The heart and soul of South Austin, Maria’s Taco Xpress has been a beacon of fun on Lamar Boulevard since the late 1990s. The exterior is a smattering of eclectic, funky murals, topped off with a 20-foot statue of Maria herself beckoning passersby to come in. Without investigation, one might assume the restaurant had hired the same exterior decorator as Austin’s legendary Cathedral of Junk — another must on your trip through the always-weird Texas capitol.
Maria’s is known for its tacos of course; for $2-$4 a pop, it’s tempting to order them all. The migas is one you won’t find on every Tex-Mex breakfast menu, but it’s worth a try: cheesy eggs with a little added crunch from crushed tortilla chips, and topped with onions, jalapenos, and tomatoes. The pollo guisado taco uses shredded chicken that has been expertly stewed in a chipotle sauce — it’s both sweet, spicy, and addictive. But with a stack of fresh, warm tortillas, the fajitas will always offer the most bang for your buck. Load up at the free salsa bar and find a table to chow down.
If the weather allows, enjoy your meal on Maria’s open-air patio; it includes a stage, where on Sundays this hippie town gathers for live gospel music and to dance like no one’s watching during Gospel Brunch. The first Tuesday night of every month sees an entirely different vibe — albeit the same general crowd — for Drag Queen Bingo. With all of this town’s new construction, Maria’s offers a refreshing side of Austin we hope to never see toned down.