Since 2013, chef Carlos Salgado and sister Silvia, who runs the front of house, have transitioned from food truck glory to one of California’s most ambitious Mexican restaurants, Taco Maria. They set up at Costa Mesa’s latest anti-mall, the The OC Mix. Salgado crafts ambitious multi-course menus at dinner, lunch is more casual, and Taco Maria recently rolled out weekend brunch, which seems custom-made for the relaxing wood-framed patio.
Each week, expect a different 3-course, $36 brunch, with two options at each course. Dine with one other person and you’ll be able to experience the entire brunch menu, which is pretty great. The dinner menu is more firmly rooted in Mexican culinary traditions, and while they’re still evident at brunch in terrific takes on molletes and chilaquiles, you’ll also find options like granola with yogurt, and my personal favorite, blood orange buttermilk pancakes. Of course Salgado is a chef who worked in cutting-edge Bay Area restaurants like Daniel Patterson’s Coi, and James Syhabout’s Commis, so you know the man can cook dishes across a broad spectrum. His pancakes are slightly tangy, with thin, crisp coats. A pair of cakes sandwich ricotta folded with blood orange zest. A generous dollop of whipped butter, which slid right off my short stack, was a nice touch, as was the ceramic pitcher of thyme maple syrup. Pancakes don’t normally grab my attention, but these sure did.