Taco María, one of Orange County’s only Michelin-star restaurants, announced that it will be closing this Saturday after 10 years at its Costa Mesa location. Carlos Salgado told the Los Angeles Times that the closure happened quickly, as he had planned to extend the original 10-year lease at Costa Mesa’s bustling OC Mix at SoCo Collection space but declined. Salgado said he plans to relocate Taco María to a larger space that can accommodate more guests but hasn’t landed one yet.
When it first opened in 2013, Taco María was blazing a trail for modern Mexican cuisine in Southern California. Salgado had previously worked at Coi and Commis in Northern California before opening Taco María with the vision of promoting heirloom corn varieties, seasonal cooking, and traditional Mexican preparations served through a modern lens. He received immense acclaim, including a 2018 Los Angeles Times Restaurant of the Year designation, a Michelin star, and a long stint on the Eater Essential 38 restaurants in Orange County. The restaurant is known for its innovative Alta California cuisine, representing a new melding of traditional Mexican and Californian techniques served at a reasonable price point. When it opened, the tasting was close to $50 a person; even after a decade, the cost for the prix fixe is $100, a fairly attainable amount for a fine dining place of this caliber.
With only 28 seats, Salgado and the Taco María team found it difficult to operate, especially after an extended pandemic closure. The Times reported that Salgado had the opportunity to extend the lease by a year or two, but with the required maintenance and cost, he decided not to extend. Salgado is hoping for something closer to 50 seats, a separate bar area, more storage and prep areas, and plentiful parking that would help set Taco María up for long-term financial success. Salgado told the Times that these are aspects that a full “grown-up” restaurant would have.
With such sudden closure news, all of the remaining reservations are sold out, says Salgado. But the chef promises Taco María will rise again, just somewhere else.