Casa Maya. 615 Meyersville Road, Meyersville. (908) 580-0799. 1 Main St., High Bridge (908) 638-4032. Meyersville hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; noon-10 p.m. Sundays. High Bridge: Same hours except closed Mondays. BYOB.
Kitsch is essential as salsa at many Mexican restaurants, but Casa Maya, in two locations, seems to have the franchise on cute and colorful. The Meyersville restaurant, aglow with festive chile lights that make every visit seem like Cinco de Mayo or Christmas, invites a cozy intimacy with its comfortable, semi-enclosed booths.
The newer High Bridge location is slightly more spacious, with fewer chile lights and more sombreros on display, plus an adjoining hardwood-floored space, Cafe Hola, where you can enjoy pancakes, Cuban French toast, sandwiches, juices and coffee while watching trains pull into the High Bridge train station on the other side of the tracks.
High Bridge is a short drive up Route 513 from Route 31 and Clinton. You might need a map to find Meyersville, part of Long Hill Township, Morris County, and once home to the legendary Archie's Resale Shop.
"I don't know any place like this," my friend Alison said as we settled into our green-walled booth at the Meyersville restaurant, and her words could have fit the town as much as the restaurant.
Would Casa Maya's salsa match up to the killer salsa we enjoyed at a South Bend, Ind., Mexican restaurant weeks before? The latter (wish I'd brought back a gallon, not a pint) was spicy, tangy and terrific, the best I've had in years. Casa Maya's is not as fiery or distinctive, but it's a fresh, onion-laced blend, markedly better than the Mexican-restaurant norm.
The camarones al ajillo (baby shrimp sauteed in fresh garlic, paprika, cilantro and chiles, $9.50) seemed feistier than your typical Ironbound garlic shrimp.
The burrito (choice of chicken, beef or pork, plus red or green sauce, $10.50) is monstrous and meaty, with a surprise twist: a toasted, pleasingly-burnt-around-the-edges tortilla shell. We also liked the mole enchiladas (one chicken and one pork enchilada with the traditional brown sauce, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, $13.50).
The High Bridge location is slightly less intimate but no less colorful. The sunny, hardwood-floored cafe is an inviting spot for breakfast or lunch. The sopa de pollo or chicken soup ($3.95) is a hearty concoction. The gaspacho, with cucumbers, onions and bell peppers, is one chilled soup guaranteed to please in the dead of winter.
Puerco guisado, a stew made with marinated pork and simmered in mole sauce ($13.75) is recommended, even if you'll wish for more meat. Good Cuban sandwich ($6.95). Masita ($6.95) is a pulled pork sandwich with cilantro, avocado and lime hot-pressed on Cuban bread, but the bread was neither hot nor pressed. Tasty pork, though.
Other items include cactus enchiladas (corn tortillas folded over marinated cactus, cooked with white wine and covered with red sauce, $12.95); steak ranchero (marinated and charbroiled beef topped with sauteed sweet peppers and onions, and served with a cheese enchilada, $22.95); and pollo Oaxaca (chicken sauteed with fresh corn and mushrooms and covered with sauce, $15.95).
I'll go back to Meyersville when I'm in a celebratory, chile-lighted mood, and High Bridge to try that Cuban French toast. Maybe even hop a train.
615 Meyersville Road., Meyersville
Kitsch is as essential as salsa at many Mexican restaurants, but Casa Maya, in beautiful downtown Meyersville (okay, there’s not much to it) seems to have the franchise on cute and colorful. The restaurant, glow with playful chili lights that make every visit seem like Cinco de Mayo or Christmas, invites a cozy intimacy with its comfortable, semi-enclosed booths. Guitars, cactus plants and painted tiles add to the festive atmosphere. The food here just seems fresher than your usual Mexican restaurant, chain or otherwise. The salsa is pleasantly onion-laced, and the monstrous burrito boasts a nicely burnt-around-the-edges tortilla shell. There is a sister location in High Bridge.