Think back to when Taco Maria used to park at the SoCo farmers market every Saturday. Remember those arrachera tacos that had everyone swooning?
Yeah. That's them in the picture above. Except now, instead of being tucked into a little paper boat, they're arranged on a plate with an incredible salad of nopalitos with tomatoes, onions and bacon, and a linen napkin-wrapped plate of thick, fluffy homemade tortillas. Ask for a little salsa–can't eat tacos without chile–and realize that now Carlos Salgado has an entire kitchen at his disposal. He's got room for the things he wants, and that means he's importing olive oil from Baja California and has room for an oven and a fryer.
He's got fish al pastor, too, and little cazuelitas full of crispy and melty carnitas, and of course the chicken mole that everyone loved. But there's more; there are huauzontles, long spears of broccoli-like goosefoot plant cut down and stirred into quinoa risotto, which is then fried into fritters and served with salsa verde; there are calabacitas resting on top of a thick pool of crème fraîche-enriched goat cheese; there are his trademark ezquites, roasted corn cut off the cob and tossed with tiny bits of the burnt corn husk, cotija, and withered lime.
It'll be hard to choose: do you sit on the patio, where the garden scents will waft over you as you sip sangria and cerveza preparada, or do you sit at the long bar inside and watch the staff, as though you were at the windows of the truck?
Taco Maria soft-opens tonight: call the restaurant at (714) 538-8444 for a reservation. It's located across from We Olive inside the OC Mix at 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa.