What if the best restaurant in Los Angeles restaurant was not actually in Los Angeles? It’s not really our style to play favorites, but the hour drive that separates L.A. from Costa Mesa almost (we said almost) becomes a pleasure when you know what’s waiting for you. And as its name does not suggest, Taco Maria is not a taquería. It is a casual restaurant that behaves like a great one: impeccable service, elegant wine pairing, dishes that combine technique, talent, and a dollop of mole. Products are pampered, seasons are respected, and they even get their corn from Masienda, the queen of cobs. For the penny-conscious, their Sunday brunch gives a foretaste of the tasting menu — even though it does not honor its creativity. Salgado, who used to cook at Coi and Commis in San Francisco, now shares his kitchen every month with other bestsellers: Wes Avila (Guerrilla Tacos), Tim Maslow (Ribelle), Jim Christiansen (Heyday), etc. At 11PM,, the four-course tasting menu has gone, the wine glasses are empty, and we leave with only one regret: that Carlos Salgado decided to open his restaurant in Orange County…

Address: 3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Opening hours: Mardi-Samedi 11:00–14:30, 17:30–21:30, Dimanche 10h-15h.

Menu: tacomaria.com

Reservations: 714-538-8444 or or on their website

Style: Mexican

Price: Dinner menu $75, Brunch menu $35 

Neighborhood: Costa Mesa

Best for: Dinner