Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review February 2010
Taqueria Maria On Third Street
By Dorothy and John Salmon
If you are looking for authentic Mexican food in large portions, served with a smile in an historic neighborhood, you need to try Taqueria Maria at 640 Third Street, next to Villa Iris and across the street from the Napa Valley Exposition in Napa. As you drive up to Taqueria Maria you will see large signs proclaiming “Under New Ownership;” “Happy Hour 4-6 PM with 20% off all menu items;” and “Breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., open 7 days a week.”
Taqueria Maria’s new owner is David Renosa, a charming, handsome and hard working 20- something, who is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and who lived in Los Angeles and Orange County before moving to Napa. David got his restaurant experience in Southern California. Now, David and his brothers work together at Taqueria Maria to serve up their rendition of authentic Mexican food, prepared fresh with plenty of spices, and Dorothy’s all time favorite … cilantro. We all believe that Dorothy probably puts cilantro on Cheerios.
Dorothy and her pal Laura Masters had lunch at Taqueria Maria on a day when the place was filled with workmen from the neighboring Wine Train flood control relocation project. Taqueria Maria typically caters to local workers who want a healthy, big lunch for a reasonable price. We felt comfortable in a smaller neighborhood style restaurant that was buzzing with guys enjoying great Mexican food in a friendly, upbeat setting surrounded by bright yellow walls, Mexican art with comfortable tables and chairs. The interior of Taqueria Maria seats 30 people and the outside seating area seats 18 when the weather permits.
Taqueria Maria is not fancy, but the food is wonderful with some unique spices and fresh homemade green or red salsa that is tasty. The chips are warm, the salsa good and Taqueria Maria offers the typical Mexican beers; Pacifico, Dos Equis and Corona, plus the All American Bud and Bud Light. They also serve a variety of soft drinks, some assorted local wines, and one of the best renditions of Horchata we have ever tasted. Horchata is a Mexican rice based drink that is a very milky, sweet soft drink.
Luckily, Laura and Dorothy sat across from two Taqueria Maria regulars, Neva and Jerry Ricco. They love the place, eat there all the time and were very helpful in telling us why they love this Mexican restaurant, the owners and the friendly neighborhood feeling you get when dining at Taqueria Maria. If you frequented the restaurant before David Renosa bought it, you might remember booth type seating. Now, the seating is designed with individual tables seating of 2 or 4 that can easily be pulled together for larger parties. According to Neva Ricco, the place is buzzing for breakfast every day and especially on Sunday after church. Since there are many churches close by, it makes sense.
While Laura and Dorothy were solving all the world’s problems, they ordered lunch from David, the hospitable owner who seemed very surprised that we were doing a restaurant review and just a little nervous. David was the only server that day and he was hustling to make sure everything was set up properly, cleaned immediately after each table left and serving his guests with a smile and real charm.
Neva suggested that we try the homemade horchata (Small $1.79 – Medium $1.99 -Large $2.49). We ordered one, tried it and loved it. We also ordered two freshly made large ice tea’s ($2.49) that were filled and refilled often by David. Laura ordered the Chicken Fajitas grilled with onions, bell peppers and fresh tomatoes served with rice, beans, a salad, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and tortillas ($11.99). Laura was impressed by the addition of fresh tomatoes in the fajita mix and thought that her refried beans, rice and fajitas were great. Dorothy ordered the taco and enchilada combination plate ($8.99). The chicken enchilada and chicken taco were accompanied by black beans, salad and rice, all of which were excellent.
We topped off lunch by trying David’s homemade flan ($3.00), which was wonderful. While we were there, we noticed many “to go” folks picking up lunch orders. We asked them if they ordered lunch often from Taqueria Maria and they all said they did, as this is a local’s favorite spot for lunch, dinner and especially, breakfast.
David and his brothers work VERY hard putting in long hours and serving food every day Sunday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
If you are looking for hard-to-get authentic Mexican dishes served ONLY on weekends including Birria served with beans, rice, cilantro, onions and lime ($8.99) or Pozole (Mexican hominy pork soup) ($8.99) or Menudo (Mexican Tripe soup) ($6.99), Taqueria Maria is the place to go. They serve many seafood dishes priced from $8.99 to $12.99; chicken, steak and prawn fajitas for $11.99; combination plates for $8.99; tacos for $1.99 each; Carnitas (deep fried pork) for $9.99; Lengua (beef tongue) for $9.99; and Costillas de Puerco (Mexican style pork ribs) for $10.99.
They serve several varieties of burritos from $5.69 to $8.49. If you are looking for authentic Chimichanga
(deep friend burrito with any meat, rice, beans with guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, cheese and salsa), you can get it at Taqueria Maria for only $8.49. So, you can feed your entire family for a very reasonable price in a clean and friendly setting while watching the world go by on Third Street.
Laura and I both recommend the place and are sure that it will be even nicer to sit outside when the weather is warm. Reservations are’t required for Taqueria Maria. But, just in case, you may call David at (707) 257-6925. This is the perfect place for great Mexican food that’s not expensive, is very filling, and is served in an upbeat setting.
Try Taqueria Maria on Third Street… you will not be disappointed.