Friday, April 15, 2011

Maria's Taco Xpress - Austin, TX

I think Carlos Santana sang a song about this place, and I know Guy Fieri tried it out.  So it's got to be good, right?


I headed over there around eleven this morning for some breakfast and lunch together.  I'd heard good things about their migas taco, so wanted to try it, and figured I'd get something else at the recommendation of the staff.

Let's start with the place itself though.  I've never seen a place quite like it, unless you count the traveling carnival.  This place has more colors, in more places, than I've ever seen, and upon arrival you're greeted by a massive statue of Maria herself, welcoming you with open arms.  From the outside it's hard to see if this place is a food truck or a restaurant (it's the latter), as it's positioned in the parking lot of a Walgreens, and the entrance is no more than just an opening to a partially covered multi-story patio.

Yep, that's her.  You must be this tall to enter this restaurant.

Once you verify your height and are granted access to the carnival, you find a door and go inside to an order at the counter and wait for your number to be called restaurant.

I ordered my migas taco and asked the guy at the register what his favorite menu item was, and he immediately answered "pollo guisada" almost before I finished the question.  He explained that it was slow roasted and pulled chicken in a chipotle broth, and he gave me a little bowl of it to taste.  How could I refuse such confidence?  I didn't.

While I waited for the "Number 39" call, I ventured over to what I think is my favorite part of this whole place, the condiment bar.  I love condiment bars.  This one had fresh chopped onions that weren't at all wilted like they'd been sitting for hours, chopped cilantro, pico de gallo, a classic red salsa, a bright orange and smooth salsa, a dark verde salsa, and in a nod to Maria's homeland, a chile-laced chimichurri.

I got a little of each of the salsas, heard my number and sat down.  I quickly removed the migas taco from the container they both were in to save it from drowning in the chicken juice, and I'm glad I did.  I recommend you do to. The pollo guisada was very basic and very good.  The smokiness of the chipotle didn't really come through at all, but the chicken was tender and moist, and contrasted nicely with the shredded lettuce and chopped tomato which came on it.  I tried it with each of the salsas, and think with this one, I liked the orange one the best.  It had the best heat of all of them, and a good sweet flavor that went well with the chicken.

 Now, the migas taco.  This was like a migas taco like I've never had before.  It's like an egg pancake full  of onions, jalapenos, tomatoes and smashed tortilla chips, topped with a ton of cheddar cheese.  The flavor was awesome, and while I'm generally not a cheese on a breakfast taco kind of guy, I loved this because of the sheer volume of it (see picture below).  The other really nice thing about this was that it all stayed intact, and nothing fell out the back of the taco because it was one big pancake.  I once again tried all of the salsas with this one, and think the verde was my favorite, which is normally the case.

The chimichurri was something I had high hopes for, but I thought it fell a little short.  The spice was good, but it was overwhelmingly vinegary, not having been balanced out with some olive oil, and would have been very good on a smoked pulled pork sandwich but not so much on a taco.

I liked this place, and I want to hit it up on a Sunday morning, as I understand they have a full gospel choir for entertainment.  Good spot.  Don't shy away because it's been publicized on Triple D, it's still as Austin as Austin gets.


Atmosphere:  carnival-like restaurant, ample seating indoor and out, order at counter, mix and match salsas, good for a family, good for a group, good for a quick breakfast or lunch

Food:  mexican and tex-mex

Dog Friendly:  yes

When to Go:  breakfast, lunch, Sunday mornings

Crowd:  carnies

What to Order for the First Timer:  migas taco

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