Eating at Maya’s snack bar is an experience. Its brightly colored walls are decorated with balloons, funky Mexican trinkets like a mini tortilla press and green Mexican toy taxis sit on store’s counters, and catchy reggaeton beats from artists like Bad Bunny play throughout the store. Customers get a lot of Mexico at Maya’s.
Treats generally sold by street vendors in Mexico or Los Angeles are housed under one roof. Maya’s Snack Bar was co-founded by Alejandro Sanchez, 32, and his sister-in-law, Marisol Garcia, 31. What has now become a household name started in a small corner inside a bodega in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in April 2019.
“New York is not very strong in the Mexican treats space. We’re strong with tacos but not with treats,” Sanchez says. “If you want some treats, you go to the bodega and its ice cream section, but you’ll only find paletas and that would be it. You only have two or three flavors to choose from.”
At the time, there weren’t many Mexican dessert shops, so, at the bodega, Marisol focused on making mangonadas and chamoyadas, popular Mexican treats. A chamoyada is a Mexican slush or ice cream mixed in with Tajin seasoning and chamoy (a tangy sauce made from dehydrated fruit, chili powder and citrus juice). A mangonada is the mango slush version of the chamoyada.
The treats became very popular, especially among people who wanted a Mexican delicacy that wasn’t a taco or tamale. After their lease ended with the bodega in June 2019, the family decided to take the business to the next level and open up a storefront. Sanchez and Garcia opened up the first Maya’s Snack Bar location in Williamsburg in October 2019.
The pandemic hit only a few months later, but the business remained open. Customers would place their orders and Maya’s Snack Bar staff would deliver them around the city. The team at Maya’s Snack Bar couldn’t complain. Customers kept the business afloat. In July 2020 they opened their second location in Brooklyn and by October 2020, they had a third location in Corona, Queens. Maya’s Snack Bar has become a go-to for anyone looking for traditional Mexican flavors — some with a modern twist.
“Sometimes the older generation comes in with their families and kids. The kids will get all the [new] crazy stuff. While the parents will get a traditional agua fresca (fresh fruit beverage) and a chicharron preparado (rectangular pork rind topped with cabbage, tomatoes, sour cream cheese and pickled pork rind),” he says.
Chamoyadas and the mangonadas continue to be the most popular products at Maya’s Snack Bar. Both are topped with fresh mango, Tajin seasoning and a tamarind stick. Another customer favorite are the dorilocos, which are Doritos with carrots, cucumber, yam bean, mango and pickled pork rinds topped with chamoy, Tajin seasoning and lime. It’s a popular street food snack in Mexico but rarely found in New York.
Maya’s Snack Bar is home to many unique and modern Mexican treats, including the sandia loca, half a watermelon topped with mango, strawberries, peanuts, Tajin seasoning, and many popular Mexican candies. All of the products at Maya’s Snack Bar are made in-house with fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s the perfect size to share with friends.
Customers love that Maya’s Snack Bar’s products are made in-house. Rocio Rojas first found out about the shop when it opened in Williamsburg and was thrilled to find out it opened up in her borough, Queens.
“What is top tier about Maya’s is that everything is from scratch. Everything from their ice cream to their neives (fruity ice cream) and everything else, it’s also really good,” she says. “Their aesthetic is very cute too. I enjoy the place, the music and the vibe overall.”
Keith Arriaga, is a frequent customer who found out about Maya’s Snack Bar via Instagram. He thinks Maya’s Snack Bar is unique compared to other places he has patronized.
“I’m from Harlem and there is a similar store, but it doesn’t come close to what they offer here. [Maya’s Snack Bar] has a wider variety and puts much more thought into their presentation,” he says. “I feel like it gives us that light touch of Mexico when we want to be there but can’t. This is like a small piece of home.”
Maya’s Snack Bar is filled with trinkets that remind customers of Mexico. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado
However, Maya’s Snack Bar gets customers from different countries, all searching for desserts with fresh fruits. Bryant Rosario is Dominican and Peruvian and loves coming to the shop for a sweet treat.
“What I like best are the mangonadas. I come all the way here from Jamaica to get them. I’ve tasted other [mangonadas] from another place, but these are the best,” he says. “[Maya’s Snack Bar] is colorful, it’s clean, but the main thing is they serve a lot of quality and fresh ingredients.”
As the number of customers continues to grow, Sanchez has big dreams for Maya’s Snack Bar. He hopes to expand all over the city and, hopefully, the country. Its newest store will be opening later this year in Sunset Park. Sanchez encourages customers to come and try something new — if you come to one of its three locations, you’ll usually get a free paleta to try.
Treat yourself at one of Maya’s Snack Bar’s three locations: 83 Graham Ave. and 1601 Gates Ave. in Brooklyn and 95-11 35th Ave. in Queens. Get 15% off your order by using the code EPICENTER15 or showing this article in-person.