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She never did, though she did make the poor kid endure the grisly story about how she discovered she was allergic to guacamole, a tale that should never be repeated at a dinner table, particularly while another server -- "Guacamole Joey," in this case -- is making a showy display of mixing avocado, pico de gallo, orange juice, lime juice and a splash of tequila in a molcajete. At less than five bucks, this hefty portion of custom-made guac is a fabulous deal. Diane, however, seemed stunned that sour cream wasn't an ingredient.
"It only has sour cream in it if it's something called guacamole dip," I informed her. "It's a Ladies Home Journal recipe."
"Some of us prefer Mexican-American cuisine," she said icily. She proceeded to order chicken enchiladas rather than one of chef Rodney Clodfelter's specialties. Ned and I decided to be more adventurous and ignore the traditional tacos, fajitas and burritos on the right side of the menu. Instead, we opted for Clodfelter's dinner entrées. Ned ordered and then raved about his lightly battered chile rellenos; the tender poblanos were stuffed with bits of shrimp, scallops and snapper in a mild almond cream sauce.
I snagged a couple of bites -- the dish was indeed delicioso. So was Clodfelter's south-of-the-border version of the otherwise continental chicken cordon bleu, a grilled breast bursting with bubbly queso sauce and bits of salty ham and draped in a poblano cream sauce. I practically inhaled that juicy breast and the accompanying wild rice cooked with peppers, corn and black beans.
On my next visit, with Bob, Jeannie and John in tow, I suggested we each order one of the house specialties, which meant that Bob, the dolor en el asno in any group, immediately ordered a beef-and-bean burrito. It's what he wanted, damn it, and it tasted great. The sophisticates among us got fancier grub. Jeannie nibbled on a plump pink fillet of salmon, which Clodfelter had lightly grilled, then brushed with a sweet, orange glaze and baked inside a fresh banana leaf. I was grateful that John shared a bit of his puerco con chorizo, slices of moist pork loin rolled around spicy chorizo and served with a topaz-colored mound of mashed sweet potatoes drizzled with a punchy ancho mole.
My own dinner was Maya's carne asada, a thin and surprisingly tender slice of marinated rib eye with wedges of buttery avocado and warm flour tortillas. It's the only dish named for the restaurant's imaginary namesake, who isn't a real person at all -- Lisa Alvarez just liked the sound of the word Mayan. Customers tend to ask the servers whether Lisa or Kelly Alvarez-Clodfelter is the mysterious Maya. "Kelly gets picked out as Maya a lot more than I do," Lisa says.
Will the real Maya please stand up? Her signature dish, the carne asada, is a light, uncomplicated meal, but leave it to me to sabotage a potentially low-carbohydrate supper by overindulging on chips, guacamole and an order of the lusciously spicy appetizer of camarones -- shrimp sautéed in dried chiles and toasted garlic.
The idea of eating dessert on top of everything else caused my stomach to rumble, so I played demure until the arrival of the supple, silken flans that Jeannie and John had ordered. "Are you sure you don't want a bite?" Jeannie asked. She scooped up a spoonful of amber-colored caramel sauce and waved it in front of my nose.