First of all I am NOT a Mexican cuisine persons. Past mild cheese and chips or some deserts, I would starve to death south of the boarder! However, my family likes such.
While returning from Texas (where it seemed every time we looked for an authentic Mexican restaurant, they were closed!?) back to the Midwest, we decided that the Joplin, MO area would be our lunch stop. Seriously out-voted, we used Google Places and TripAdvisor to scope out the local landscape for Mexican. Maria's was the hands down winner for both forums, with the hesitation of a smoking issue back in September 2013. Calling the restaurant, we found they had gone smoke free. So off we were to Marias for the family to get lunch, am me hoping for just a couple chips and soda to hold me over until the next "MacDon's Steak House" drive-through.
The atmosphere was cool! Dispite its location in a small strip mall setting, the outside was very welcoming and attractive. The inside walls were painted within the recent past with large and rather interesting murals depicting Mexican heritage. Tables were solid (not wobbly) and the air was fresh with a strong alluring aroma coming from the kitchen (I may not like eating Mexican, but I can appreciate the aromas!).
We were greeted and welcomed promptly and processed for a table. I'm not exactly sure just how to put this properly, but front side staff did not seemed overly polished and rehearsed, but very genuine and real. I definitely got the impression and feeling that this was a family run type operation, and certainly not some national plastic chain. I found that exceptionally refreshing.
Table wear and place settings were very chic yet simple. Chips arrived with three dipping sauces (I actually went for the hot - an oddity for me, but maybe I was starting to get into the mood?).
The service was prompt, courteous, and not politely patient with us. Food delivery seemed just a bit slow, but it could have been due to some of our orders. We did see others who had come in after us, get their food first.
The menu had several items that I had not seen in your standard Mexican eateries. And shock of all shocks: several shrimp based entrées , including one with garlic and BACON!!! (Sorry, MacDon's...maybe next time...). Shrimp Azteca, as I recall.
I was pleasantly surprised by not only an entrée that sounded intriguing, but one that certainly had a great taste and richness about it. The shrimp was fabulous. And you can never go wrong with bacon! The side rice was basic with some added peppers and such (which for me is very do-able). It had flavor to it that surpassed any Mexican rice I had ever had.
The general response by my otherwise Mexican-familiar restaurant goers was that the food was FABULOUS! We were not stuffed, but certainly full and satisfied. Price seemed very reasonable for what we received.
The men's room could have been a bit cleaner, and adorned a bit to not look so drab, but after all - men don't go there to make relationships - just business.
If we were passing this way again, Maria's certainly earned our interest in stopping by again.
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