Mexican food is probably the cuisine I admire most, and I’ve written about it fairly extensively.

One of my all-time favorite Mexican meals is cochinita pibil. A centuries old dish with roots in Mayan civilization, this preparation of pork is slow cooked in banana leaves and served with black beans (common to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula) alongside red onions pickled in vinegar.  On the side you can get a bowl  of incendiary habanero sauce, probably the spiciest item on this restaurant’s menu. Maya del Sol does a fine cochinita pibil, a Native American culinary masterpiece.

I have huge admiration for chef Rubin Beltran, a graduate of the School of Rick (Bayless) who learned his craft well before he began developing his own Nuevo Latino menu at Maya del Sol. He has inherited Bayless’ spirit of culinary adventurousness, and his dishes reflect a drive to experiment with new ways of presenting traditional foods.

It’s with no disrespect for the incredible range of Nuevo Latino creations in Maya del So, or chef Beltran’s  expertise in the kitchen, that I declare my most recent “best bite” at this restaurant to be the Ultimate Kobe Beef Cheeseburger.  No previously frozen hockey puck of meat, this hamburger was hand-shaped fresh and done perfectly juicy, red on the inside but  not raw. The meat was packed somewhat loosely, with a lush mouthfeel and a bit of caramelized crust where meat met heat.

Maya del Sol has a “risk-free” policy so that if village gringos order something too spicy or exotic, they can return it, no charge, which is a quite considerate (and I’m guessing rarely used) policy. That said, if you’re a heat seeker, I’d recommend doubling down on the smoky chipotle mayo, or you might consider getting some of the previously mentioned habanero sauce on the side, to perk up this cheeseburger.

Despite the fact that I really liked this Ultimate Kobe Beef Cheeseburger, I must admit to having a big But: the name is misleading. Kobe is a very expensive cut of beef (going for upwards of $400/lb; no kidding); it’s harvested only in Japan. Since April of 2010, it’s been forbidden to bring Kobe beef into the United States.  It’s likely this beef is Wagyu, which is the same breed as Kobe, but it’s not the same.

Still, the Ultimate Kobe Beef Cheeseburger is my best bite at Maya del Sol, though there’s a lot of other fine stuff on Beltran’s menu. If you’ve never been to this restaurant, you’re missing one of the tastiest and most adventurous dining experiences in the village.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...