Maz Mezcal, The Mexican Restaurant

That Leaves You Wanting to Experience the Meal All Over Again

By Sean-Patrick M. Hillman

What comes to your mind when you think of Mexican food? Is it fast-food places like the ever-processed Taco Bell (a.k.a. Taco Hell) or food poisoning central, otherwise known as Chipotle; or do you think of a more refined, family-oriented restaurant? One of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world, and most certainly my favorite Mexican restaurant, the Upper East Side’s Maz Mezcal. I have been eating there for over 35 years. I have known the family that opened, and still owns, this incredible eatery almost as long. In all of that time, I have never had a bad meal at Maz Mezcal. Ever. And I can tell you exactly why…the family that owns it.

I could sit here and wax poetically about how many of their dishes literally melt in your mouth, leaving behind a euphoric feeling the likes of which you will not find at any other Mexican restaurant. Or about how their margaritas are some of the best I have ever had in my life, especially with one of the most robust tequila and mezcal menus I have ever seen. I could sit here and tell you about how every single meal at this amazing restaurant are the things that legends are made of. The fare is authentic, packed with flavor that isn’t overpowering, but blends just right as if you are listening to a symphony. But I would rather focus on this incredible family, the experience of being a Maz Mezcal customer and why it is an adventure you have to go through for yourself to understand just how special this place truly is.

Please bear in mind, when I refer to a “meal” at a restaurant, I am referring to the entire experience from the minute you walk in, until the minute you leave. Every time I have gone to Maz Mezcal, I feel like I am home. And I am not the only one.  

After Eduardo Silva was honorably discharged from his service in the 101st Airborne, he and his father opened a series of restaurants. In 1972, they opened a place on East 86th Street in Yorkville called El Sombrero, which became one of the most popular restaurants on the Upper East Side until it closed due to construction in 1987. That year, Eduardo and his wife, Maria, opened Maz Mezcal, which would expand in 2001 to include a larger bar. I will dive deeper into why Eduardo and Maria are the secret sauce of success in a moment. So how did this love affair with this phenomenal Mexican gastronomic destination begin?

It was less than a year after they had opened. I remember being about 11 or 12 when the mother of a Saint David’s School classmate asked me if I would join them for dinner one night at this new Mexican restaurant on 86th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues. All it took was just one meal at Maz Mezcal to forever change my palate; leaving me clamoring for more of those delicious, warm, rich flavors the family-owned and operated restaurant is known for. I became a regular, even at that young an age. 

Flash forward about 12 years; my wife and I moved to an apartment two blocks from Maz Mezcal. Needless to say, I ate at the restaurant once a week for over five years. Two of our neighbors, who are still two of our closest and dearest friends, Eric Parness and Rachel Reiner, would join us all the time. I remember Eric and I used to run to Maz Mezcal on Saturday afternoons just to grab a quick lunch. It really was like I was living in a delicious dream…

Speaking of a dream, let’s talk secret sauce. One afternoon in 2005, I found myself at the restaurant. Being the ever-inquisitive person I am (and people wonder why I became a journalist?!?!), I saw an opportunity to talk to Eduardo about the restaurant. I just had to know how it was possible, in all my years as a customer, that each and every dish tasted the same every time. Eduardo’s answer? “Every day, I am in the kitchen with my staff. They are my family. Most of them have worked here since the beginning, or their children now work here. They are all trained to make our food the way I make it. I also eat here every single day to make sure the look, taste and feel of the dishes are the same, every time.” 

One thing that Eduardo left out was that he and his wife, Maria, treat the restaurant, staff, and customers like they are blood relatives. Literally. And that makes the experience at Maz Mezcal even more enchanting. 

During the pandemic, on July 20, 2020, Eduardo Thomas Silva Coronel passed away due to cardiac arrest. He is survived by his beautiful, loving wife and partner, Maria and his daughter Gabrielle (who is now married to the head of beverage, Conor). And because we were in lockdown, I didn’t find out until a year later. As I sit here typing this, I am fighting back the tears thinking of all of the amazing conversations I had with Eduardo, the laughs, the memories of Yorkville, the lessons on Mexican cuisine, and so much more. 

Last month, my co-publisher Bill Mason and I decided to stop in to see Maria and enjoy a meal. It felt as if it was 1987 again…except this time, since I wasn’t eleven, I had a strawberry margarita, Cadillac-style (with a float of Cointreau). Since Eduardo passed away four years ago, Maria still runs the restaurant the same exact way, except now with Gabrielle and Conor. And while he may no longer be there physically, Eduardo’s spirit is still very much in every dish, cocktail and conversation that happens there. As someone who genuinely loves this family, I would not want it any other way.  

Maz Mezcal is located at 316 East 86th Street and can be found online at 

Over my lifetime, I have likely celebrated Cinco de Mayo more years than I care to admit. With friends pumping testosterone and throwing back margaritas and tequila shots like I smoke cigarettes (yes, I know it’s awful), the rallying cry of the evening inevitably becomes, “Cinco de Drinko!” What most don’t know is that the day marks Mexico's victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. But ask any patron on May 5th why they are celebrating the occasion and I guarantee you very few will know the real reason why Cinco de Mayo exists.

To help you celebrate this year, I thought I would bring back a couple of recipes that are great to use when having friends over to celebrate and can help you drink responsibly, salsa and guacamole. Of course, you need to either purchase tortilla chips, or make them at home to serve with these great sides. 

4 avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon of sea salt ¾ cup diced sweet onion (Vidalia or Malibu)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pinch of cayenne pepper or ¼ of a diced jalapeno pepper (no seeds)

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados, then stir in lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper or jalapeno. Refrigerate for one hour for best flavor and consistency or serve immediately.

3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui), diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ lime, squeezed
1 teaspoon of sea salt

In a medium bowl, mix the diced tomatoes, diced onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Add sea salt and lime juice. Refrigerate for an hour. Many people include jalapeno in their salsa, so if that is what you want, please add one pepper, seeded and finely chopped.
Buen Provecho!