise poor here. The friends dreamed of opening their own homey fast food joint, and though they’d originally pegged Kensington Market as the place to be, the west-end space, vacated by the short-lived (but well liked) Liberty Belle Bistro, was too great to refuse. With its terracotta bar, detailed tin ceiling and shaded front patio, the bones were already there; they added woven pillow accents, colourful baskets and a giant mythological mural by Jesus Mora.
The menu itself is short and sweet, and centred around the tortillas. Using an imported Nixtamex corn grinder, cooked maize is ground daily and then whipped into rounds, pressed and grilled to order. “The whole process takes about three minutes,” Wadgymar notes, “just like it does at the street stands in Mexico.” A Poblano pepper quesadilla ($5.50 for one, $8 for two) is filled with rajas, strips of the pepper mixed with onion and cream; other options include a Oaxaca cheese option ($4 for one, $7 for two), the spicy beef tinga version and chicken pibil (both $6.50 for one, $10 for two). All quesadilla orders come with black bean dip and a pico de gallo salad. They’re still awaiting their liquor license, but Maizal’s roster of non-alcoholic beverages includes horchata ($2), a blend of rice, milk, cane sugar and cinnamon that’s almost reminiscent of rice pudding. And for those not quite up to speed on the intricacies of tortilla production, Wadgymar is more than happy to walk them through the field-to-comal diagram they have set up.