Big World Flavor with a Hometown Feel
Photos By: Josh Triggs
No matter your ethnic background, cultural tendencies, or general opinions about food, there is no question that walking into Maria’s Taqueria, located in downtown Shepherdstown, transports you to a truly authentic TexMex/SoCal influenced taco shop. Specializing in authentic, fresh, locally garnered ingredients, with a low price tag and large portion sizes that come out as fast as the best takeaway restaurants. I know what you’re thinking, you might think it’s all too good to be true, but giving them a chance, you’ll find you can have your taco and eat it too.
Maria’s offers far more than just a mighty taco selection. With tried and true menu items that include Huevos Rancheros; a delicious and popular Mexican, breakfast dish that is taken to the next level by Maria Allen (Owner and creator of Maria’s Taqueria), her staff and the hand-selected choice of ingredients. Starting with a bed of two corn tostadas topped with pork that came from Crestview Meats in Martinsburg and two fried eggs, that could have potentially been taken from one her own personal family of 9 various chickens, that lie underneath a wonderful array of black beans, salsa verde, jalapeno aioli, fresh cilantro, onions, pico de gallo and queso fresco, all made in the kitchen, from scratch, with zero shortcuts. To, ‘Daily Specials’ like the “Cuban Gooding Jr.”, a Cuban sandwich made with, melt in your mouth, Virginia ham, baby Swiss, dill pickles, yellow mustard, and the best shredded pork I have ever tasted on homemade focaccia, served with rice and beans, or some days with yummy, fresh plantains.
Not only do you have your choice of how you would like your meal, Maria’s is wonderfully conscious of the diverse eating habits of everyone in 2016 and offers all Vegan and Vegetarian options for each and every dish, while always staying true to the integrity and tradition of the dish.
Along with great food, local beers are featured, such as Bell’s Brewing Company and Cobbler Mountain Ciders and wines are also available as well as weekly events such as on the first Tuesday of every month they are host to ‘Tacos and Tunes’, featuring $3 drinks and a multitude of different bands from all over the area to play inside the restaurant, giving diners a truly memorable experience while eating. “Its never just about the food or just about the drinks, it’s about the people that show up and the services we provide that keep us excited and driven to provide the community with affordable entertainment and good quality food to compliment everything,” stated Maria.
Maria’s Taqueria is a nose to tail business and no meals are leftover to be tossed, if Maria and her staff have anything to do about it. Meals are often donated and food is hardly wasted. There are only three trashcans out back, not a dumpster, to accommodate a restaurant that uses over 50lbs of tomatoes in a day! However, there are also many recycling bins that have various, different uses and purposes, all saved to be processed in a way that is sustainable and that leaves behind the smallest footprint possible. As well as having a footprint far smaller than most two-person households, Maria also chooses to keep her ingredients as close to home as possible. Be it from her own garden of fresh herbs and spices or an egg from one her chickens, she also reaches out to all of the local orchards for ingredients as well as the fabulous Blonde Farms LLC out of Inwood for her beef, just a few miles up the road.
In the words of Maria, “Come in and let the food speak for itself.” There is nothing more true than that statement because there is no question that the quality of ingredients, the low price and high quality, delicious plates, do indeed, speak the language of traditional, simple, yet explosive flavors that everyone should experience.
Maria Allen is the woman behind the operation and in 2008 she was a fresh Shepherd University Graduate and even though the economy was in a deep recession from the stock market crash, she knew that she had to do something to create a job for herself. Facing incredible odds, with a small loan from her supportive parents, Maria’s Taqueria was born on June 23rd, 2009; on Maria’s actual birthday, a sweet reminder of when it all began. In just a small alleyway building with 6 seats for in-dining, she and her staff, most of which are still with her almost 8 years later, created something that within just a few months had a line out the door and dedicated customers always coming back for more!
When walking into the restaurant, Maria’s Taqueria is also full of beautiful symbolism that stays close to Maria’s heart. As you walk into the vibrant and laid back atmosphere, there are ornately decorated Sugar Skulls and Rising Suns that litter the walls and shelves. These items that were made from various co-workers and friends, they all have special and individual meanings. The Rising Sun is a symbol of good luck and best wishes. The Sun was also the first logo that Maria’s Taqueria had until it changed in 2014 when they moved out of the tiny 6 seat restaurant to the now much larger location down the street. The logo changed to the Sugar Skull as a thank you to the community for their continued support and patronage. The Skull is deeply rooted in Mexican Culture as a way of giving thanks, many thanks, for life, love, prosperity and support.
When the restaurant changed locations, tensions were rising because the demographic started to pick up similar themed restaurants. With the mentality that, “If you build it, they will come,” Maria knew she could, yet again, face the turbulence ahead. The new location didn’t even have a kitchen, yet she and her staff managed to install an entirely new kitchen in a completely gutted building that used to house an art gallery, in less than TWO MONTHS and created a space that is comfortable, inviting and esthetically pleasing in every way. When she re-opened the doors, Maria was not wrong, people came and they continue to show up everyday, leaving full and happy.
Maria is a truly intelligent, forward thinking business owner, she is very traditionally sound in her business practices, and continues to show the community that consistency pays off. She and her core group of family and friends have been what Maria describes as, “… The reason I am in business and as happy and successful as we have been from the start…”. Maria also remains humble and remembers all of the customers that support she and the restaurant as well. “We are constantly thankful for the support from the community. Without their support we wouldn’t be who we are today.”
Maria’s Taqueria is open everyday, except Sunday, to, “Give my staff a break that they work hard for and deserve.” according to Maria. To find out more information you can find them on Facebook, or just stop in at 108 East German Street in Shepherdstown. You won’t regret finding this hidden paradise and enjoying all of the food, drinks and events that they have to offer.