Local Area Reviews

You won't find more character and rustic charm in the Austin area than at this little taco joint in South Austin. A hangout for musicians, Taco Xpress is run by Maria Corbalan, who has transformed the small building and ajoining patio into a folk art shrine, not to mention one of the best taquerias in the city.
Dale Rice/ Dinner by the Patio Light

Maria Corbalan runs a dynamite taco joint, a place brimming with rustic charm and folk art on one of the funkiest patios in town. The food is especially enticing, with generously filled tacos that run the gamut from vegetarian to al pastor. Maria's sauces will turn up the heat as far as you want.

South Austin taco queen Maria Corbalan has come a long way since the days of selling delicious tacos out of a tiny trailer. Now Loca Maria is busier than ever, selling her popularly-priced Tex-Mex specialties as fast as a line of cooks can crank them out in this funky little South Austin taqueria. Dress them up yourself with crisp pico de gallo, the fiery house salsa or the vinegary chimichuri from Maria's naive Argentina. For lunch, try thick, homemade gorditas stuffed with potato-studded picadillo or enchiladas made with the best carne guisada in town, plus sides of rice and beans for under $5. Wash it all down with a beer, soda or margarita.
Virginia Wood / food editor of the Austin Chronicle

Some people might be surprised to learn that Maria Corbalan has been in Austin for 19 years, because she still has the kind of enthusiasm for the city as that of a newcomer. A native of Argentina, she's the hardworking owner of Taco Express, a stuffed-and-folded slice of heaven on South Lamar that fulfills some serious Mexican food addictions this side of the river. Musicians, politicians, kids and construction workers, you'll find all types at Taco Express, salivating and perusing the funky, arty walls while waiting patiently in line. And although Maria doesn't have children, per se, she does in fact nurture a very large, devout, hungry "family" of taco-aficionados.

This is 'Maria's third business in eight years at the present location – a Mexican gift shop went by the wayside (anyone remember Curiosity Killed the Cat?), along with a convenience store, Sugar and Spice. She opened a little trailer on the spot four years ago to the chorus of Are you crazy? from friends. You're next to Matt’s El Rancho and Kerbey Lane and you’re going to open up a shack with five tables? they chided. Initially, it looked like they might be right. 17 dollars a day wasn't going to cut it. But three months into Taco Express, the Austin American Statesman did their first article on her, and she watched her sales jump to 300 dollars a day.

Trailer-days behind her, Maria now has 18 employees, a thriving business, and potential investors pleading with her to open a chain. Fat chance, she’ll tell you. She's happy with the way things are...
Meet Maria Corbalan: by Jennifer Marine

For the past couple of years, South Austin Taco Queen Maria Corbalan has operated one of the most popular, most affordable genuine Tex-Mex joints in the city, open daily for breakfast and lunch. It's a charmingly funky little place with counter service, a few inside tables, a small patio, and a continuously full parking lot. Maria's loyal customers requested longer hours and now she has obliged. As of March 1, Taco Xpress has newly expanded hours, a liquor license (plus the requisite margarita machine), and a patio lovingly decorated by local artist Michael Peschka. The great Tex-Mex menu and the friendly, Texas-style service remain the same.

The taco menu here has something for everyone. The tacos are delicious and easy on the wallet. Try the tacos al pastor, toothsome pieces of meat garnished with onions, cilantro, and lime or a mouth-watering order of veggie tacos stuffed with savory grilled vegetables. Migas will satisfy your breakfast cravings and carne guisado, a stew of tender beef tips in spicy gravy, is a good choice for lunch or dinner. Season everything with the fresh house hot sauce or sample the tangy chimichurri, a vinegar-based concoction from Maria’s native Argentina. The fresh, homemade corn tortillas here are not to be missed. They are big and slightly sweet, tender as abuelita’s kiss.

The selections of aguas frescas changes often, but we're partial to fruit flavors such as sandia (watermelon) and tamarindo (tamarind) and we recommend you sample the rice milkshake horchata if it’s available. To complement the truly fine frozen margaritas, Maria has added a few appetizers such as nachos and chile con queso. We suggest you choose a table on the festively decorated patio and settle in with some chips, a bowl of the fiery fresh house salsa and a frosty frozen margarita. Bask in the glow of Maria's warm personal welcome while you anticipate a great little Tex-Mex meal.
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Virginia B. Wood / March 17, 2000