On June 19th of last year, I published my first review. Sometime in July, the first person who wasn’t a acquaintance or relative of mine read it. By the time July was over, I was up to thirteen reviews and a few random rants, and the site counter was sitting at an even 800. This was beyond my wildest hopes or expectations. I’ve said it many times before, and I wasn’t joking: I started this thing as a way to force myself to stop eating at the same half dozen restaurants over and over again. I hoped that people might stumble across it by accident and maybe try some of the places I recommended as a result, but I never really expected any kind of traffic other than my own friends and family.
Today, 114 posts and over 18,000 hits later, this thing almost seems to have a life of its own. I never would have guessed there would be so much interest, but I’m very happy it’s the case. To mark the anniversary (more or less), I decided to go back to where it all began. Kind of. For that first review, I decided to kick off with something interesting and which would push my own boundaries. I hit up a food truck that specialized in Portuguese barbecue sandwiches. And when I say specialize, I mean that’s pretty much all they made. Some months after my visit, the truck was put on the market. A while later, it re-opened (with a few modifications…like the nationality of the cuisine) in the same spot at the Northwest corner of Franklin and Curtis as Maria’s Mexican Food…
My love for street food is pretty well documented here, and it probably seems that I have a particular obsession with taco trucks. Well, that’s kind of true, but there simply isn’t a lot of street food here to choose from (though that’s starting to change). As I stood outside Maria’s, I realized that the truck was a lot more open to the street than it used to be. I could see inside now, and marvelled at the tile counter tops, wood and glass cabinet doors, and the TV hanging in one corner. I can only assume that stuff was there before, but I never would have guessed it. A little dining tent has been erected at the back of the truck, and there is one ringside table where a man was eating a seafood tostada and seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit.
Me, I’m a creature of habit. I decided long ago that my two favorite taco truck items are the tacos (duh) and the tortas. My first time at a new truck I pretty much exclusively order an asada taco and a carnitas torta, the former because the quality and handling of the steak is a good indicator of the truck as a whole, and the latter because…well, because I’m a pork freak. It’s a cash setup here, but you can’t argue with the prices: it was a buck for the taco and five for the torta. For another four dollars, I also added on an order of chicken nachos for my sister who was suffering from a really bad cold at the time.
|Chicken Nachos. Maria likes her jalapeños.|
Maria’s is a little different inasmuch that you can expect to wait a little while. I was late getting back to work, but I figure that probably means my food was cooked to order, and that can’t be a bad thing. I gave my sister her nachos without trying them myself (and when I remembered later, I certainly wasn’t going to try them then because of the germ farm factor). She said they were good (for as little as she was able to taste at the time) and that she’d had to remove some of the jalapeños, which I think may have been a first for her.
Back at my desk, I unwrapped the taco first as I am wont to do. Maria’s uses one slightly thicker shell rather than the two thin ones, but it was good quality and held together as I ate. The onion and cilantro were fresh and flavorful, and the meat was tender and well-seasoned. This isn’t a taco that’s going to win any awards, but a very good one nonetheless.
|Carnitas Torta. See what I mean about the jalapeños?|
Ah, the torta. My favorite Mexican food item. And pork, my favorite meat. A match made in Heaven. This was a little bit different than I’m used to though. It’s almost like a healthier version of a sandwich that can choke a horse. The mayo was the one concession to the usually very decadent nature of this sandwich. The avocado was used sparingly, and the meat wasn’t fried crispy as so many places do, it was instead a very flavorful roasted variety. Instead of jamming the thing full of meat the way other places will, Maria’s piled on the veggies. Thick slices of ripe tomato were used, and leaves of lettuce rather than shredded (the first time I’ve ever seen that). There were also a TON of jalapeños on this thing. Against my better judgment, I decided to see how I’m coming along with acclimating to spicy food by not removing any of the peppers. Other than feeling like a gymnast clad in steel wool was tumbling through my stomach for about half an hour, I came through it just fine! Between that, the proportion of veggies to meat, the amazing difference in texture caused by using whole lettuce leaves, the sparing use of traditional cheese, and the fact that the roll was toasted rather than being lightly fried on the grill, this was the single most unique torta I’ve had in quite some time. It’s to the point where I couldn’t say it was better or worse than my beloved Tacos Aguililla or the ones from Campos Market, it was just plain different. It was a delicious take on an old favorite that I could polish off without feeling quite as guilty, and considering how guilty some of my current food obsessions make me feel this is a very good thing.
Final Grade: A-