Taco Maria, America’s Michelin Starred Taco Restaurant

Tucked away in Orange County California is America’s only Michelin starred taco restaurant. Now that claim is solely based on the Michelin guide’s online results for the word taco but it makes for a good title.

Service

Tacos Maria is small, upscale, and contemporary with attentive staff and unique flavors. We sat outside in lovely evening weather, the surrounding center was empty and quiet. They turned on the heater at our request later in the evening. My friends and I had to make a reservation two weeks in advance and we took the last time slot for the week at 8 pm on a Thursday. Their service was excellent serving silverware to the correct positions, never letting our drinks empty, and resetting chairs / napkins when a guest stepped away for the restroom. The food however did take a while to get to us after we ordered.

Menu

As I understand it the menu changes and this one was labeled Summer 2021, a mixture of the food they were serving before the pandemic and the take out they were serving during the pandemic. Between my friends and I we ordered everything on the menu. With a bit of sampling I can confidently say everything they serve tastes amazing. I ordered the molle de pato, the duck was cooked well and came right off the bone. The fig mole had a very strong flavor in my dish and perhaps they could have toned that down a bit. The arrachera was my favorite of my friends’ dishes and I’ll probably try that one next time.

Drinks

My favorite drink was the classic margarita made with agave wine instead of tequila and came with a rim of black salt. The agave wine made the flavor smoother than tequila and although I was a bit bummed at first, if they eventually get a liquor license I hope they keep the agave wine option. Something of note, the texture and taste of the salt stood out to me as well. I attempted to have them put that salt on more of my drinks but they couldn’t accommodate my request due to strict portioning.

Vegetable Accompaniments 

The entrees could have been eaten alone but we all put them into the blue corn tortillas to create tacos. I’d say the charred avocado and the jalapenos are a must for the building the tacos. They also give you a dark “salsa” that reminds me of the chili oil found in Asian dishes.

Other Thoughts

Some people tell me that like good sushi ruined regular sushi for them. These tacos may as well have been their own genre of food. I’ve tasted no Mexican food like it.

Cost

Dinner came out to be about $120 a person for shared appetizers, shared vegetables, two drinks each, and one entrée each. We all agreed that it was worth it.

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