Sure, you may go to Maya's in Blue Ash using the ruse of lunch or dinner, but you're not fooling anyone. Granted, the variety of healthy choices, the unique European dishes and reasonable prices are sufficient reasons to select this spot for a quick lunch or convenient place to enjoy dinner, but we both know why you're really here. And it ain't the light menu, baby.
One step inside Maya's and the jig is up. Nestled under glass are rows and layers of luscious homemade pastries, tortes and Danishes to make your head spin. Home-baked pies, cakes (one even called the Chocolate Bomb), eclairs, cookies and strudel are the real reason you're here, but not the only reason you'll come back.
Started by former Westin Hotel Pastry Chef Gerd Buckheim, Maya's features Buckheim's own homemade desserts, pastries and tortes. Son Jay added recipes to include tasty, fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner selections.
We used dinner as a cover one recent weekday evening to visit Maya's. Unlike the hectic and crowded lunch scene during the week, the evening crowd consisted of a few families and couples scattered about the bright dinning room.
Like the lighter lunch menu, the dinner selection offers a variety of crisp salads and homemade soups. We liked the vegetarian vegetable soup (cup $2; bowl $2.50; huge bowl $4.25) with loads of chunky vegetables in a tomato broth.
Choosing an entrée was more difficult because of the wide variety of pastas, grilled chicken and fish dishes, and European specialties such as Brisket Edith ($7.95) and El Boliviano ($7.95), touted as a "tasty tour of Bolivia," including salteñas (a spicy mixture of vegetables, ground beef and turkey, raisins and eggs baked in pastry dough) with halpa waika (a hot and spicy Bolivian salsa) and arroz graneado (sautéed rice with tomatoes, peppers and spices.)
I struggled to choose between the Butternut Squash Ravioli ($8.50) and the Rosemary & Chicken Ravioli ($8.75), taking the latter at our server's recommendation. The rich ricotta and chicken filled pasta was topped with a fresh, flavorful marinara sauce, although a fresh pesto or alfredo is also available. My husband's choice was that evening's special, an Aussie Steak ($8.95), a thick filet topped with a creamy mushroom sauce that, although over-cooked, was still delicious. Our guest's Chicken Baton Rouge ($9.25) was a tasty Cajun grilled boneless chicken breast, topped with seasoned black beans.
The separate breakfast and lunch (8 a.m.-3 p.m.) menu features tempting smothered croissants, such as the Marie Louise ($5.50), a split croissant smothered with scrambled egg, smoked turkey and cheddar cheese, and the Acadian croissant ($6), split and smothered with egg, mushrooms, sausage, green peppers, onions and a dash of Cajun spice. Other breakfast ideas include a variety of omelets ($4.90-$6.40), waffles ($5-$5.50), amigos (pancakes, $5) and Whoops toast (French toast; $2.40-$5). Lunches also feature stuffed potatoes filled with vegetables, cheese and other toppers ($4.25-$5.25) and pan illustrado ("illustrated bread"), several sandwiches served open-faced on whole grain German rye bread ($6.30-$7.25).
We topped off our meal with hot coffee and an Apple Slice ($2.85), sliced golden apples wrapped in paper-thin cookie dough and topped with sinful cinnamon ice cream. That alone was worth the trip. Imagine my glee when I learned how easy it is to have one of these delivered to my door using Maya's shipping services. In fact, orders can be taken via Maya's Internet site (www.mayas.com) and shipped just about anywhere.
Maya's is a terrific example of a Cincinnati favorite: A place that combines European heritage and Old World flavor with '90s convenience and neighborhood appeal. Just don't kid yourself. Come prepared to eat dessert first.
Go: 9749 Kenwood Rd. Blue Ash
Call: 791-5005; (Info/Soup Line) 791-2344
Hours: Breakfast/Lunch, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner Tuesday-Saturday 5-8:45 p.m.
Prices: All credit cards accepted.
Vegetarian Friendliness: Oodles. In addition to pastas and salads, many dishes can be made without meat upon request. And then there's those desserts.