Getting Corny

Ambitious new Mexican restaurant pops into familiar Energy Corridor space

Ambitious new Mexican restaurant pops into the Energy Corridor

Maize restaurant food spread
Maize will serve traditional Mexican fare. Photo by Becca Wright

An ambitious Mexican restaurant will open in the Energy Corridor this fall. Maize will soon debut in the former Carmelo's/B.B. Italia space at 14795 Memorial Dr.

Chef-owner Fabian Saldana brings extensive experience to his first solo restaurant. The Mexican native most recently served as executive chef at Hugo Ortega's acclaimed Oaxacan restaurant Xochi; prior to that, he worked at legendary Houston fine dining restaurant Mark's American Cuisine. He'll draw on those experiences as well as his heritage to create Maize's menu. 

As its name implies, dishes at Maize start with corn. Masa will be ground in-house and featured in dishes such as a the Huarache de Chorizo, a sandal-shaped masa cake topped with homemade chorizo, cotija cheese, and red tomato salsa. Saldana will employ traditional cooking methods to make barbacoa by steaming it in agave leaves.

The menu will also feature dishes made with insects, a familiar ingredient to anyone who's enjoyed grasshoppers at chef Ortega's restaurants. Overall, expect a mix of interior, coastal, and street food-inspired dishes. 

“From watching my grandmother and mother cook in a wood oven in Mexico, to the kitchens I found here in Houston, I have learned from the best,” Saldana said in a statement. “Mexico is a beautiful country, so big and unique. We have a beautiful culture and a beautiful heritage. I want to keep Mexican traditions alive, and I feel so blessed to be able to do that here in Houston.”

Similarly, drinks will cover a wide range of options from traditional Mexican beverages like Atole, a cornmeal drink that's sweetened with vanilla, cinnamon, or chocolate and Champurrado, a thick Mexican hot chocolate. The bar program will utilize agave spirits for its cocktails, while a 1,000-bottle wine cellar will provide oenophiles with plenty of choices.

To bring Maize to fruition, Saldana has partnered with his mentor chef Mark Cox and Carmelo's owner Carmelo Mauro. 

“Fabian is bringing all of his history to the table,” Cox said. “Being a great chef comes from within –– it’s something you can’t teach. Either you have the desire or you don’t, and Fabian has it. He has the dedication, passion, and understanding of food. Now is Fabian’s time.”

Julie McGarr of McGarr Design & Interiors is guiding the transformation of B.B. Italia into Maize. Design elements include an interior mural, a large, U-shaped bar, and "extra-comfortable chairs," according to a press release.

With a substantial 8,000-square-foot interior and a 1,400-square-foot patio, Maize will seat 250 people inside and 70 outside. Four private dining rooms will also be available.

“People are waiting for a high-end restaurant in West Houston where they can take their friends and entertain,” Mauro said. “Right now, we all have to drive inside the loop. I think the elegant, casual concept that’s being developed, with an emphasis on friendliness, service, great food, and beautiful presentation will make Maize the place to be. I am enjoying being a small part of it.”