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Restaurant Review: Taco Maria, an American Dream – Lunch Menu

Restaurant Review: Taco Maria, an American Dream – Lunch Menu

Review of Taco Maria – an American Dream

Part 1 – Taco Maria Lunch Menu

Taco Maria is a rare unicorn of a restaurant that combines Chicano soul food recipes, modern culinary technique and and Chef Carlos Salgado’s penchant for artistry. Selling their food truck at the right time of the food truck hype, the brother and sister team of Carlos and Silvia Salgado scraped every last bit of cash to open Taco Maria restaurant in the OC Mix. They have been open for less than five months and have already been gaining regional attention.


Taco Maria From truck to Brick and Mortar

Taco Maria From truck to Brick and Mortar


At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Carlos Salgado who cut his teeth cooking under some of the top Chefs in San Francisco, including a two-star Michelin restaurant. While he may have learned culinary techniques from his fine dining experience, the heart of Taco Maria’s recipes come from family meals and experience from their parent’s 25 year old taqueria.


Taco Maria's Chef Carlos Salgado

Taco Maria’s Chef Carlos Salgado runs his kitchen like an artists studio


Taco Maria Lunch Menu

Taco Maria’s menu vastly differs from Lunch to Dinner. The dinner menu gives you the opportunity to taste a four-course “fork and knife” meal. In contrast, lunch is more casual and places a focus on gourmet tacos. This review will focus exclusively on their lunch menu and a future post will cover their dinner course menu.

The Lunch menu is clean and simple, a couple appetizers and a list of seasonal tacos made from local ingredients and handmade tortillas. Below is what we ordered:


After I took my first bite I sat back and said to myself, “That was really good.” I looked around at my table mates and they had the same reaction on their faces.

Taco Maria Rockfish Crudo AGUACHILE

A delicious appetizer Aquachile, a rock fish cured in Serrano Chili infused citrus and oil. On the side is a velvety watermelon jam



In a simple and elegant presentation, a filet of rockfish rests in a puddle of Serrano chile infused citrus juice alongside a dollup of watermelon jam. It is garnished with leaves of the spinach family, radish and cracked pepper.

The creamy texture of the fish gives way to a sparkly acidity of the citrus juice, followed by sweetness of the watermelon jam and finishes with a slight tingle from the Serrano chili. This dish was a flavor roller coaster.


Fish Taco


“This is perhaps the best fish taco that I have ever eaten.” “I agree”,  says another table mate as the burnt leek aioli runs down his chin.


Taco Maria Fish Taco

Taco Maria’s Fish taco, so simple looking but one of the best fish tacos I have experienced.


Each ingredient, down to the house made tortillas are made with a flavor profile in mind. The sweet fish protein plays nicely with the house made savory burnt leek mayo sauce. The grapes provided cluster bombs of sweetness that cut through the savory flavor and kept the taco fresh.

The fish was fried perfectly crispy, with a very light layer of crispy dough, thus allowing the fish to shine. I agree with my table mate, this was one of the best fish tacos that I have experienced.


Like the Ocean, Taco Maria’s Mole has many mysteries

Taco Maria Mole Taco

Taco Maria’s Mole Taco is deep in flavors and a must try


Tender dark meat chicken is paired with a remarkable mole sauce that is deep in flavor with hints of sweet and spice. This taco has an evolving flavor of smokey, sweet and ever so slightly spicy notes interacting with the rich dark meat chicken.

The pickled red onions bring a taste of acidity and the cheese provides a creamy contrast. Altogether the mole is an impressive taco. If you remember their mole tacos from their gourmet food truck days, this taco is a highly upgraded throwback.



The flavors of this dish are locked into the arrachera. 

Taco Maria Arrachera Taco

Taco Maria Arrachera has extremely deep flavored taco. The complexity of this dish lies in the flavors locked into the meat.


This taco is made with a deeply marinated arrachera (hanger steak) is grilled over a wood burning stove to a perfect medium and chopped and served with a tangy cream sauce, white creamy sauce, green peppers and quelites (cousin of spinach).

This is a delicious taco that provides an upfront savory beef flavor and smokiness. The greens level out the taco with an earthy flavors.



This taco was way too pretty to eat, but the artistry lies in the flavor layering.

Taco Maria Jardinos Taco

Taco Maria Jardinos Taco is a piece of art

The Jardineros Taco is made with shitake mushrooms, chile poblano, caramelized chives, and allium flowers (cousin of the garlic). The shitake mushrooms have a lemony zing, slight tingle and a garlicky savory finish. A remarkable taco.

Final Thoughts

Taco Maria Fish Taco and Mole TacoTaco Maria is helping to shape the Orange County Restaurant scene.  Orange County is often accused of either not having progressive food or being the honey pot for successful Los Angeles restaurants looking to carpetbag in the OC market. Taco Maria stands in contrast to this perception. Chef Carlos Salgado is creating food that is uniquely Southern Californian and has the potential to be a regional influence.

Just this past weekend, my brother’s girl friend told me that they have heard of Taco Maria all the way in San Diego. I am looking forward to trying their four course dinner next!


Where to find Taco Maria

3313 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa

(at the OC Mix, Located in the SOCO Shopping Center)


Four Course Prix Fixe ($44 prix fixe menu)
Thurs – Sat
5:30pm – 9:30pm.
Reserve Online

Lunch (a la carte – $10-12 per taco duo)
Tues – Sat
11:30am- 2:30pm 
Taco Maria on Urbanspoon


See my other recent posts

Guinness Stew Recipe

2014 Food Trends –  Restaurant Edition

Solita – A Taste of Baja in Huntington Beach

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. That aquachile looks pretty darn good. Heck, they all do.

  2. wow the Fish Tacos are sooooo good.

  3. I got hungry ready this article. The mushroom taco looks beautiful. It’s hard to believe they put out this kind of food from a truck.

  4. We do not have many food trucks around here, but when we did, they were better than some sit down places.. This truck looks awesome!

  5. although i love your pics, it would be great to see some video of you eating this food!

  6. I have never heard of Chicano Soul Food. This looks amazing..great article too!

  7. I would love to try some of those fish tacos. Love your pictures!!!

  8. Chef Carlos Salgado sounds like we need him to open us a place here!

  9. Ooooo Yummy, I love fish tacos.
    The Shitake taco looks good too

  10. Those fish tacos look really good. I wish that I could visit this restaurant.

  11. only taco I ever had is beef! SO many tasty kind! Looks really good especially that fish taco!

  12. As always..another amazing food review

  13. Great review of Taco Maria! I enjoyed their food when they were a truck. I cannot wait to check out their restaurant. We should do the prix fixe meal:)

  14. Fish tacos! I love them… all of this food looks great.

  15. The fish tacos look really good! I would like some of that for lunch today! Thanks for exposing us to good eats!

    Yvonne Brown

  16. Normally I don’t get into food enough to ever read these types of posts, but I really enjoyed this. Thanks for taking the time to post enough images to make the read feel more complete.

  17. I love fish Tacos – they look am-ay-zing Tom!

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