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May 29, 2014 03:57 PM

Taco Maria lunch and the OC Mart Mix (a couple paragraphs long).

The Orange County Mix mart has been going strong, steadily, for the past few years. The minimalist design might merely be the semiotic sign of the future when it comes to the development of novel shopping complexes. Light, airy, white on white, glass enclosed units that are somehow left open to more light. Woodsy exteriors that belie the woodsy steaks grilled on the charcoal burners in a couple of the restaurants (i.e. the newish Taco Maria and the already established the Arc).

A slither of a store aptly named Analog sells what else but vinyl records for the connnoseiur in you or me (the Buckingham-Nicks album with the two interlaced in what looks to be a post-coital moment can be yours for only $70).

There's a low fat, or rather lower fat ice cream stand doling out scoops. But truth to tell give me McConnell's deliriously ultra-rich butterfat laden suave Turkish coffee ice cream or Island Coconut ice cream any day of the week instead).

A tea parlor stands adjacent to Portola Coffee, which is firmly ensconced in the adage that coffee joints should look like laboratories complete with Siphons lit up on the bunsen burners you remember from your high school chemistry class than your neighborhood outpost of Peet's coffee.

Which gets us to the much heralded Taco Maria. The tiny joint, almost too minuscule to be called a joint and possibly more aptly called a Lilliputian lunch counter, has roughly ten counter seats plus three tables (yes, three tables). Though there's outside seating on the well-manicured "patio" for another half dozen tables or so.

The woodsy smell of the charcoal burning oven will definitely lure you to the joint from ten paces away.

Lunch was the order of the day (despondently and disappointingly, tasting menu are vehemently not served at lunch).

Though what came forth was no consolation prize. The chorizo tacos made purely of shithakke mushrooms, brown rice, and highly seasoned to the proverbial tee were spicy and deliriously delicious, almost too spicy for Costa Mesa-cum-affluent Newport Beach tastes (save for the lack of pork intestines and any porkiness in sight it would not be out of place in downtown Santa Ana at rough-hewn loncheria just a few blocks from newly fashionable artist's district). The hand-patted tortillas were simply fine, and the roasted and lightly salted potatoes gilded the lilly to good measure.

The kanpachi sashimi laced with a super spicy lime inflected serrano chile sauce and topped with miniature slivers of Persian mulberries fresh from the farmer's market was quite refreshing and ultimately virtuous in the manner of thinly-sliced sashimi array topped with dollops of tiradito at one of the finer, esteemed, half dozen sushi dens around town.

Too bad there would be no tasting menu at lunch.

But I was definitely game to try it.

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  1. Nice review Kevin. Who knew you could write so well :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: mrsjoujou

      Just a few bumps here & there (connnoseiur, shithakke, [capitalized] Lilliputian,Siphons ...)

      1. re: CharlesDarwin

        We've all done it. He's still got an hour to edit.

        (I've seen some of his offline writing before. This man can fu-- um, really write!)

    2. Would it be fair to compare it to Guerilla? If so, please do.

        1. I do love that sashimi. But kevin you must try the tasting menu soon. It is a truly wonderful experience.

          5 Replies
          1. re: set0312

            Kind of crazy, but, a friend of mine recently went to lunch at Taco Maria, and was pretty unimpressed. Texted me in the middle of it, and I ended up meeting them afterwards (I am at Portola basically every day anyway), and I tried some of the guacamole, and steak tacos (they ended up taking 1 of the tacos to go + some of the guac and chips) and it was definitely far less impressive than the chicken tacos and huazontoles I had.

            I guess I really have to try the dinner, but now I'm somewhat worried.

            Also...the place has gotten exponentially more packed thanks to the J Gold love hah

            1. re: BacoMan

              Baco I'm telling you the lunch is not that good. I almost think they tone down their tastes/flavors for lunch. (Is that a good thing? Certainly not, but it is what it is. I guess they've decided to survive with the rich/boring diners they need to serve more boring food.)

              Anyways, I'm going for dinner tonight. I'll let you know if quality has fallen.

              1. re: set0312

                Hmm...maybe I'll just see you there! (I'll be at Portola Coffee all night anyway most likely)

                1. re: BacoMan

                  I'll keep an eye out. I'm young and my friend is young. So if you see two young people at Taco Maria around 8 that'll be us. Do say hello if you do.

                  1. re: set0312

                    I'm also young. I don't know if that's as rare as it sounds.

                    We might be sitting at Portola's coffee bar inside till around 9. We're currently debating also going to TM for dinner though.

                    Gotta get that coffee fix first though.

                    We're at Portola now, and it didn't look that crowded over at TM.

          2. "seasoned to the proverbial tee" shirt

            5 Replies
            1. re: Ciao Bob

              crummy writing as usual on my part.

              1. re: kevin

                I unsecond this remark. Poetry by our resident glutton-laureate. Was the chorizo in the taco actual chorizo accompanied by mushrooms, or a "faux-rizo" made with mushrooms? I only ask because I've always been under the impression by your posts that you are pork-averse. Chorizo would be a cruel torture device to porkaphobians. Again, nice post.

                  1. re: bulavinaka


                    all mushroom. Hence, a faux-rizo of sorts, though definitely not a faux pas.

                    Yeah, no pork, and no meat for me for the time being. I'm on an utterly futile attempt to eat "healthy" and shed some insidious poundage.