Ever since opening in December 2012, Maïs has been an instant hit for foodies in Mile End. Their tacos are so delectable that they have amassed a cult-like following.
William Cody and Gilbert MacNutt, two inventive guys from the Maritimes, are the chefs behind the counter. Customers sit in the small dining space overlooking the kitchen as the chefs prepare their modern, Latin-inspired dishes.
“We’ve all worked in the industry for a while, so we know what works and what doesn’t,” MacNutt says. “We are cooking for cooks and people who really enjoy food.”
Maïs creates delicious food and accommodates all diners. Most tacos are gluten-free, and the menu boasts a healthy range of vegetarian and vegan options. One standout is unquestionably the mushroom taco—a mix of sautéed and fresh mushrooms stuffed into a warmed tortilla and topped with jalapeño salad, cilantro, and an incredible house-made spicy crema (Mexican crème fraîche).
I order their fish because—like true Maritimers—the chefs always impress with their seafood. They certainly know how to make delicious fish tacos; the pan-seared Artic char taco showcases my most-loved ingredients: homemade guacamole with pickled cabbage and carrots. Another fish option is the imaginative charred squid taco topped with jalapeño salsa, pickled red onion, and cilantro.
Don’t be misled; the chefs still love their meat. Most tables are adorned with a bowl of chicharrones. These bite-size chunks of deep fried pork skin are the perfect combination of crunchiness and saltiness, and are the most gluttonous indulgence. The braised pork belly taco is another meat-centric dish topped with pickled black beans, cilantro salad, chili slices, and crema. The textural contrast between the fillings and the soft tortilla shell is tantalizing. The carnitas taco offers another delightful selection, filled with a generous helping of tender, confit pork, onions, coriander, and salsa verde.
The owners take pride in the sustainable use of resources at their restaurant. All the restaurant’s furniture is made from recycled materials, like their tables and chairs, which are built from the wood of an old deck in Westmount.
There is also an undeniable creative vibe, as their staff is mostly made up of artists who have helped develop the decor. As MacNutt remarks, “The whole restaurant has been built by artisans.”
One of the more remarkable aspects of the restaurant is their rooftop garden, which supplies the chefs with fresh produce throughout the year—currently chili peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs. MacNutt and Cody claim that their passion for local produce comes from their upbringing in the Maritimes.
The chefs want diners to leave not only with a full belly but also with an excellent experience.
“We’ve really stripped [the experience] down [to] where it is not pretentious,” MacNutt says. “We want people to have fun, and we want to make people happy.”
Stop by at Maïs for a light and refreshing meal perfect for the warm weather and to supply some heat to this never-ending winter. Before you prepare your outing however, make sure to bring cash because the restaurant does not accept credit cards.
Tue. – Wed. 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Thu. – Sat. 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Closed on Sun. and Mon.