Mayra Medina is from the Michoacán state of Mexico. Her father died when she was six, and to make ends meet, Medina’s mother took jobs cooking in other people’s homes. “Her mom had to work hard,” Medina tells me via Cirila Contreras, a restaurant employee acting as an interpreter. “House to house, she learned. She passed it along. In each house they taught her different items — tortillas, soups. That’s how she worked.”
After coming to Eugene in 2015, Medina launched Mama Mayra’s Kitchen: first a food cart, and then a popular brick and mortar location on 6th Avenue. Just this past April, Mama Mayra’s moved into a much larger space in the Whiteaker Neighborhood, right next to Laughing Planet on Blair.
Medina says she didn’t intend to move, but when the building of her former location sold unexpectedly and the new space, formerly a Peruvian restaurant, became available, she jumped at the opportunity to expand her business.
I ask Medina to serve what she feels are her strongest lunch dishes. She selects a sampler of chorizo, ground beef and chicken empanadas, and a vegetable quesadilla. Medina brings me a house-made, fresh chipotle salsa packing a good amount of heavenly smoke and heat. It’s spicy enough to make my eyes water, but it’s hard to say whether or not that was due to the fieriness or the amazing flavors.
There’s also a creamy, house-made guacamole salsa and a small appetizer of pickled carrots, onion, cauliflower and jalapeno. When the chipotle got a little too much, it was easily quenched by the chilled, pickled veggies.
The empanada crust — made of corn — is light, crispy and flakey, almost croissant-like. The meat, particularly the chicken, is seasoned perfectly. On the side is cabbage salad with house-made sour cream and grated queso cotija, a sharp and salty cow’s milk cheese common in Michoacan cuisine. Also common in the cuisine of the region are tomatillos and mushrooms, and they both show up in Mama Mayra’s vibrant and clean quesadilla.
What’s missing? That mess of sauce and melted cheese, so common in Americanized Mexican food. Mama Mayra’s food is made fresh, with a new batch of rice made three times-a-day.
Unbelievably, Mayra offers $1.99 breakfast burritos. I’ll be sure to check those out next time.
Mama Mayra’s is open 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday at 764 Blair Boulevard. For more information search Mama Mayra’s Kitchen on Facebook.