In 2015 this restaurant was listed at #5 of the top 101 Restaurants in Los Angeles. Only 3 from Orange County were mentioned. In 2019 Taco Maria moved to #3 and  received a Michelin Star. It will be interesting to see where it appears in the 2020 guide. It was named Restaurant of the Year by the LA Times in 2018. This is a taco place for heavens sake! What makes it so good that it has reached such heights?

Located in the OCMart Mix at SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa, their sign and entry are unassuming and give no indication of what treats await us. “Chef Carlos Salgado’s cooking reflects his heritage and years of fine-dining training.” (LA Times).

If you are going to Taco Maria for old-fashioned tacos and what goes with them, this is not the place for you. There is nothing traditional about this restaurant.

Our appetizer was the BRASSICAS – broccolini, cauliflower, romanesco, fish sauce aoili, sunflower seeds, and lime.          Then….

ARRANCHERA – hanger steak, roasted chiles, Applewood bacon, queso fundido

TOCINO –  Taco with pork cheek, piloncillo glaze, winter citrus, salsa verde

PESCADO FRITO – taco with local black cod, charred scallion aioli, cabbage, mandarinquat

JARDINEROS – taco with shiitake mushroom chorizo, crispy potato, queso fundido

The Other Thing – There was a half hour wait for lunch so we had tea at Portola. The wait was well worth it. To experience it all calls for a return visit for dinner. “The restaurant switches to a taco-centric four-course tasting menu format………..helping to build a new language for the way we think and talk about Mexican cooking in California.” (LA Times)