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May 21, 2007 11:54 AM

Maria's Mexican Cafe

After the 5th Ave. street fair yesterday, we stopped off at Maria's on Union and 4th. for dinner. I liked the space inside, though would have preferred to sit on the little patio in the back, but there were no seats available. We waited for at least 10 minutes for the waiter to come over, fill our water glasses and ask us if we wanted anything to drink. This would be our introduction to a meal through which we waited...and waited...and waited some more for the rest of the evening.
My boyfriend wanted to try one of the tequila flights. The menu offered a really good variety of tequilas and we thought we'd dabble by ordering the flights. The waiter informed us that they didn't have the tequila flights. We were puzzled; I asked if they had the tequila why we couldn't have the sampler? The waiter's English was limited, so we went ahead and ordered 2 house margaritas instead of trying to discuss with him our confusion. The menu was different and had some interesting options compared to the other local Mexican joints. However, the food proved to be disappointing and the service simply atrocious.
We waited another 15-20 minutes for our drinks to come along with our order of fresh guacamole. The margaritas were ok, strong but not great. The guacamole wasn't spicy at all and had little flavor but we were hungry so it was somewhat satisfying. As we were finishing the guacamole and our first round of drinks, our entrees were brought out. I had the sirloin and shrimp cooked on a hot lava rock and my boyfriend ordered 3 tacos to sample. A black pumice pot came out with pieces of tough, way over-cooked steak and two shrimp dangling off the side. I asked for refried beans, but they gave me some nasty black beans. The tortillas were burnt, cold and like cardboard. I also ordered a side of their corn on the cob with chile, cheese and mayo that also came out cold. My boyfriend's tacos were bad; the meat dry and flavorless. Oddly, one of the tacos tasted like a gyro.
All and all, the meal was just BAD. The waiter took our second drink orders when he brought out the food, but we didn't get the drinks until after we were done eating and our table was cleared. We then sipped on our drinks and waited for another 15 minutes for the waiter to bring the check. People all around us were complaining and the waiter simply dismissed the poor service as a result of simply "being too busy". Ok, there were a few tables but the place was by no means packed. At least offer dessert or after-dinner drinks on the house if your guests have to wait around for like 20 minutes to be offered a fresh drink. I really wanted to like this place, since there are so few decent Mexican places in the area. I love eating Mexican outside in the summer and throwing back a few good margaritas. But this place disappoints. I'm still searching...

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  1. I wish that I had bothered to read this before my g/f and I made the mistake of having dinner at this place tonight. The service was awful, the food mediocre and the management was dismissive. The evening started off with it taking 25 minutes to get two margaritas. I ordered cheese enchiladas and after several bites I realized that they had served me chicken enchiladas. I should have stormed the kitchen rather than eat some of the meal while waiting for a waiter who never showed.

    I pointed out the mistake to the waiter, asked for the check and told him that I wouldn't be paying for the higher priced dish that they brought me. He brought the check with the chicken dish still on it and then scurried back into the darkness to "adjust" the check. I asked for a manager and a waitress came over and offered me two drinks on the house. I declined and again asked for the check. This is where the experience really took a turn for the worse! The busboy came over and informed me that she wasn't a manager and the "real" manager was behind the bar. I headed inside to find the "real" manager and after telling her about the awful experience she shrugged and said "The manager isn't here tonight." I asked the busboy on my way out if she was indeed the manager and he confirmed that she was. A busy night is one thing but a manager that ducks accountability??? Unacceptable.

    To the owner: Read comments on every site online regarding this place.
    Everyone has an awful meal, terrible service and your managers are ducking complaints. Close down, stop serving food and do everyone a favor and stop pretending that you offer anything close to a decent experience.

    2 Replies
    1. re: easternfanoffood

      I am quite amazed at both of these stories. My SO and I have eaten at Maria's no less than 10 times in the past 3 years and we have never had anything other than a wonderful meal. I think their guacamole is quite good, and can be spicy (although, honestly, no restaurant makes guac as good as I make at home).

      And I love the molcajete (the lava rock cooked dish). It is their version of fajitas. Usually they will have a special which has chicken, cheese, new york strip and filet mignon, and it is always delicious.

      And their pomegranate margaritas are delicious (and strong).

      Always found the service to be fine -- nothing amazing, but certainly nothing like the stories here.

      We've watched this place grow from a tiny little hole in the wall to basically tripling its size when it took over the next door location. Obviously they are doing something right.

      1. re: elecsheep9

        I think they used to do something right, but that all changed when they took the space next door.

        My wife and I used to go from time to time when they just had the small space on Union off Fourth Avenue, and we always enjoyed ourselves. We went twice after they expanded and our experiences were along the lines of the first two posters on this thread. The food seemed to have gone downhill and the service was as described above...

        ...which is why we stopped going...

    2. Didn't this place change ownership a year or two ago? My wife and I went for late lunch a long while ago and it wasn't too bad. I'm still sad that Cafe Mexicano next door closed. That place trumped Maria's two-fold.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bluishgnome

        I didn't realize the Cafe Mexicano closed. But after the last time I went a few mos. ago and learned they had raised the price of tamales to $3.00 each, I never returned. That is way too much to pay for tamales, especially if you are buying several for a family meal. And to top it off, the surly guy behind the counter was, well, pretty surly about the price hike.

        1. re: Bookistan

          Whoa... $3/tamale? That is ridiculous. I don't remember it being that expensive, but maybe it was right before the closed. Ah well. If you want good authentic Mexican, try the little shop on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 70th. They have great tacos, cemitas, and aguas frescas.

          1. re: Bookistan

            Actually it's still open, I don't know why everyone thinks it's closed. I live a block away, I see it open all the time. I agree that $3 is too much for a tamale, but I have never had anything but pleasant service there...not recent tho, I have not been in a while.

          2. re: bluishgnome

            Maria's was run by Maria and her husband Eduardo. I agree that their expansion did maybe cause the wait to extend a tad, but the owners are sweet people and the food is quite authentic. They do have an extensive tequila list, but the wait can be quite long...

          3. i was an apologist for Maria's for years, claiming that the food (esp. the tortilla soup!) and drinks were worth the interminable wait. it was the heath inspection ratings that drove me away for good, which were through the roof. they've been brought down far enough to stay open, but i get the impression there that there are many aspects of running a restaurant that they are just not interested in staying on top of.

            1 Reply
            1. re: etowernyc

              I've never been here but I had one of the worst delivery experiences ever from this place. Our food took two hours and was ice cold and the people seemed completely indifferent despite my repeated calls. I would have refused to pay for it but then I was worried that the delivery guy would get blamed so I paid for it anyway. This is apparently a place that doesn't value its customers. Thanks for these reviews. My wife and I were going to try the food one more time by going there this weekend but I will now avoid doing so.