Maria’s Taco Xpress (Austin, TX)

You know you’ve been traveling a lot when you can’t even keep track of every place you’ve been. I was getting ready to write up a few places from our New York City trip, when I realized that one place in Austin I hadn’t actually reviewed.

So, going back two weeks in the time machine…. Before heading out for a second day of BBQ, we decided breakfast was needed. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found over the two Austin trips that a good breakfast taco is a great way to start out the day. This time, we decided to descend on one of Austin’s better known taco joints, Maria’s Taco Xpress.

One of the reasons it’s well known is that it has gotten a lot of press, including Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I can’t really fault that show all that much (last I checked, I’ve had rather a large amount of overlap between places I’ve been and those on DDD, around one in three, usually with my finding the place before Guy did), and I don’t always agree with his taste, but once a place has been on DDD, it tends to ratchet up the crowds and make the lines longer.

It’s also a classic example of the Austin experience, since 14 years ago Maria’s was just a food truck, like so many other Austin institutions. Starting with that trailer, owner Maria Corbalan slowly built a reputation of being the “Taco queen of South Lamar”… and now has a permanent building with table service and a liquor license, and a lot of loyal customers.

But there’s another reason Maria’s is well known, and has long lines, and that’s the food. We walked in at 9am on a Saturday morning to find the line out the door… but with an efficient staff that was taking orders down the line as the cooks in the kitchen were quickly assembling the mornings tacos, burritos, and the like.

For me it was simple, I was here for breakfast tacos, so I ordered up one with chorizo, potato, and black bean, and another with migas. That, and some of the jamaica from the fountain, and I was ready to go eat out in their nice patio.

How was it? Both tacos hit the spot. The first had nicely spiced chorizo, tender potatoes, and really savory black beans, all in a very nicely toasted flour tortilla. Nothing fancy, but perfectly executed. The migas was also the right mix of everything: perfectly cooked eggs, a really nice salsa, some fried chopped onions and peppers, and tortilla chips that are just starting to soften from being mixed in. The result was the perfect blend of texture and flavors for a morning taco. Carol fared well, too, with her “Mexi Taco” with eggs, onions, jalapeno, and tomato, and an order of beans that were perfectly tender and very flavorful.

Sure, the place has got long lines, and I’m sure there are other, worthy taco stands also putting out quality breakfast tacos (indeed, Austin has soooo many taco stands that the bell curve is pretty wide), but Maria’s has managed to earn it’s reputation as a go-to spot for both locals and tourists. And it’s pretty damn good.

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