Partner Profile: D'Maize

Zenaida Merlin, Luis Estrada, and their son Mateo at their restaurant D’Maize. Image courtesy    DoorDash   .

Zenaida Merlin, Luis Estrada, and their son Mateo at their restaurant D’Maize. Image courtesy DoorDash.

Who’s down for patio pupusas in the Mission District? One of the few new Latin restaurants to open in the neighborhood in recent years, we are delighted to include D’Maize on our Mission 24th Street Food Tour. There, owners Luis Estrada and Zenaida Merlin, partners in life and work, serve up Salvadorian signature tastes including pupusas, the filled masa flatbreads oozing melted cheese deliciousness. The restaurant pairs these classic maize cakes with a tamarindo agua fresca that guests tell us taste like SweeTarts.

Luis and Zenaida started out selling pupusas from a food truck on Mission District streets before finding a home in the space that formerly housed Casa Sanchez, where another immigrant couple—Roberto and Isabel Sanchez from Mexico—first launched a tortilla chip empire that has been running for almost 100 years.

Pupusas on the griddle at D’Maize. Image courtesy    DoorDash   .

Pupusas on the griddle at D’Maize. Image courtesy DoorDash.

D’Maize is a graduate business of the Mission District-based La Cocina, a nonprofit incubator kitchen for low-income food entrepreneurs, particularly women of color, immigrants, and refugees. The restaurant is straight out of La Cocina casting: An unflashy, immigrant-run, family affair that serves tasty, affordable food. Long regulars at the San Francisco Street Food Festival, the business is featured in the forthcoming cookbook We Are La Cocina, which showcases dozens of food entrepreneurs that have been through the program.

Luis and Zenaida fell in love at 18 in San Salvador. When they moved to San Francisco they worked for several catering companies before starting their own, specializing in foods from their homeland. Their food trucks are popular with neighborhood locals, students, the tech set, and nearby San Francisco General Hospital staff.

D’Maize is one of dozens of La Cocina businesses sharing their culture through food on both sides of the Bay.

D’Maize is one of dozens of La Cocina businesses sharing their culture through food on both sides of the Bay.

For a few years the couple parked one of their food trucks outside City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus, serving pupusas, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, and beverages to the campus crowds, until they opened a brick-and-mortar business there in 2018. They have a health conscious focus: food is steamed, grilled, or baked—not fried—and they source ingredients from small, local farms.

Pupusas are traditionally served with curtido, a peppery slaw that’s as fundamental to the pupusa experience as mustard is to the hot dog.

Pupusas are traditionally served with curtido, a peppery slaw that’s as fundamental to the pupusa experience as mustard is to the hot dog.

D’Maize recently teamed up with DoorDash, as part of their Kitchens Without Borders program, which spotlights the stories behind immigrant and refugee businesses that partner with the food delivery service.

Luis describes his menu as authentic Latin food with a modern twist made with love. Cheers to that.





Lisa Rogovin