Las Marias (Grand Junction, CO)

I had one firm recommendation for a meal in Grand Junction from my friend Ariane (whose wedding I was attending): that I go get breakfast at Las Marias, and in particular try their tamale. Apparently, the place has been a favorite of her and her brother for quite some time, so we decided to check it out. Like a lot of smaller cities, Grand Junction has a downtown that’s been through an initial heyday, a contraction as people move out to the suburbs and transitioned their shopping from local stores to large box stores and shopping malls, and finally some redevelopment.

Grand Junction has done a good amount of development, and seems to be really pushing to make downtown an eating and entertainment destination, and they’ve also installed quite a bit of artwork. At the East end of Old Town Grand Junction is the latest location of Maria’s, across the street from the old (and currently being renovated) Avalon Theater.

Sitting down at a table in a surprisingly spacious dining room (it’s obvious that the place was converted from another restaurant with more of a “Saloon” atmosphere), we turned our attention to the menu. Like a rather substantial fraction of Mexican places in the United States north of approximately El Paso in latitude, Las Marias has a split menu offering up both “Mexican Breakfast” and “American Breakfast” menus, with a slight amount of crossover between the two. I’m always a bit saddened by this, since I think it spreads the efforts of the kitchen a bit thin, but on the other hand, at some point if that’s what you’ve got to do to keep bringing in the breakfast crowds, I guess that’s what you do.

But the good news is that the selection on the Mexican Breakfast menu wasn’t lacking in good, authentic Mexican dishes. In addition to the fairly standard items like tamales, huevos rancheros, enchiladas, and burritos, they also had a few of the tastier and exotic Mexican breakfasts, like a chicharron platter, machaca, and nopale con huevo. While I was almost tempted by the machaca (since I love a good machaca, especially if it has a nice peppery sauce), I ended up going with Ariane’s recommendation of the pork tamale with green chile sauce. And I’ll have to say, I was quite satisfied. The tamale was a solid tamale, with a rich pork interior just oozing with flavor, and a nicely sharp green chile sauce piled on top of it. Add in some authentic refried beans (which, like most good refried beans, had “lard” as their primary ingredient) and some nicely scrambled eggs, and this was a pleasant and flavorful breakfast.

Carol did almost as well with her breakfast enchiladas: two ample enchiladas with a nice filling of cheese, onion, and eggs, also served up with a flavorful and well-done chile sauce and the same beans. We were both disappointed a bit in the rice, however, which was a bit bland and starchy. But rice aside, it was also a quite satisfying breakfast, and good enough to keep us going through our drive to Denver.

Overall, Las Marias was a pleasant breakfast location with a rather nice Mexican menu and some very flavorful and spicy menu items for breakfast. I’ll believe Ariane that it’s one of the better breakfasts to be had in the area.

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