Maiz on Forest Avenue has been only offering takeout during the pandemic. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

When we wrote about Maiz in 2018, it was a relatively new addition to the Portland Public Market, selling generously stuffed arepas out of a stall on the second floor.

In 2019, husband-and-wife owners Niky Watler and Martha Leonard moved the Colombian eatery to its own spot on Forest Avenue near Woodfords Corner, with counter service and canned beer and wine. When the pandemic shut down the state just over a year ago, they closed to dine-in customers and swiftly transitioned to takeout only, which is what they’ve been doing since.

That’s a lot to have happen in less than four years in business, but for me, the biggest development at Maiz has been one of the recent additions to the menu: build-your-own rice bowls ($3, plus the cost of each ingredient, up to five).

I discovered that you could ask for arepa fillings in the form of a rice bowl before it was officially on the menu, but always felt a little guilty ordering it, like I was making a special request. Now, picking and choosing whatever ingredients you want is a legitimate option, and when ordering online, I can take my time and change my mind as much as I want.

A build-your-own rice bowl from Maiz, with stewed chicken, pico de gallo, spinach and pinto beans. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

My latest customized creation included stewed chicken ($4), pinto beans ($3), spinach ($1.50) and pico de gallo ($1), for a total of $12.50 – a fair price for the hefty portion that I’m sure many people could turn into two meals. For me, it’s usually a heavy weekend lunch.

Other ingredient options include pork, chicarron (fried pork belly), chorizo, grilled chicken and vegetable mix, all $4; cheese, black beans and corn, and plantains, all $3; and avocado for $1.50. The same options are available for build-your-own arepas.

The ingredients all taste very fresh and well, though plainly, prepared. If you like a lot of flavor, you might consider adding one of the sauces – spicy green or red, garlic or yogurt-based – that come with the arepas, but are $2 each on their own.

Also new to the menu since the start of the pandemic are uncooked “take-n-bake” arepas, and the option to “feed a family,” which allows you to make a contribution, between $2 and $15, toward the culturally-friendly groceries that the restaurant regularly donates to immigrant families from Central and South America with children in Portland schools.

Empanadas, arepa nachos, pan de bono (yuca and cheese roll), and arroz con leche (rice pudding) are just some of the other items on the extended online menu, which also has Green Bee soda, seltzer, wine and beer to go, all available for contactless pickup inside the Portland restaurant or delivery through CarHop.

Owner Leonard said the restaurant won’t reopen for indoor dining until its staff is vaccinated but plans to put some seats outside in the next couple weeks.


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