Rockin’ Mex at Maverick Rock

Anyone who desires to open a new restaurant, including seasoned professionals, can appreciate the need to have unique qualities. The age-old question still holds true: Why should I spend my valuable time and hard-earned money at your establishment?

The creative team behind Maverick Rock Taco has combined two themes – Mexican-motivated fare and American rock n’ roll. And the place does rock. This clash concept, straddling both sides of the border, is located on Montford Drive just off of Park Road.

The atmosphere at Maverick is very visually inviting. The main dining room walls are chock full with spectacular murals of legendary rock stars, each one hand air-brush painted. The inviting bar and additional seating are surrounded by rustic brick walls and colored lights above, along with the very fitting, hanging electric guitar. There’s as much rock as there is taco to this eatery. You don’t have to be a fan of the 60s and 70s to appreciate the place; however, it will whisk you back in time if you let it.  Throw on some old jeans and a hip shirt… OK, if it’s a work day, at least loosen the tie.

Just as they have accomplished an appealing look, Maverick’s menu has enticing offerings that are Mexican inspired, with a twist. There’s just enough choice to easily return several times and try something different; and allow the kitchen to maintain consistency. The menu changes, the current one being the Fall/Winter 2012 edition. Snacks & Apps include Chili-Lime-Tequila Wings, Corn Crusted Calamari, Oven-baked Nachos, along with Quesadillas; and Ceviche that combines Mako shark, calamari, shrimp, fresh coconut, rum and lime. In addition to several starters, there are soups and salad items throughout the menu marked with a “V,” for vegetarian style.

Main headings include Burritos, Clay Pot Enchiladas, Tortas (griddle-baked sandwiches) and Premium Plates, like Grilled Skirt Steak, and Roasted Chicken Mole. Oh yeah, and the highlight of the menu, tacos: 15 different Street Tacos. The cool thing is, you can order two tacos and a side, or just order any one or more tacos. They are cooked on a hot plancha grill and made with fresh corn tortillas, flour tortillas or Bibb lettuce (if you must).

Jalapeno Mahi Mahi, Adobe Spiced Chicken Tinga, Blackened Mako Shark, Fried Avocado, Crispy Whitefish and Guajillo Chili Roasted Pork are just a few of the many tacos offered. The sides to choose from include Mango Jicama Slaw, Mexican Street Corn, Mexican Veggies, Black Beans, Black Eye Pea Salad, Roquero Charro Beans, Poblano Green Rice and Spicy Cilantro Lime Fries. Whatever you decide to order, I highly recommend sharing an order of the fries; they were hot, crispy and deliciously flavored.
My initial visit was on a busy Friday evening, prime time. My party was seated at a comfortable booth in the main dining room, surrounded by rock legends. Within seconds the server was at our table and, music to my ears, introduced himself, asked if this was our first visit, and if it would be alright if he highlighted the menu for us! I take extreme pleasure in being warmly and professionally greeted at the table, and I am sure I’m not alone. It sets such a great tone for the entire dining experience. We ordered drinks and they arrived quickly. We ordered dinner and within a few minutes, our dishes were before us. Everyone enjoyed the tacos they ordered. My personal favorite was the Corn Crusted Calamari taco with jicama slaw, salsa roja and green chili ranch sauce; imaginative and well prepared. Also very tasty was the Chimichurri Skirt Steak taco with tomatillo-avocado salsa and pickled onions. I also enjoyed the Ahi Tuna taco with Asian slaw, cusabi and radish, although it doesn’t appear on the current menu.

The only disappointment on our table was the Chipotle BBQ Ribs. The meat was very dry and a little tough; they also were lacking in flavor. I didn’t get the chipotle. The piece of corn that arrived in addition to the rib plate was a bit overcooked. At the time, this was the summer menu; the ribs do not appear on the current menu, which is available on their website.

Highlights from other visits include the guacamole; the chunky classic was very good, with a wonderful texture and spicy, with quite the kick to it. The fresh corn tortillas did taste fresh. The Tortas, or toasted Mexican sandwiches, are a fine consideration; take the Dos Equis Braised Short Rib Torta. The tender, juicy beef was delicious. All the sandwiches include Poblano Rajas, Chihuahua cheese, pickled onions, mixed greens, Pico de Gallo, black beans and jalapeno crema. They also arrive with the tasty spicy cilantro fries. For a complete dinner, the Fall/Winter menu’s Premium Plates include Chile Relleno, Mahi Mahi Veracruz, Roasted Chicken Mole, Grilled Skirt Steak; and Fajitas in shrimp, chicken or steak. They are each served with Roquero Charro beans, Poblano green rice and Mexican Street Corn.

If late-night dining is your thing from time to time, Maverick’s bar is open until 2 a.m. daily and offers a late-night food menu. There are plenty of choices, including wings, chips and salsa, tacos, burritos and salads. There’s even a Chihuahua Hot Dog with jalapeno-cured bacon, avocado crema and cilantro – yum.

Sure, they have about a dozen thirst-quenching margaritas made with organic and local produce, herbs and aromatics; along with organic blue agave nectar. And they have several beers on tap. Maverick also has a splendid variety of beers by the can; more than 30 varieties.  Young’s Double Chocolate, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Mama’s Little Yella Pills and Mother Earth Sunny Haze, to name a few.
I have to tell you about the jukebox. Well, it’s not a jukebox in the real sense; it’s more of a digital virtual jukebox. In the bar area is a large touch screen computer monitor hanging on the wall. The bartender explained to me that it’s a great system, as you can ask for just about any song ever recorded; even if the song isn’t technically rock n’ roll. I know that must be true, because on one visit we heard Tiptoe through the Tulips by Tiny Tim. Thankfully, most of the other selections chosen were great rock songs. All the guests may have great culinary taste; not necessarily when it comes to music.

I think Maverick Rock Taco has all the elements of being a long-term successful addition to the myriad of eateries and bars that make Montford Drive a culinary cornucopia. The culture of the staff is commendable, from opening the door as you enter or exit, to the servers and bartenders who maintain a warm, personable and professional manner. Although the kitchen needs to be a bit more careful on quality, the majority of dishes were very tasty, a good value, and timing was consistently very good. And most importantly, (I hope certain south Charlotte restaurateurs are reading this), a manager was regularly walking the floor and checking with guests. I will be back to Maverick for a casual, comfortable and visually appealing setting that offers tasty Mexican-inspired selections with a great big slice of American rock n’ roll.

Maverick Rock Taco
Three of four stars
1513 Montford Drive
Phone: 704-527-1400
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight
Details: Bar – open till 2 a.m. daily
www.xeniahospitality.com

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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