Even more delicious than Taco Tuesday, our weekly segment showcases the best doses of vitamin T (vitamina T in Spanish), Mexico’s street slang for the most coveted comfort foods that begin with the letter T. This would have been great on Sesame Street, but we beat them to the punch—here’s this week’s taste of vitamin T from the streets of L.A
A dollar taco in L.A.—in most cases—is a small, flavorless, store bought tortilla filled with low grade meat from Smart and Final, and topped with watery salsa made from cheap ingredients. It’s cheaper in Mexico due to lower labor and food costs, but we shouldn’t shy away from paying more for quality ingredients and craft in L.A.
At the one-month-old Taco Maria, located at the cushy SoCo Collective, you will pay more for artisanal tortillas, and high-end ingredients. But what you're really getting is a superior taste of Mexico. Their fillings are offered on cazuelas, or casserole dishes, to keep them warm while you assemble your own tortillas. Soon, at their bar, you’ll call out your tacos across the counter for a callejera experience, or street-style service.
The jardinero, or gardener’s taco, is upscale queso fundido meets your Mexican grandmother’s rajas con queso, or chile strips with cheese, sharpened by shitake mushrooms, a creamy Oaxacan cheese sauce, allium, and roasted poblano chile strips served on a supple handmade tortilla crafted from masa furnished by O.C’.s La Reina.
Chef Carlos Salgado honed his skills as a pastry chef at Coi and Commis in the Bay Area; his roots are in his family’s OC Mexican restaurant, La Siesta, but his inspiration comes from the new school of cooking found in the kitchens of the young, trailblazing chefs in Mexico.
On Salgado’s line, you’ll find Roland Rubalcava, whose family supplies the masa for the tortillas, but there are more than tacos going on here with this ambitious crew. Taco Maria is homegrown from local Mexican parentage, and in the right place to promote Mexican fine dining in a posh Orange County food court. Modern Mexican has now arrived in the U.S.
Taco Maria, 3313 Hyland Ave Ste. C21, Costa Mesa, 714-538-8444.