Breakfast Tacos, Hippie Church meet at Maria’s Taco Express

Maria Taco Express June 2012

I kept hearing people talking about Austin’s “Hippie Church” and imagined some sort of New Age gathering. I had no idea breakfast tacos were involved, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about the vibe.  Ten minutes on a Sunday morning at Maria’s Taco Express and I discovered exactly what they meant.

The music? A mixture of amazing blues and gospel, with a classic rock edge.  The people? Lots of people who were probably around when “hippies” were something new and controversial.  The food?  Big servings of classic homemade Tex-Mex served on a mixture of plastic and wood picnic tables.

And the setting?  Pure Austin unique.  Part dive bar feel, part old west/old Mexico theme (don’t miss the old “village” down the outside wall!), part someone’s backyard patio.

There’s no table service at Maria’s and the line to order is long, but please don’t let that keep you away.  You’d miss the chance to dance to blues with some of Austin’s most unique residents. You’d miss some truly amazing tacos, chicken stew and other Maria’s favorites. And you’d miss sitting in a plastic patio chair and listening to some of the very best gospel and blues for no cost beyond your breakfast.  (Of course, the tip jar beckons, so do contribute generously!)

Space downstairs near the live music is limited, so get there early (the music starts at noon) or be prepared to share a table with some of the other friendly diners (we have, and it’s fun!). There’s more seating upstairs (super hot in summer!) and indoors.

Maria’s is open all week, but so far it’s the Sunday Hippie Church that’s drawn us in again and again.  Once we finally do check it out on another day, I’ll update this review.

Pets are welcome on the patio, although it’s crowded so make sure they’re very well-behaved! Prices are low, so this a great place to go with little kids — there’s lots to choose from without breaking mom and dad’s budget.

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Jo’s is so much more than just coffee

Jo's Coffee House Austin TexasYou know you’ve found one of Jo’s two Austin locations when you spot the iconic red balloon sign.  But what you might not know is that even a non-coffee drinker like me can find at least a dozen delicious reasons to make a stop every time the sign comes into view.

Let’s start with Jo’s on West 2nd Street.  We found this place when we were hungry and tired after checking out all the booths at Barkitecture.  The menus at most of the restaurants in the area were kind of pricy for a family, or didn’t offer much for vegetarians. And then there was the matter of our dog.  So we wandered until we saw Jo’s and checked out their menu.

Sure, there were pastries…and of course, coffee.  But it was more.  It was burgers and hot dogs with all the fixings and then some…and vegetarian versions of both. Ditto for the bar-b-que — meat and vegetarian versions to suit every taste.  Griddled 3-cheese sandwiches and equally griddled eggplant sandwiches — and yes, that is spelled correctly. This was real food, delicious food even — at a coffee house!  We feasted!  And the dog-friendly outdoor dining meant our pup did, too.

Later, we found the second location on South Congress. Smaller menu by a bit, but equally tasty options. Another dog-friendly patio, but this one with live music on Sunday mornings and some evenings, too.  And right there amid the fun of SoCo.