Russell Birk is the self-described “chief hummus maker” of Maya’s Modern Mediterranean. He left his cushy corporate job to become a restaurateur. As a health buff and a frequent visitor of Israel, he was puzzled why Israeli food hadn’t hit it big in America. Birk set out to do what Zoe’s did for Greek food — make Mediterranean food accessible and give neighbors a healthy option to feed their families.
What is the difference between Greek and Israeli food? It may look similar, but there are small variances in flavors and ingredients. Birk likens it to mole in Mexico — every region has its own take.
“The hummus is the best example,” Birk says. “In Greece, the hummus is all about the garlic and lemon juice. In Israel, the hummus is all about tahini and olive oil.”
The hero dish of Maya’s is the hummus. Birk spent 15 years traveling around Israel researching what makes the perfect hummus.
“Every year I would go to Israel, and I would find a local to take me to their favorite hummus spot,” Birk says. “I traveled all around Israel looking for the best hummus.”
To recreate the dish in Dallas, Birk taste-tested 14 different olive oils. He ships tahini from Philadelphia — the only place in the country he could find the best quality.
Birk is meticulous about food, opting for a small menu of perfected recipes. He refuses to serve anything that isn’t up to his standard. People often tell him he needs tabbouleh, a staple in Israel. Birk’s response? “We’re not good at it yet. If we ever get good at it, we’ll put it on the menu.” After eight recipes, Birk still hasn’t found one he feels proud to serve.
Birk wants the recipes to be accessible and enjoyed by the whole family. Maya’s is a family-oriented restaurant. Birk named the restaurant after his 5-year-old daughter. His “Big-O’s hummus” is named after his son, Oren. Birk’s girlfriend helped him curate his recipes, trading date night for recipe testing.
DID YOU KNOW?
Maya’s displays art from Skyline High School, where many of the employees are students.
He had two rules when he picked his Casa Linda location. It couldn’t be more than 10 minutes from his kids, and he wanted to bring healthy food to a part of the neighborhood that often gets overlooked.
“This area is so grossly underserved,” Birk says. “When I look at the lineup of restaurants over here, where do you go to eat healthy? I think Goodfriend is great. I think Hello Dumpling is awesome. There’s just not enough of that quality.”
9540 Garland Road
Sunday – Thursday:
11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday – Saturday:
11 a.m. to 10 p.m.