500 Tacos: Maria’s Taco Xpress

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Maria’s Taco Xpress
2529 S. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-444-0261, www.tacoxpress.com
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon; 7am-9pm Tue-Fri; 8am-9pm Sat; 9am-4pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.22.15
Maria’s Taco Xpress is a trainwreck of a place, in a charming way. I’m humming Quincy Jones’ theme to “Sanford & Son” just looking at the junkyard of stoves and boots and license plates and the old truck perched on the second-story deck, where even the outstretched arms of Maria Corbalan’s statue out front couldn’t catch it if it fell. I’ve had good tacos and good times here, but almost three months into this 500 Tacos Project, it’s apparent I’ve let sentimentality blind me to the truth of things. The tacos in this report were a trainwreck, and not in a charming way.
The taco: Migas
I’d hoped for something more adventurous, but a migas taco was the only car left on the tracks after the derailment, held in place by a thick blanket of melted cheddar. When all else fails, it’s hard to beat freshly scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, tomatoes and bits of tortilla chip. A reliable choice at Maria’s. ($2.69)
 Derailed: A taco you have to eat with a knife and fork is no taco at all. Every taco in my order except migas dropped its load like a busted smuggler. I let a wet tangle of pollo guisado remain where it fell and ate it like a forlorn salad of soggy tortilla, lettuce and tomato ($2.99). A corn tortilla is al pastor’s sidekick, but a damp and flavorless tortilla is no taco’s friend, and it couldn’t counterattack the chalky, over-marinated pork and its sweetness overkill ($2.99).
 Yam express: I could let the Bandera taco slide, maybe, if I imagined it as a hippie bowl of guacamole, black beans, sweet potatoes and queso fresco. A bowl you eat with your fingers like Hawaiian poi at a luau. Those nuggets of roasted sweet potato make it good cool-weather comfort food, but it’s a hard value to swallow at $4.
 Tortillas: Taco Xpress compounds the sin of storebought corn tortillas by not doubling them, and they might as well wrap them in single-ply paper towels. They make their own corn tortillas in the morning, but if they run out by lunchtime, what good does that do me? I ordered two of my tacos on flour, but the cook had an appetite for destruction instead. And corn.
 Salsa: Always a bright spot at Maria's, the salsa bar is stocked with jalapeños, onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, limes and four salsas: a big herbal chimichurri, a roasted tomato with medium heat, a sweet and mild house red and a tangy orange chile de arbol.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)