Expose on Maria's: Who is Maria?
A quaint little taco joint stands on Tremont Street in Boston, wedged snugly between New York Pizza and Intermission Tavern. Blink while you’re walking at a Boston pace down the sidewalk and you’ll miss it. Go in, however, and your senses will be overwhelmed by the bright orange walls and the scent of peppers and cilantro. Order food, and you’ll see why this dive has remained an Emerson staple since the day it opened nine years ago. This is Maria’s Taqueria.
Maria’s is an independent, family owned and operated restaurant that was opened by Christian Mancia, an immigrant from El Salvador, nine years ago. Mancia named the place after his grandmother Maria. The place is open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, even on weeknights. Ricky Percoco, a close family friend of the owners and an employee since the day Maria’s opened says while the food might not be a perfect imitation of Salvadorian cuisine, in this area, “it’s as close as you’re gonna get.” Percoco says his favorite part of the job is getting to work with people who are “basically his family.” He also says that the customer base is almost exclusively Emerson students.
Mention Maria’s around any Emerson student and they’ll likely start planning their next trip there immediately. Most students remember their first time there. Bridget Walsh, writing, literature and publishing ‘18, says her first time was October of freshman year. “I came drunk with a couple friends, ordered a cheese quesadilla with guacamole, and sat on the curb watching the lights of the traffic go by.” She recounts this memory as she sits across from me inside Maria’s, eating a cheese quesadilla with guacamole. “I only come here maybe twice a month. It’s like a treat.”
Mariela Deynes, a junior screenwriting major, though she doesn’t go as much anymore, used to be a bit of a regular. “Freshman year I went so often they knew me by name, knew my order before I placed it, and knew to speak to me in Spanish.” She still considers herself “no stranger” to the eatery.
Deynes’s order is a carnitas quesadilla with refried beans and guacamole. Percoco tells me that the most popular items are the steak burrito and the nachos. As for me, I had a confession I had to confront recently. I had never been to Maria’s. I know, they probably wouldn’t even give me my Emerson degree if they knew that. Somehow I made it to the beginning of my junior year, more than halfway there, without ever having a friend say, “Hey, let’s go to Maria’s!”, or even trying it out myself. My first order was a chicken burrito, with everything in it, of course. My initial reaction? Miles better than Chipotle.
My Maria’s virginity was taken, and I was beginning to see why this place is such an Emerson staple. It’s fast, close, delicious, and mostly importantly, reasonably priced. But I was searching for what gave it that edge over other restaurants in the area, because there’s certainly enough competition.
Deynes told the story of the first time she went to Maria’s during orientation week with her suitemates. “We took our food out to the Commons cause we were freshman and we thought that was so cool.” She also took her entire family there during Parents’ Weekend, introducing them to the height of Boston’s south-of-the-border cuisine.
“One time, when I was pledging Kappa,” says Walsh, “I was so stressed and overwhelmed that I came into Maria’s and cried over a quesadilla.” Not alone, though; she was with a couple of close friends. Maria’s does provided the perfect backdrop to cry. It’s off campus but familiar, and small enough to be private but not uncomfortably so.
Maybe the allure of the place, what keeps us coming back for more, is that Maria’s has always been there for us. From freshman year when we were making our first Emerson memories, to the times when we’re too frazzled to do anything more than blubber into some cheesy tortilla, to when we need a snack to satisfy our wildest midnight cravings, Maria’s has been there. Percoco even tells me that they have a food truck in the works. And at the rate at which Emerson students frequent the place, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Photography by: Monika Davis