Feliz aniversario!: Maria’s Taqueria celebrates 10 years of business
SHEPHERDSTOWN — A decade ago, Maria Allen graduated from Shepherd University, and after struggling to find a job in the Great Recession, she ended up working in local restaurants to make ends meet.
While she enjoyed living and working in Shepherdstown, Allen couldn’t help wishing Shepherdstown had a Latin food establishment, similar to what she was able to find in her hometown of Vienna, Virginia. At first, she tried to persuade a couple of her coworkers from El Salvador to open up a restaurant. But when her persuasive attempts failed, Allen realized it was up to her to make her dream a reality.
On June 23, 2009, Shepherdstown’s first Latin food establishment opened at 111 West German Street. The simple, fresh and flavorful food of Maria’s Taqueria turned out to be a crowd-pleaser, and in January 2015, the restaurant had outgrown its location and had to move to its current location down the street, at 108 East German Street.
“I kind of let the market determine what the restaurant would be,” Allen said of her menu. “We are by no means authentic, we don’t claim to be. I think we just took the traditional idea of tacos and burritos, and made it ours. It’s like I tried to take your taco night and make it with the freshest ingredients.
“Our formula for getting the restaurant success, was to get people there food and back onto the road as quickly as possible, and give them as much bang for their buck as possible,” Allen said. “After 10 years, the thing I’m most proud of, is we’ve created 17 jobs in this community.”
According to Allen, the size of her first location meant she couldn’t store a lot of ingredients, so she had to get smaller shipments throughout the week. This inconvenience helped Allen discover the community’s desire for fresh ingredients. And, despite being in a larger location today, Maria’s Taqueria continues to get fresh produce delivered every morning at 9 a.m. and fresh meat delivered three mornings a week by local farmers.
One such farmer, cattle farmer Beth Hendricks of Blonde Farm LLC in Inwood, met Allen by chance at the airport a few years ago, and after the two started talking, they realized they wanted their businesses to work together. Maria’s Taqueria started using Blonde Farm beef, and as the restaurant has grown over the years, Blonde Farm has grown with it, by breeding more cows and renting out extra land for its cattle to graze on.
“We’ve developed a symbiotic relationship over the last four years. She’s been a phenomenal business owner to meet our demands,” Allen said, mentioning this is just one example of how Shepherdstown residents support local farmers by eating at Maria’s Taqueria.
In the decade Maria’s Taqueria has been open, it has gone through two menu evolutions, starting with a simple taco and burrito menu in its original location, and then expanding its menu when it moved to its current location. Of the regular menu items, Allen said there is one that stands out as her favorite — the Huevos Rancheros.
“It’s not the traditional breakfast dish,” Allen said, mentioning the fish tacos and chimichanga are her most popular entrees. “I’m most proud of the Huevos Rancheros, because every aspect of that plate my staff has created. It highlights what we’re trying to do here, a little bit lighter and a little bit fresher than traditional Mexican.”
To celebrate its anniversary, Maria’s Taqueria is giving away a $10 gift certificate to a randomly selected Facebook friend every day from June 13-22. On June 23, one randomly selected Facebook friend will win a $100 gift certificate. Along with giving gifts to the community, Allen is also giving a ‘thank you’ gift to her staff this month.
“We are closing June 17 and 18, to go as a staff to the beach to celebrate,” Allen said, with a smile. “Our whole crew is going to fish and crack crabs and drink beer. We’re trying to say ‘thank you’ to everybody.”